Australian Embassy
The Philippines

MR2206- Australia, Philippines seek to build bridges between communities

Australian Embassy holds 9th Asia Pacific Policy Forum                                          AUSTRALIA, PHILIPPINES SEEK TO BUILD BRIDGES BETWEEN COMMUNITIES

As part of Australia’s commitment to support peace and development in the region, the Australian Embassy, in conjunction with the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy (PCID), held the ninth Asia Pacific Policy Forum on 19 June 2006 to discuss “Building bridges between communities: the case of Muslim minorities”.

Australian Ambassador Tony Hely pose with
forum speakers and moderators at the
conclusion of Manila’s 9th Asia Pacific Policy Forum


The forum, which was attended by more than 90 participants from government, civil society and a range of Muslim groups, explored ways to build stronger bridges of cooperation and mutual understanding, promote multiculturalism, break the link
between prejudice and radicalisation, and give ordinary members of the community a greater voice.

“The event identified concrete steps that could be taken to build bridges between the Muslim community and other communities in the Philippines, including through education, inter-faith and intra-faith dialogue, the media and women-led initiatives”, said Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Tony Hely.

Participants were able to draw upon the Australian experience. In Australia, representatives of the Muslim community and government work closely to challenge extremism and promote common goals of harmony and mutual understanding.

The forum’s keynote speaker, Dr Ameer Ali, who is the head of Australia’s Muslim Community Reference Group and the former president of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils, said: “Australia is a shining example of how democracy works successfully in a multicultural setting. No religion preaches hatred and no decent government is going to tolerate hate mongers in its midst. While a government should take tough measures to eradicate inter-communal hatred and violence and safeguard the security of the nation and its people it should also act with maturity and equanimity to resolve the issues that cause disharmony in a multicultural society.”

A number of influential Filipino leaders also shared their insights on the topic, including: Dr Santanina Tillah Rasul, Convenor of the Muslim Women Peace Advocates and Chair of Magbassa Kita Foundation; Defense Undersecretary Ernesto Carolina; Mr Bart Guingona, President of [email protected] Foundation; Ms Samira Gutoc-Tomawis, freelance journalist and founding member of the Young Moro Professionals Network; Dr Hamid Barra, Dean of the Mindanao State University King Faisal Centre for Islamic, Arabic and Asian Studies in Marawi; and Ms Amina Rasul, lead convenor of the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy.

The forum was held ahead of the expansion of Australia’s development program in the Philippines, which will be part of the doubling of Australia’s global aid budget by 2010. “Social harmony is a precursor to sustainable and equitable growth and development” said Ambassador Hely. Presently, some 60 percent of Australia’s annual $60 million plus development program is directed to Mindanao.