This area of Mindanao is known
for political turmoil and violence. In the 80s it was the New People’s Army, a
Maoist guerilla movement. More recently, clashes between the Philippine
Military and radical Islamic groups have threatened society. Fr Ong comments on
the relationships with the Muslim community.
“Jesuits deal with the tensions
that have occurred in Zamboanga City in the past through education and
inculturation. The university established certain offices and programs to take
care of these concerns. The local government always includes the university for
consultation because of its influence in the region.
With the increasing population
of Muslim students in the university, Jesuits have been consciously aware to
include them. In every event and program, we have two prayers: Christian and
Muslim. During the Eucharistic celebration of the community, a separate prayer
service is held for the Muslim students, faculty, and staff. The university
also allotted a space for a prayer room in each unit for students, faculty, and
staff. They gather at noontime on Friday for their prayer. At the college level,
Muslim students enroll in the subject of Religious Studies for Islam while
Christians take the Religious Studies for Christianity. Also for university
students, there are separate recollections and retreats given by staff members
of each faith group. Every year at the end of the Ramadan, the University
sponsors the dinner, the Grand Iftar.
these different inclusive activities, Muslim students and faculty feel that
they are part of the University. They are respected and welcome.”