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Thursday, April 08, 2010
There's hope for peace through faith
Malaseng Jehteh believes he has the answer not only for the restoration of peace in the deep South.The village head of Ban Laweng in Tambon Donsai, Pattani province, is also confident that his approach to governing is applicable nationwide.And if national leaders pay attention, he believes it would also alleviate the deepening political divisions in the country.
A devout Muslim, Malaseng has made it a routine to hold meetings with the imam, kamnan and the chief of the Tambon Administration Organisation at the mosque, to discuss community projects and budgets in order to allow public input and monitoring.
"Normally, secular community leaders go their own separate ways due to bitterness caused by fierce elections.
"They're possessive of their budgets.The role of imams are overlooked. And the villagers' needs are dismissed after the elections," he says.
After only two years of experiment,old unity has resurfaced. The budgets have been used to respond to real community needs more effectively. Corruption is out, thanks to community monitoring. And although the village still faces many problems, from drug addiction to southern violence, there is growing confidence that the solutions are at hand if people put their heads together.
Some may call this community council a form of grassroots democracy. But for Malaseng, it is a return to one's moral responsibility. A return to faith.
"In Islam, moral responsibility weighs more heavily on the more fortunate to help the disadvantaged," he explains.Fulfilling this duty is the merit we will bring with us to our next life. Failing it carries a great sin we must answer for.
"If community or national leaders think about their work as the channel to fulfil their moral duties, not just a tool to accumulate power and wealth, they will cooperate with one another to serve the weak better.
"If each and everybody feels it is his/her duty to help the less fortunate, whatever problems we are facing - locally and nationally - will surely ease," he adds.
He is not alone. Malaseng is part of the Faith Community network covering 170 villages in the restive South. And the number is growing.
"The disunity between secular leaders or their gap with religious leaders aren't exclusive to the Muslim-dominated South," says Malaseng."It is a nationwide problem. This can be solved if community leaders see it as a sin not to work together or not to listen to locals' voices."
For Paisal Dalan, the driving force behind this Faith Community network,the political chaos in the deep South and in national politics stems from the same cause.
"Our crisis is a moral crisis," says Paisal.
The remedy, he says, is for everyone - particularly leaders at all levels - to have a serious conversation with oneself about why one is born, the transience of life, and life's ultimate purpose.
"For Muslims, this life is temporary,and we must fulfil our moral responsibility in our different roles to prepare for our Eternal Life in the hereafter."
The local communities have become vulnerable to negative influences and greed because people mostly stop at religious rituals and fail to translate their faith into acts of generosity in every aspect of daily life, he notes.
Seeing it as his moral duty to make Muslim community leaders see their work in a different light, Paisal's mission is to convince them to view their working together to ensure transparent decisionmaking as a religious act of giving because it fosters unity, a better livelihood and peace.
It strikes a chord with many villages,including Ban Laweng.
Though surrounded by "red" villages, Ban Laweng has never seen any violent incidents through social control."People are our eyes and ears when their voices make a difference," says Malaseng.
This shows that peace is possible if power and politics are seen as a tool to help the weak, not for personal wealth.But this notion is still far-fetched to many leaders, locally and nationally,says Malaseng.
"It's because they've left the core values in their respective religions.They've lost their faith."
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