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PIA Press Release

Dialogue Movement founder bags Bukas Palad Award

Zamboanga City (29 July) -- Fr. Sebastiano D'Ambra, PIME, the founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, was honored Thursday by the Ateneo de Manila University with the Bukas Palad Award.

Other awardees at this year's ceremony were Monsignor Jose C. Bernardo, Jr., also for the Bukas Palad Award; Federico Aguilar Alcuaz for the Gawad Tanglaw ng Lahi; and Dr. Alfredo R. A. Bengzon for Lux-in-Domino Award.

The Bukas Palad Award was originally named for Fr. Manuel Peypoch, a Jesuit who taught at the Ateneo de Manila, who distinguished himself in serving the Jesuit Order, the Church and society in the areas of education and culture, in social and human development concerns. The award was first given in 1963 to Msgr. Jose Jovellanos.

The Award was renamed Bukas-Palad Award to "capture the Ignatian spirit of Generosity and to give recognition to the unconditional, dedicated service of Religious in Christ's Kingdom. Motivated by Gospel values, [the awardees'] notable and invaluable contribution is an unmistakable evidence beyond the ordinary of an understanding of the prophetic role of the Church in today's world and giving tangible proofs of this in the service given to his/her fellowmen, especially the poor, the oppressed, the marginalized, the sick, the suffering-in faith, justice and love."

The award to Fr. Seb is in recognition of his founding of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement "which helped plant the seeds of inter-religious dialogue in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao, and nurturing and spreading them through leadership roles in the inter-religious dialogue thrusts of Pontifical Institute for Foreign Mission (PIME) and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)."

In his acceptance remarks, Fr. Seb expressed his deep gratitude to the Ateneo for the award and he said "It is not just an honor but a responsibility to fulfill." He said he shares the award with every Christian and Muslim in Mindanao who are committed to the mission of dialogue and peace. Further he said,

"Many are not ready for peace? peace must be sincere. In the deeper part of the conscience of each person, there is goodness. In dialogue we have to reach that level. It is like a soil, you allow putting some elements just for the seed to grow. This is a movement, this is not an NGO in the usual sense; it is a movement and we want to stress this point. Thanks be to God that there are people entering in this spirit".

Fr. D'Ambra is a native of Sicily, Italy. A few years after his sacerdotal ordination he was assigned in 1977 to the PIME mission station in Siocon, Zamboanga del Norte.

There he observed the uneasy relationship between the Muslim, Lumad and Christian residents of the community, engendered in no small measure by the war between the Philippine military forces and the separatist Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Wishing to gain the trust of the Muslims, Fr. D'Ambra chose to live among them, in a small hut by the sea and built on land owned by a Muslim friend. Fr. D'Ambra carried out his work in Siocon for some years. His experience there, and his reflections on the events which became part of his life, led to his founding of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement in Zamboanga City in 1984.

In its 26 years of its existence, Silsilah has focused its efforts and resources on the promotion of dialogue, to bring people to a greater awareness of and faithfulness to what is taught in their respective religions. Being the two most dominant groups in this part of the country, Silsilah focuses on the promotion of dialogue between Muslims and Christians ? in the hope that the understanding that is born of dialogue will bring out the fruit of peace in our region. (Silsilah/PIA9-BST) [top]

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