A steadily growing flame
Not having heard of Mr. Akbar previously, I did what research I could. The government website for Basilan touts his many successes as provincial governor, including his advocacy for the impoverished, his campaign against illiteracy, and his important infrastructure projects. On the other hand, Mr. Akbar was not immune from charges of cronyism: Basilan's new governor and the mayor of Isabela City (its capital) were both married to Mr. Akbar, a Muslim.
Whatever Mr. Akbar was like as a politician, let us all renew our commitment to renouncing murder as a means of political dissent. We in the United States are not immune from the attitudes that led to Mr. Akbar's assassination: as the whole brouhaha over Alberto Gonzales firing attorneys showed, we have also occasionally chosen to silence debate rather than nurture it.
Cultures in Harmony exists to create free and open exchanges: of music, of people, of contrasting viewpoints on cultural and social matters. This is one reason I feel compelled to condemn Mr. Akbar's assassination. Another is that some musicians and funders may be concerned about how this act of terrorism may affect our project in the Philippines.
The Islamic terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, the probable perpetrators of this attack, is confined to various southern islands, such as Basilan, of the Philippines' 7,107 islands. We never travel to Basilan. Though the recent attack occurred in Manila, in general the megalopolis of Manila is safe. This was certainly the case during our two successful projects in 2006 and 2007, and I do not view this recent event as anything other than a tragic aberration.
More importantly, however, all of us who have been to the Philippines with Cultures in Harmony feels complete trust, faith, and love in our three partner institutions in the Philippines, both as regarding the institutions themselves and the wonderful people who work for them. Based on the strength of the friendships we have forged, I believe that our 2008 project will be just as safe and secure as our 2006 and 2007 projects.
If the attack is a reason to renew our support for free and open discourse, it is also a reason to renew our commitment to reaching out through music, so that the light given off by our friendships shines as a steadily growing flame in the darkness.
p.s. I invite my Filipino friends to post comments below.