Group Unites Muslims, Christians for Peace

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KAUSWAGAN, Philippines - In the southern Philippines, the military is fighing a group of Muslim rebels.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front wants parts of the island of Mindanao declared a Muslim enclave.

Click the player to watch the report from CBN News Correspondent Gary Lane followed by Gordon Robertson's comments about trying love, instead of bullets.

In the midst of the violence, a Muslim village that used to be a haven for the rebels is now sowing peace.

Before the year 2000, no christian could enter Delabayan.

Now, Christians and Muslims shake hands in the name of peace in the village that used to be a haven for the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The Muslim residents hated all Christians, especially after soldiers burned down their houses in an all out war against the MILF.

Young students like Jasmin Moner had to stop going to school when their families were displaced.

"I saw soldiers fire their guns. Pregnant women give birth. Ee did not have food, no water," she remembered. "What was worse is that even if we were not the enemy, Christians looked down on us. They turned away from me."

Good Arises Out of Bad

But something good came out of this for the residents of Delabayan. The Christian organization, Project I.S.L.A.M., acronym for I Sincerely Love All Muslims, helped the Muslim villagers rebuild their houses and their lives.

Pastor Lad is Project I.S.L.A.M.'s dedicated worker in Delabayan.

"Our desire is to help the Muslims, to reach out to them in love and by doing so bring reconciliation between the Christians and the Muslims," he said.

War Draws Delabayan's People Closer

A few months ago, nearby villages were being evacuated because of heavy fighting between the military and MILF rebels in their area.

That's when a special bond between the Christians and the Muslims.

"We valued our Christian brothers coming here in the tension brought about by the atrocities by the MILF telling me the Christian community are praying for us," Sultan Kamlon Moner said. "Also, the Muslims here were praying for our Christian brothers."

Moner strongly believes that their children should be educated. This is why he is very grateful for the free college education that the youth in receive through Project I.S.L.A.M.

Learning to Love

His daughter, Jasmin was one of its scholars and is now working as a social worker in a Christian school.

"This is now my passion to help the people who helped me," Jasmin said. "I realized that if Christian people can help Muslims then why can't Muslims help the Christians. I also want to show Christian children that Muslims can be their friends."

Because of Jasmine's success, her brother Margani who was a MILF rebel for several years, decided to leave the renegade group and join mainstream society. He is now a scholar of Project I.S.L.A.M-- a sophomore taking up criminology.

"It was in a youth camp of Project I.S.L.A.M. that I learned to forgive my Christian brothers," Margani said. "I chose this course because I want to help maintain the peace and order in our community."

Through the years of sporadic fighting between Muslim rebels and Christian soldiers, the village has significantly been spared.

And Project I.S.L.A.M. is a sign of hope that people, regardless of culture and religion, still long for peace.

*Original broadcast February 6, 2009.

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