Christianity, particularly Roman Catholic (80.9% of the population, as of year 2000 census), is the most dominant religion in the Philippines, followed by Muslims with 5% of the population. Conflicts between these two biggest religious groups in the Philippines arise in the past decades, until present time, which leads to war and violence.
On 1977, Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME, an Italian missionary arrived in the Philippines. He was first designated in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte, Mindao. This is a part of the country where Muslim people are dominant. Upon his pastoral mission, Fr. D’Ambra witnessed the conflicts in this area. He witnessed the families and innocent people affected by the violence. This was his reason and inspiration on founding the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.
Officially founded on May 9, 1984, the Silsilah Dialogue Movement aims to unite and promote deeper understanding among different religions, especially Muslims and Christians. Silsilah is an Arabic word which literally means “chain” or “link”. Silsilah used to emphasize being linked with Divine experiences. It also implies spiritual linkage or spiritual chain among humanity as created by one same God.
According to Fr. D’Ambra, violence, hatred, and prejudices arises because of misunderstanding and misconception among religions which leads to difficulty in relations between them. He aims to motivate and unite people of different faith and religions through deep and peaceful dialogue. He says that “Dialogue starts from God and brings people back to God”. He motivates people to have spiritual inter-faith. He believes that real inter-faith dialogue is possible when one is ready to rediscover the dialogical dimension of life and faith.
Silsilah in the movement is a unique key concept describing unity and being together as on family among Muslims and Christians, having one goal and a common vision and mission of inter-faith dialogue and peace.
The Silsilah Dialogue Movement envisions having a life-in-dialogue, with God as fountain and source of dialogue, for all Muslims and Christians and other living faith, promoting love, trust, and respect, and bringing together people towards a common experience of harmony, solidarity and peace.
To make the Silsilah Dialogue Movement vision into a reality, members commit themselves to:
-To live the essence of our respective faiths and bear witness to the values of our own religious traditions;
- To be in dialogue with all peoples, regardless of culture and faith, promoting a Culture of Dialogue with particular emphasis on spiritual values; and
- To be in solidarity with all peoples in the uplift of the less privileged, in the building of a progressive, just humane and ecologically sound society.
The members of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement are Muslims, Christians, and people of other faiths, traditions and religions who wish and desire to live by the vision and mission of this Movement. All individuals, families, groups and organizations that are involved are committed and dedicated to contribute and participate in inter-faith activities of the Movement. Along the successful years of this inter-faith dialogue, more members and linkages have evolved.