Christian college is 'safe space' for Muslim students

Christian college is 'safe space' for Muslim students

November 30, 2001
Written by Staff Reports

Muslim students at Dansalan College in the Philippines, which is supported in part by the UCC. José A. Malayang photo.

In hard times, we are sometimes called to hold our friends closer than ever, and Dansalan College in the Philippines is one such friend. With more than 95 percent of the student body ascribing to Islam, the United Church of Christ in the Philippine's (UCCP) continuing support of the college amidst an increase in anti-Muslim sentiment is no less than a ministry of reconciliation. The UCC partnership with the college began with the school's inception.

"We provide financial support to the UCCP," says Dale Bishop, Executive Minister of the UCC's Wider Church Ministries. "And we are very pleased that they lend support to the college."

Dansalan College "was founded by congregationalist missionaries some 50 years ago," says the Rev. Jos? A. Malayang, Executive Minister of the UCC's Local Church Ministries. "Frank Laubach and other missionaries started a library to help educate the young people. Christians and Muslims have been getting along there from the start."

Frank Laubach was the proponent of the "each one, teach one" methodology of teaching, in which a teacher would teach 10 students who would teach 10 others, and so on. Remnants of the philosophy are still evident today.

"There is a midwife program here in the tradition of Laubach's ?each one, teach one' philosophy," Malayang says. "Past midwives pass along the knowledge."

The college also offers outreach programs that include teaching adult literacy, agriculture, community organization, nutrition and primary health care.

Some 80 percent of the Dansalan faculty is Christian, and has a good relationship with students. Dansalan has had an ongoing Christian/Muslim dialogue for years, but the events of September 11 make the conversation much more timely.

"They talk a lot about [September 11]," says Malayang. "It touches them because they live in the context of violence—there is continuing military action between some Muslim groups and the Philippine government. Dansalan is considered a safe space by the students, a place to feel free to share dialogue."

"I think people see our support of Danslan and our other Muslim partnerships as an important counter-witness to the popular thought that would have us on the brink of some kind of cultural war," Bishop says. "We have never seen ourselves as removed from Muslims ... we want to work with them and gain mutual understanding."

While there are some lingering feelings of distrust among Christians and Muslims, especially in the light of September 11, the college serves as a reminder of how people of different faiths can work together.

Says Bishop, "What I've found when I talk to UCC people about this is that they are affirming: They see this as a critical part of our ministry. This is a way for us to work together on something we can all agree is very important: the education of children. These kinds of partnerships, centered around education and children, are not just important for that society, but for the future of the world."

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