Sunday, April 01, 2012

Dr. Ammar Eustaqio working for Peace thru Education

Is working for peace a way to die? As paradoxical as it may sound, this is one of the first thought that crossed my mind when I heard the news of the death of Dr. Arturo 'Ammar' Eustaqio III. Although I don't know him personally and has never met him, deep inside me, I feel an inexplicable 'closeness' to him. Since the time I came to know about his conversion to Islam years ago, there was in me a degree of desire of wanting to know him more. And so I 'googled' him up and searched for his email address, sent it but I got an email failure delivery reply. At that time he wasn't still the president and UZ was still ZAEC.

As an enthusiast in  education and specifically Islamic Education, there was a subconscious process in my mind that made the connection between the personality of Dr. Ammar (may Allah have mercy on him) and the education of Muslims in Southwestern Philippines - Zambasulta area (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi). I felt that he can play a vital role in providing education to the underprivileged Muslim youth in a region where literacy rates is among lowest in the country.

At that time (circa 2005), there was an inverse relationship between my interest in education as a means of liberation and my stance towards revolution. My understanding of the Fiqh of Muslim minorities requires the Muslim to be part of the political process and nation building endeavors. When my children got bigger, the psychological demand for quality Islamic education is slowly growing in my head. This led me to a quest of looking for visionaries who shares the same sense of responsibility and urgency. Alhamdulillah for the great visions and amazing intellects of Islamic education advocates like Sherma Sappari, Warina Jukuy and Mark Santos, the Mindanao Islamic Education Conference 2012 will insha Allah transpire on the 10th of April 2012.

Now back to Dr. Ammar, he was supposedly one of the key discussants of the Focus Group Discussion in the conference. For me, it would be a dream came true to finally meet him and hear his thoughts about the role of education of Muslims in Southern Philippines. Universidad de Zamboanga, UZ, has the overwhelming number of share of enrollees in the region 9 area and a lot of Muslim students prefer UZ as their school.
But, Allah has decreed and He does whatever He wills, he was shot dead 9 days before the conference.

Searching again his name in google I came accross a PDF file entitled "Education and Peace". He eloquently expressed that servitude and slavery - in many forms -  hasn't vanished in the modern world and that education is the way to freedom. Recognizing that peace can be achieved by giving education to the underprivileged, he wrote:

'The more “underprivileged” are granted access to educational opportunities, the less “discontents” there will be.'
 To me, and probably for others as well, I believe that Dr. Ammar, or 'Sir Archie' practiced what he preached. Unlike those who just talk of peace, he practiced it by allowing Muslim student in UZ more freedom to practice their religion while they undergo education and training.

To end this, I say the same thing Sir...

Education for freedom!  Let this be our battle cry in our quest for peace. 

Innalillahi wa inna ilaihi rajioon.

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