DH: As a presenter in the session following the opening plenary, it was Archbishop Capalla’s task to reflect upon and respond to the keynote speech of the Venerable Master Chin Kung, President of the Pure Land Learning College. The Archbishop also spoke about Mindanao and very generously made time for an interview. Here is an extract from his presentation to the Symposium, followed by a transcript of our chat.
Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla
Although expressed in different terms in the English language, Professor Chin Kung’s presentation of moral education is the same in substance with the Christian concept and the manner of inculcating it. In summary it seems to be the same as saying: “the moral character of a person is the result of repeated moral habits; moral habits are the result of repeated moral deeds; moral deeds or actions are results of repeated moral words or speech; moral words, spoken or written, are the result of moral thoughts or ideas. English has an expression that capsulizes this educative or formative process: “You are what your thoughts are.”
The professor does not say clearly that the process is difficult. But I can sense that he admits it is. The Spaniards who educated me as a young boy express this difficulty in the following words: “Del dicho al hecho hay un gran trecho.” It means that between what is said and what is done there is a great distance. The English also refer to the same difficulty in the expression: “It is better said than done.”
How thought or idea produces character is admittedly a long process. This, as we all know, is a question of pedagogy or teaching technique or methodology. The professor makes slight reference to it, but it needs more explanation. We need to ask, how does a person hear and internalize what he or she hears; how to take to heart, so to say, what is being communicated to the mind; or how does internalization, or taking to heart, effect personal transformation or change?
The next question to be asked is: what is the transformative element in the human psyche? What must a teacher and student do to make the element operative in the process of education?
The professor presents the answers by referring to the process of education as taught by Shakyamuni Buddha. According to this principle the key method of teaching is ‘concentration’ which requires ‘stillness’, ‘quiet’ or ‘silence’. This is similar to the Christian tradition which is expressed in different terms. Christian mystics used the word ‘self–awareness’ or pure consciousness leading to the experience of ‘being’ until one touches the ‘soul’ where the Divine dwells. Buddhism calls this experience “enlightenment”. The Christian tradition calls it “conversion or transformation”.
There are two other ways by which this moral education has to be carried out, according to Professor Chin Kung. He points out the role of the teacher/ educator, and the role of the family. For the teacher/ educator he explains the importance of role modeling. In Christian tradition we also believe its importance which finds its expression in the saying “action speaks louder that words”, which in turn is similar to the Latin saying “verba volant, exempla trahunt” (literally translated as “words fly, examples persuade”). Saints and sages and gurus and masters of spirituality are people to imitate.
The best place and environment that is conducive to the moral education is the home or family, the fundamental unit of society. This is where the family members – husbands and wives, parents and children – have to live in peace and harmony. Without this they as a family cannot live in society with others.
Then finally the professor teaches that the content of this process of education shall be a set of moral values systematically presented. He mentions ‘kindness, beauty, and wisdom’. This coincides with ‘goodness, beauty, and truth’ of the Christian tradition.
In many ways, therefore, the Professor’s presentation of “Cultivating Moral Values, Harvesting World Peace” have similarities with the Christian way of communicating the same. In summary, I am sure the Professor would agree that peace comes from moral order in the inner life of the human person.
Our beloved Holy Father, the late Pope John Paul II put it in this memorable sentence which he delivered in New Zealand in 1995: “The peace of the heart is the heart of peace.”
I would like to present here a general description of the peace education in the region of Mindanao in Southern Philippines.
Confronted by war, violence and environment degradation, people throughout the world wish to understand: (a) how to prevent violence and conflict; (b) how to build peace; (c) how to achieve reconciliation; (d) how to advance human rights and gender equity; (e) how to encourage tolerance; (f) how to promote democracy and good governance, … etc…
The Philippines is one of the countries at the forefront of this endeavor. After the Martial Law regime that ended in 1986, a broad range of initiatives have been undertaken in support of the peace process and to advance an over–all peace culture in the Philippines. Peace education was one of those initiatives with institutions such as the Philippine Council for Peace and Global Education, the World Council for Curriculum and Instruction, Catholic Education Association of the Philippines, the Department of Education, Culture and Sports (now known as DepEd), the National Peace Conference (a conglomerate of NGOs promoting peace) and the government arm National Peace Commission (now OPAPP) espousing it.
The goals of peace education range from increasing people’s understanding of peace and conflict problems, their causes and alternatives taken to address these problems (including the non–violent resolution of conflict) to cultivating peace values, developing peace skills, and encouraging peace–building actions.
In the Philippines, peace education is now generally recognized to have a two–fold responsibility: (a) to seek contribution to a better awareness and understanding of the root causes of conflict and violence at the global, regional, national, community and interpersonal levels; and (b) to cultivate values and attitudes that will encourage all citizens to engage in personal and social action toward a more just, compassionate and non–violent society.
For the Philippines, the values of disarmament, development, respect for human rights, tolerance, harmony with the earth and inner peace are the foci of many of the peace education programs.
But it is in Mindanao where sustained efforts of peace education may be observed. Recognizing the educational aspect of promoting a culture of peace, a number of institutions established programs on peace education. Some of these institutions are: • Commission of Higher Education (Philippine Ministry of Higher Education) offered a special program named Mindanao Advanced Education Program for teachers of higher education giving emphasis to peace education; • Canadian International Development Agency – Local Government Support Program – provided peace education training to local chief executives • Schools, Universities and Colleges
Three noted institutions/organizations highlight these efforts: • Child for Peace Education Program of the OND HESED based in Cotabato City, Mindanao; • Notre Dame University Peace Education Program; • Mindanao Peacebuilding Program and the Grassroots Peace Learning and Resource Center.
DH: Could you say a bit about the economic situation of Mindanao?
CAPALLA: We feel in Mindanao that we need to be a little more free from Manila — “Imperial Manila” that dictates to Mindanao. Sixty–five percent of the country’s exports come from Mindanao but the fruits of the trade do not go back to Mindanao as they should. Mindanao is considered the poorest region in the Philippines, so we would like to have more autonomy, independence.
DH: Has not the formation of the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) brought more independence and wealth into the area?
CAPALLA: The ARMM is just a small area. Generally it has not helped Mindanao, but in particular we can say that it is a training ground for future Muslims who would work for governance. There are schools and banks already — it is a beginning. When Nur Misuari, on behalf of the MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front) signed the peace agreement with Ramos and was made Governor, he was not trained in governance, so he failed. That is why the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) wants to have its own peace agreement with the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and I think their peace talks will go on, unlike the CPP/NDF (Communist Party of the Philippines/National Democratic Front) who suspended their talks with the government.
DH: What form of autonomy is the MILF seeking?
CAPALLA: That’s still on the table. There are subcommittees who are working toward the time when the two parties come together for the final agreement. But the discussions in the subcommittee on ancestral domain are problematic: which areas should be a part of this autonomous government? And to add more complexity there are not only Christians and Muslims to take into account, there are also the Indigenous Peoples who were there before the Muslims and Christians came to the Philippines. Their situation is a lot like the Aborigines of Australia. My view of the peace talks, in the past and in the present, is that none of them are talking about reconciliation through healing the wounds created by the war. In the draft agreement that I saw, there are economic and social projects but they will not heal the wounds. In the Bishops–Ulama Conference, (The Bishops–Ulama Conference brings together Catholic bishops from Mindanao, Mindanao members of the Ulama League of the Philippines, and Mindanao Protestant Bishops/Pastors of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines.…Ed.) we have heard success stories of reconciliation and we are putting these together to present to the negotiating panels of both the MILF and GRP, because it is possible to reconcile people through the teachings of the Qur–an and the Bible on repentance and forgiveness. And part of this could be in the form of a Truth Commission which would have to include not just forgiveness but also justice, restitution.
I am going to attend the symposium workshop about how conflicts were resolved in the past by the Indigenous Peoples. There are historical records of indigenous methods of conflict resolution, but people are forgetting these things and we would like to do research and have a look at that. There are obstacles however to indigenous cultural practice, for example the American judicial system that has been imported into the Philippines. We are not allowed to use our indigenous culture of conflict resolution. In the American system you can win your case on a technicality, but a technicality does not help you find the truth, and if you win a case without the truth, the reconciliation is not effected, you are still enemies. But in Indigenous cultures they really wanted to find the truth, then a resolution can come about, when the truth comes out.
DH: Have you been able to meet with many Aborigines while you’ve been here in Brisbane?
CAPALLA: When I came here in November last year I met with some Aboriginal leaders, we had a half–day encounter and I was really impressed. Some of them were Catholics, some Anglicans, some civil society leaders and they were very articulate. What in fact we wanted to discuss was how to form a network of Aborigines and Indigenous Peoples in the Philippines who are also looking for liberation but I don’t know how to bring it about.
DH: SPAN would be very happy to do whatever we can to facilitate this as one of our aims is to support the spiritual and cultural re–empowerment of the Indigenous Peoples in Australia and the Philippines. So let us keep in contact. Thank you very much Archbishop for this interview.