ENGLISH CLASS FOR ASATIDZ. Fr Paul Glynn MSC, XU – Year of Service volunteers, and the asatidz pose together after their meeting on July 27. Photo by Gail de la Rita.

By Siegred Jade R Lastimoso

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — “Asatidz” or Muslim teachers of Arabic Language and Islamic Values Education (ALIVE) from various public elementary and high schools in Cagayan de Oro City have embarked on a yearlong English language and communication enhancement program organized by the Interfaith Forum for Peace, Harmony and Solidarity (IFPHS) of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, in partnership with Xavier University through the Year of Service (YOS) under the Peace Program.

IFPHS co-convener Fr Paul Glynn MSC and four YOS volunteers namely — Marlon Boro, Jade Obedencio, Maricar Jabao, and Albert Canoy— serve as instructors for two semesters.

An interfaith initiative, the said program drew Christians and Muslims together in learning English and how to communicate effectively.

“Do not debate about religion. We respect each other,” said Aleem Aliasa Alinog, an Islamic consultant and an Arabic interpreter from the National Commission for Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), which is mandated to preserve and develop the culture, tradition, institutions, and well-being of Muslim Filipinos, by virtue of Republic Act No 9997 (National Commission on Muslim Filipinos Act of 2009).

He also emphasized that they should learn English so they could communicate with other religions and express that “Islam is a religion of peace.”

Alinog also shared his gratitude to Xavier and to the YOS volunteers for giving them this opportunity to learn for free.

“This is why we should not be late,” Alinog reminded his fellow teachers.

Eighteen asatidz were present during the first meeting on July 27 at an Aggie room of XU. Five out of the 18 Muslim teachers were women.

According to Fr Glynn, the said program is “not merely teaching them to read, write, and speak in English but using this knowledge to improve the communication between the Muslims and Christians, therefore promoting trust, understanding, and peace.”

Held at the Aggie building of XU, their classes start at 5:30PM and end at 7:30PM. As part of their daily routine, the asatidz are provided break time to pray at 6:15PM for 15 minutes.

These enhancement classes, catalyzed by the Peace Program of XU Social Development cluster, had a successful takeoff through its collaboration with IFPHS of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.

Created in 2007, IFPHS serves as an avenue of faith and religion, with Christian and Muslim members connected with the government, academe, youth organizations, and pastoral ministries in their respective communities. The group aims to pursue its programs as humble contributions in the peace efforts in Mindanao, especially by making people understand the different faiths.

The enhancement program also obtained the blessing and commendation of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos.

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