In August 2018, Tanenbaum Peacemakers in Action Deng Giguiento and Azhar “Azi” Hussain came together in Mindanao, Philippines, for the Interreligious Dialogue Learning Conference (IRD). The IRD, hosted by the Catholic Relief Services in partnership with the Catholic Peacebuilding Network, the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and Tanenbaum, was organized around the theme of “Theology and Practice of Just Peace and Pluralism: Dialogue Among Religious Leaders, Youth and Women Peacebuilders.”
Azi, Deng, and about 80 religious and spiritual leaders, dialogue practitioners, and youth and women peacebuilders, came together to galvanize faith-based approaches in peacebuilding and nonviolence.
The two Tanenbaum Peacemakers closed the ceremony with a presentation of Deng’s journey as an interreligious peacebuilder. Azi and Deng concluded by discussing the chapters they each contributed to the book on interreligious peacebuilding, “Making Peace with Faith: The Challenges of Religion and Peacebuilding (Peace and Security in the 21st Century)” (editors Michelle Garred and Mohammed Abu-Nimer).
Azi detailed his work with Madrassas in Pakistan where his interfaith project promotes peace in the area through conflict mediation and dialogue with different actors. His chapter in “Making Peace with Faith” is “Faith-based Peacebuilding in Pakistan: Not for the Faint of Heart.”
Deng went on to present her chapter, and explained how she almost gave up writing it because the process had brought up too many bad memories. She used this experience as a lesson, noting that peacebuilders often forget to address themselves and their inner demons. Her chapter is “Dili Sayon ang Pagsunod kang Kristo (It is Not Easy to Follow Christ)”.
Azi had the unique opportunity to interact with the local communities. He provided training for local imams and Muslim community members in Mindanao area schools and mosques. These trainings led by Azi were crucial in a region with increasing Muslim insurgencies. Deng’s connections provided both an audience and opportunity for Azi’s training. With the help of other scholars from CRS and Notre Dame universities, Azi also discussed tough issues with the imams and religious leaders.
Azi’s presence was powerful. What was initially supposed to be a 2-hour program turned into a 5-hour discussion, wherein Azi provided the Muslim audience with a resource they were not familiar with: The Ashtiname of Muhammad. This charter, ratified by the Prophet Muhammad, guaranteed the protection of the followers of Jesus Christ and helped Azi provide deeper knowledge to his audience, who have asked him to come back since! The Peacemakers in Action Network not only enabled Deng and Azi to collaborate over the course of this forum, but it allowed for the local Muslim leaders to receive training and resources that were new and eye-opening, bringing this information back to their communities to help foster sustainable peace and understanding to a steadily declining conflict.