Catholic and other religious leaders have rallied behind two Non-Government Organizations running schools in the Philippines after Turkish Ambassador Esra Cankorur last week accused the NGOs of being terrorist fronts.
No less than former Education Secretary and De La Salle University president Bro. Armin A. Luistro expressed support for the NGOs in a prepared statement.
Likewise, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines led a group of five religious and lay Catholic organizations during a press conference expressed support for the Integrative Center for Alternative Development Foundation Inc. and Pacific Dialogue Foundation Inc., NGOs which run the Filipino-Turkish Tolerance School in Zamboanga City and the Fountain International Schools in Metro Manila.
The Church and lay leaders cited the ICAD and PDF for their numerous programs and projects in partnership with religious groups and the government for charitable causes and to promote peace and understanding among the Christian, Muslim and other major faiths. Likewise, the group debunked as false the terror charges hurled by Cankorur in the media last week.
Attending the press conference in support of the two NGOs were Fr. Carlos Reyes, executive secretary of the CBCP Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue; Dr. Potre Diampuan, Regional Coordinator of the United Religions Initiative South East Asia-Pacific; Dr. Tess Ramiro, president of Catholic lay group Aksyon Para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (Action for Peace and Justice) Center for Active Non-Violence for Philippines Inc.; Shariah lawyer Harun Ali, secretary general of the Imam Council of the Philippines; and Marites Guingona-Africa, founder and president of the Peacemakers’ Circle Inc., an active inter-faith dialogue organization.
Luistro said: “I have never had any doubt that both ICAD and PDF are legitimate foundations that share our Filipino values of peace through education and a deep respect for our common humanity despite differences in cultures, beliefs and traditions. Both ICAD and PDF have been working quietly in their own way to build such an environment through their educational programs here in the Philippines.”
“I have never had any reason to link their operations here with alleged terror groups locally as this would seem totally in conflict with their on-going advocacies and programs on peace-building,” said Luistro.
He also praised the quality of education in the NGOs’ schools:’ I have admired their culturally-sensitive programs within an atmosphere of academic excellence where the values for respect of divergent cultures and faiths lead to a more wholistic education for both Filipino and foreign students.”
The religious and lay leaders’ said their show of support for the two NGOs and their schools were a result of tested partnerships between them to promote interfaith dialogue so that conflicts resulting from misunderstanding can be resolved peacefully and equitably.
They said their appearance before the media sprang from their firm belief in the mission and performance of the two NGOs, since they said these have consistently undertaken programs and projects to improve the lives of Filipinos via charitable works and the provision of better education.
Meanwhile, officials from the NGOs’ schools stressed that these do not teach religion. They accept students of all religious backgrounds as ICAD’s mandate is to promote peace and understanding through education among people of diverse cultures.
The schools’ students come from more than 20 countries, including children of foreign dignitaries. With a Cambridge designed curriculum, aligned with DepEd standards, the schools focus on science and mathematics. Since its establishment in 1996, ICAD has graduated 358 from Manila and 773 from Zamboanga, around 150 of whom were scholars of ICAD.
The NGO officials vowed their full cooperation in a probe by Philippine authorities in response to the charges raised by the Turkish Ambassador, and expressed confidence that the allegatioins will be found false.
ICAD is a private non-stock, non-profit and non-government organization established under Philippine laws on 17 April 1996. Its mandate is to promote peace and understanding through education among people of diverse cultures.
The work and contribution of ICAD and PDF in the Philippines in terms of education have been acknowledged and recognized by a number of prominent, respected and reputable personalities in the Philippines.
Notably, the Armed Forces of the Philippines has recognized the Filipino-Turkish Tolerance School in Zamboanga for its contribution to peace in Mindanao. In August 2014, the school was awarded for helping provide 38,000 homeless people in Mindanao with humanitarian assistance.
ICAD and PDF strongly denounced any claim that they are involved in any illegal, criminal or terrorist activity.