Hopes for a New Day in Mindanao

So much hope for  peace in Mindanao rides on the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) which was signed on March 27, 2014 by the Government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In essence the CAB, when the process shall have been fully complied with, will see the establishment  of an  autonomous Bangsamoro entity in Mindanao within the Republic of the Philippines.

Although the Bangsamoro entity is for all people in specific areas it is still perceived as an answer for the  followers of Islam and their struggle over the years for governance and rule following  their cultural and religious heritage. This struggle  has pitted them against the central government and the majority of the people in Mindanao who are  basically Christian in background. The “troubles” in Mindanao for some 40 years arose from the respective political agenda of the antagonist parties and cultures,   not from the  divide that  distinguishes people into  religious categories.

The work of Silsilah over the last 30 years has been the promotion of dialogue between people and particularly between Muslims and Christians. Even at the height of the “troubles” Silsilah has steered away from the political angles that invariably  exacerbated the relations between Muslims and Christians.  Instead Silsilah has pushed for life-in-dialogue among Muslims and Christians based on the teachings of their respective faiths.

A recent Italian visitor to Silsilah, Prof. Alberto  Quatrucci from the Sant’ Edigio and who has had experience in peace negotiations, said that the CAB can bring about the cessation of violence so that the demanding work of building the peace can begin. It is easy enough to understand that one cannot talk of peace with another who has a finger on the trigger and is pointing a gun at one’s face. The cessation of hostilities is truly the beginning of the work for building peace.This stage in the process, more than ever, calls  for dialogue which is at the heart of Silsilah’s vision and mission.

To the Catholic saint Gregory of Nyssa (330-394) is attributed this quotation: “Peace is  harmony among those who are divided”.  Indeed the population of Mindanao is divided into ethnic,  religious and political  groupings but this is not to say that one’s identification with an ethnic, religious or political group is by itself  a block to harmony among people. “We don’t always see eye to eye, but there is no reason why people of good will cannot partner with people of good faith.” , says Richard Stearns, President of World Vision.

We show goodwill to others when we show a friendly disposition to them even as we accept and respect their “otherness”, when we trust them in spite of their otherness. This trust is an essential ingredient if we are to partner with others in our pursuit of what is good for all in the community.

The signing of the CAB does not mean that the different groups in Mindanao will now be homogenous in their positions on issues that might come up in the future. That will be too much of Pollyanna thinking.  However  we have to adhere to our goodwill so that we are not derailed in our pursuit of the good for Mindanao. We must continue to dialogue.  There is too much to do to make Mindanao realize its potential for the good of Mindanaons

Guided by the tenets of our respective faiths , Muslims,  Christians and people of other faiths and cultures can genuinely partner to do what needs to be done for the peace and development of Mindanao.

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