ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 15, 2007) — I would like to share this beautiful letter containing a speech of a young Muslim woman sent to us by Tes S. Baliola, her aunt.
It’s about how Filipino Muslims are discriminated in their own country, they call the Philippines. This is common everywhere, even in Zamboanga City where you could hardly find a single Muslim working in department stores.
Are Filipino Muslims different from Filipino Christians? Why? I always asked myself that question. I am an atheist, but religions tell you to love each other…help each other, but why should innocent people have to suffer?
Tes started her letter with this — My niece, Dayang-Dayang Jehan S. Kiram, is a second year nursing student scholar of the University of Makati. In their English 4B-Rhetorics subject, they were required to make a speech on any topic they want. I was deeply moved by the sentiment conveyed in the speech she made in class when I read it, and I would like to share it with you.
This is her piece: «Allow me to begin by saying that I am a typical teenager. A teenager who loves to hang-out with friends, to chat on the internet, to watch movies, and to text friends whenever chance permits me. Surely, I am like most of my classmates.
My major stressor would be my concerns in the University like homeworks, projects, how to pass in Pathophysiology, how to make a good book review in Philosophy, how to have a high grades in Microbiology and Parasitology, and of course, how to pass my 4B Rhetorics. I am, most of the time, assumed to be no different from anyone even by some of my friends.
However, there is one thing that sets me apart from all of you here. It’s my religion. I am a Muslim, ladies and gentlemen. And I grew up with the cruel and undeniable fact that we Muslims are highly discriminated among any other ethnic or religious communities in our society.
When I was a Freshman, my classmate in Literacy Training Program enjoyed lambasting the Muslims for their so-called bad behavior, for killing people after people and being the root-cause of the never-ending war in Mindanao. Obviously, my classmate did not realize that I am from that background.
She did not realize that I grew up witnessing the death of my fellow Muslims in the hands of the military, most of which claim to be followers of Christ.
She did not realize that I grew up wondering why everyone sees us as the antagonists, and why can’t there be peace between us, Muslims, and you, Christians, when the fact remains that we have one God and that we both believe in Jesus Christ?
That I grew up wishing that the authorities would address the problems accordingly and that all of us will agree with one another so that there will be no more divisions and that we may be united in mind and soul like what the Holy Book says.
Ladies and gentlemen, we are Muslims, we are FILIPINOS, WE are not TERRORISTS! Believe it or not, WE are lovers of PEACE!
Now, if it seems like I’m putting all the blame on other people or other religious groups, then I believe you’re not getting my point of view! We are just like you. We have a heart that bleeds whenever other people discriminate us, a mind that has a knowledge we would like to impart, and a voice that begs to be heard by the whole world.
It is my greatest dream to wake up one day and find that the long war is over. That discrimination against us doesn’t exist anymore. That we, after centuries, are finally accepted and loved completely for who we are. I hope to wake up one day in a country where it would make sense to be happy of the fact that I am a Muslim, and here with me is my friend, a Christian, and we are proud BECAUSE and not INSPITE of the fact.
We must work hand in hand, Muslims and Christians, in building a better community. We must help each other to ensure progress in our society and we must trust one another to achieve our goal of living in a peaceful country.
Hear me everyone, my voice may be small and weak but that won’t stop me from telling the whole world that I am and will forever be proud to be a MUSLIM.
Was Salamu Alaikum Warah Matullahi Taala Wa Barakatu. May the peace, mercy and blessing of God be upon us. A pleasant evening, everyone. Thank you.»
Tes said Dayang-Dayang Jehan Sacapanio Kiram is a product of a Muslim and Christian marriage. She is the eldest among four siblings and the only daughter of Datu Yldon Tan Kiram and nurse Myrla Barroga Sacapanio, the granddaughter of Sultan Mahakuttah Kiram, and great granddaughter of Sultan Ismael Kiram I of the Sultanate of Sulu. (Ed.)