Senior journalists from five American media organizations recently completed their Manila study tour under the East – West Center’s 2011 Senior Journalists Seminar aimed at engaging with their peers and other sectors on issues relevant to US Muslim relations, Islam in Asia, religious diversity within both Asia and the United States, and interfaith dialogue and cooperation.
While in Manila from 11-16 August 2011, they held dialogues with various stakeholders including Philippine journalists with whom they exchanged views on the challenges of reporting political, economic, social and religious issues affecting Muslim Filipinos.
The Konrad Adenuer Asian Center for Journalism at the Ateneo de Manila University was the East – West Center’s local partner in organizing the Manila leg of the study tour program.
The participating journalists included Ashley Hayes, News Desk Editor, the CNN Wire, Atlanta, Georgia; Howard LaFranchi, International Affairs Correspondent, The Christian Science Monitor, Washington, DC; Michael McGough, Senior Editorial Writer, Los Angeles Times, Washington Bureau, Washington DC,; Sue L. McMillin, Local News Editor, Colorado Springs Gazette, Colorado Springs, Colorado and Jason Scanlon, Producer/Editor, FOX News Channel, Washington DC.
Dean Marvic Leonen, Chief Negotiator of the MILF Process, Government of the Philippines, briefed the visiting American journalists about the ongoing peace process including the MILF proposal for a ‘substate’ in Muslim Mindanao, expressing optimism that both parties would finally reach an agreement for a lasting peace in the region.
Aminah Rasul, a leading Muslim leader in the Philippines working to strengthen peace and development in Mindanao, provided a historical perspective of the economic development in Mindanao. Atty Edilwasif Baddiri, Commissioner of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos for the youth sector, spoke about the Philippine legal system and the Sharia law. Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo of the Archdiocese of Manila also met with the journalists to discuss the role of the Catholic Church in Philippine society and efforts to reach out to Muslim Filipinos.
Their last activity in Manila was a dialogue with students and faculty of the Ateneo de Manila University on 16 August 2011. Among the issues students raised that have deepened mistrust between Christian and Muslim Filipinos were the negative stereotyping against Muslim Filipinos living in Manila, superficial media reporting and analysis of Muslim issues, association of Islam with terrorism and the lack of education n Muslim ‘s history, culture and religion.
Students proposed that the young should be more open to diversity and that media should produce more documentaries to contextualize the Mindanao situation and articulate the complexity of the Mindanao process.
The American journalists also visited the poor community of Smokey Mountain in Manila and the Gawad Kalinga housing and development project in Quezon City.
After the Manila leg, they traveled to Mindanao to dialogue with leaders of the Church, MILF, and media organizations in the region. Their next destination was Bangladesh.