Philippinen: Piang Tahsim Albar

I want to educate our own people. Education is the best means of transforming them for the better. It enhances human understanding and relationships, and strengthens faith and closeness to God.

— Piang Tahsim Albar

In 1974, Piang Albar (born 1950), a Muslim community extension worker of Notre Dame of Jolo College in Sulu, was arrested on suspicion of being a member of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF). After a brief period of detention, she was put in the custody of the Carmelite nuns in Zamboanga City, where the idea of inter-faith dialogue as a way of resolving conflict germinated. With a core of Tausug women volunteers, Piang established the Amanat Foundation in 1985, to provide basic education to adult learners, women in particular.

Advocating education as a basic requisite to peace and development, Piang Albar and some Tausug women professionals organized the Amanat Foundation. Amanat has livelihood programs and a savings and loan cooperative, with particular focus on women. With initial support from the Asia Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Amanat expanded its services to municipalities in Sulu and Tawi-Tawi. But in a bid for self-reliance, Piang decided to stop seeking funding assistance from donor agencies. She says that the Foundation's initial efforts to recruit women to attend literacy programs were met with indifference. The women were willing to join adult classes, but were restrained by their husbands or male family members, who said that attending school at their age would not make any difference anymore. So Piang worked to convince the men to allow the women to participate in the literacy program by inviting them to observe the activities of the learners and understand the goals and programs of the Foundation. The men – most of whom were unschooled – became learners themselves, joined the learners' cooperative, attended seminars and trainings. When Piang sought the support of religious and local leaders for the campaign to eradicate illiteracy, they did not oppose the idea of educating women. They found a basis for this in the Koran and the ahadith (sayings) of the Prophet of Islam: 'The search for knowledge is obligatory to Muslim men and women' who must 'seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave'. Hence, Piang asserts, "Discouraging women from seeking knowledge is not Islamic but the culture of the community or tribe." She says that the teachings of Islam actually encouraged her to pursue the goals and objectives of the Amanat Foundation.

Amanat Foundation Aksyon Para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (Akkapka)