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BUILDING PEACE WITH BOOKS AND FOOD

 

By Ann Lourdes C. Lopez

 
     
 
 
 
 
 
It first started with a halal food business (halal means “lawful” or “permited” in Islam). The idea came to Armand N. Nocum, a former reporter of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, “to show that there is more to our Muslim brethren than just the Abu Sayyaf, the MNLF and the MILF.”

He and his wife Annora, a Tausug who grew up in Zamboanga City and Sulu, have put up Satti Grill House outlets in SM Fairview and at M.H.del Pilar corner Padre Faura to showcase “exotic Muslim food” and provide a place where Christians and Muslims can come together “to break bread daily.”
 
     
 
“Muslim food appreciation may bring understanding and respect of their religion, culture and norms,” Nocum says.

Concerned about the recent military clashes in Mindanao, however, the couple has decided to do more than offer halal food. Thus the A-Book-Saya Group (saya means “happy”), which, Nocum says, aims to flood Mindanao with books and other reading materials to show young Christians and Muslims there that they have a better future picking up a book than a gun.
 
 
     
 

The project name plays on the name of the Abu Sayyaf Group, because “we want to show how the giving of books could help stop one more potential terrorist or rebel from picking up guns or bombs,” Nocum explains.

An initial appeal for donations produced 593 books and magazines and a set of encyclopedia from residents in Metro Manila and Zamboanga City. Nocum describes the materials as a “treasure trove of goodwill and knowledge for hundreds of poor, war-shocked Muslim kids.”

 
 
     
 

The books were handed over to some 400 students of the all-Muslim Manicahan Poblacion Elementary School in Zamboanga City during a turn-over program officiated by teachers under School Principal Juliet M. Besas last October 28, 2008.

Manicahan, a municipality located 24 kilometers east of the city proper, is believed to be the place where the Abu Sayyaf Group keeps kidnap victims. It is also the ASG’s jump-off point to its lair in nearby Sacol Island.
 
Mrs. Masabiha Jumaani, a Muslim teacher, said, “We’ve thought all along that our brethren in Metro Manila have forgotten us. These books have dispelled that wrong impression. Thank you for bridging the distance to tell us that our brothers and sisters in Metro Manila do care for Muslims in far Zamboanga.”

The couple appeals for donations of books, magazines and other reading materials, either second-hand or new—preferably with lots of pictures. “Please help us expose poor children in war-torn Mindanao to books in the hope that they grow up to be professionals and peacemakers.” They are also accepting donations of toys, clothing and school supplies.

Donations may be dropped off at the Satti Grill House outlets in SM Fairview Food Court or at the corner of M.H.del Pilar and Padre Faura.

Donors may contact the Nocums at tel. nos. 799-27-45, 339-3732, 0917-520-8013, or 0919-589-7879, or at zamboyo66@yahoo.com. For more information, please log on at www.sattisfaction.blogspot.com.

 
 
 
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  Copyright 2011 Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication