Excerpts from the Speech of Dr. Jing Karaos, Vice-Chairperson, Peace & Equity Foundation

Delivered by Anna Marie A. Karaos during the Closing Ceremonies of the “Islamic Financing in the Philippines: A Step towards the First Seven Years”, 27 November 2015, The Ritz Hotel, Davao City

Magandang umaga po.

PEF is seriously committed to supporting social enterprises in the next years and considers Shariah financing as its strategic contribution to peace and development in the Philippines, particularly in Mindanao.

From the point of view of a development worker and an academic at the same time, I’d like to share with you my own appreciation of this conference and the discussions that we have had, particularly listening to the workshops. One of the courses I teach at the Ateneo de Manila University is Development Theory. One of the striking things that we usually talk about in class is how in this new globalized world, we are struck by how the divisions in the world that used to exist half a century ago are now shifting. Half a century ago, the world was divided between what we call the rich North (mostly the Western countries) and the poor South (Africa, Asia and Latin America).

Today, we find that the fastest-growing countries are now in the East, the ASEAN region particularly. The Philippines luckily is part of the ASEAN. And China of course, is a very big market, a world power. The fastestgrowing countries are now in the East. The rich countries in the West, although they are still rich, are encountering many serious social problems. We see that more recently, in an extreme form, in the violence in Europe.

But that is just the tip of the iceberg, symptoms of a more deeply-seated problem that they are having like migration, social discontent and growing inequalities in these countries. Our biggest social challenges really lie in the fact that we live in very unequal societies.

These developments seem to be telling me – in light of the discussions I have heard about Shariah financing – that this globalized world is now turning its sights to the East. For what? For new models of development that would bring peace and that would bring greater equity.

This poses a challenge to us – the world is searching for new models because the existing models are not working anymore. Even the head of the Catholic Church thinks so. This Western model of unbridled capitalism is so unsustainable. It is creating wealth but it is also producing so much inequality. And we know that if there is inequality that persists for so long, there is going to be social strife, social division. Hence, it is really unsustainable.

So in the world today, there is now greater acceptance that we are really, seriously searching for new models. We are not happy anymore with mainstream economic models. Maybe Shariah financing offers that. It gives the possibilities of creating a new model. We are small, a seed really. But maybe that seed can grow into something really big.

Isn’t that exciting? Why? Because of the very principles that it espouses – fairness, social justice, compassion for the poor. Very beautiful principles shared by many religions in the world. However, we were not able to sustain these principles that we hold dearly under the economic models that we made.

So I think that is my second insight. There is greater acceptance for a search for a new economic model. And there is opportunity and a real challenge for us to develop specific instruments, mechanisms, contracts that would bring these principles back to life, the principles of social justice and fairness.

My third insight is that, in this highly diverse and unequal world, there is real need to build a culture of trust and dialogue – a culture of learning from one another. We are exchanging perspectives and we are just now beginning to talk. That is an important first step. Because building this trust and culture of dialogue is the only way we can survive in the global community today where is there is diversity in beliefs. So we really need to work on this. We need more dialogues, discussions, learning, and this culture of trust-building.

I believe we have taken a very important first step of learning from and listening, really listening to each other. It is a good sign that there is growing desire to really understand others, other religions, or other cultures and perspectives. That maybe our own perspectives are not enough to provide the right answers all the time. The right answers will come from the collective wisdom of many different perspectives. And so dialogue is so important. We need to build that culture which is so scarce in the world today, even in our own country, particularly in Mindanao.

So let us be the builders of this culture of peace and trust and dialogue. I think we have taken the very first important step of learning and listening to each other and this is very basic but very important. There are still many things we need to learn about Islamic banking, Shariah finance. We need to clarify with each other, and debate and disagree maybe with each other. But we should, I think, be committed.

Maybe that is just what is expected of us – to be committed to continuing to study and talk and engage with each other. And I think we have taken the first step to building trust and building a culture of dialogue. I hope we can continue this and this will be our way of contributing to the cause of peace and development in our country.
Maraming salamat po.