Over 10,000 devout Muslims from throughout Thailand joined with top military leaders to call for an end to the violence that has claimed more than 5,000 lives in the Deep South over the past decade.
Muslims da'i (missionaries) from the five southern border provinces participated in the unprecedented da'wah (Islamic proselytizing) ceremony that took place at the Narathiwat Provincial Administration Organisation (NPAO) Football Field on June 8th.
Fourth Army Commander Walit Rojanaphakdi, Narathiwat Governor Nattapong Sirichaichana and NPAO President Kuheng Yaworhasan also attended.
"We understand that more than 80% of those living in this region respect the teaching of Islam and want to use these tenets to restore peace and bring reconciliation to the region," Walit told the attendees. "Those like the da'i gathered here today have a key role to play because they know the true teachings and can use this knowledge to help those who have done wrong by resorting to violence, helping them to abandon such tactics, repent and return to righteous ways."
The rejection of violence is important for people of all faiths and all regions of Thailand, Songkhla native Aram Dajae said.
"This da'wah ceremony is important because it is the first ever in which all of the various da'i groups and associations across Thailand have come together to call for a complete renunciation of the use of violence in all of its forms, not only here in the southern border provinces but in every province of Thailand," Aram told Khabar Southeast Asia.
"As da'i it is our duty to spread the teachings to fellow Muslims who still do not understand the true teachings, including those who have done bad deeds or even committed acts of wickedness," he said.
"Our message of da'wah is also not restricted to Muslims. We also spread our message to believers in other faiths."
Sudeng Joh-ngarong belongs to a da'wah group based in Narathiwat's Muang district.
"Everyone wants peace, regardless of which faith they happen to be. Morality starts in the heart of each and every individual and needs to be fostered," Sudeng told Khabar. "As for our outreach da'wah activities in other areas, one of the positive results we have seen is among the youth, as well as many others, who have taken a turn for the better by deciding to no longer have anything to do with violence."