‘Dualism’ in Christian views on Moros
WE are at the start of Holy Week, a week of commemoration that actually began last Palm Sunday, when Catholic communities around the country and the world reenacted the entrance into Jerusalem of Jesus Christ, riding a mule, and greeted by the populace who were shaking palms in welcome and paving his way by laying rugs and their own garments on the ground before him.
We know how Holy Week’s remembrances will end: with the observance of Easter Sunday, which in the Philippines is celebrated by the reenactment of the “salubong” or rendezvous of the risen Christ and his mother Mary. But in between these happy celebrations are a few days of public mourning, meditation and silence, as Christians remember the “passion and death” of Christ, culminating in his crucifixion on Good Friday.
You might say our country is currently in the convulsions of our very own Holy Week: in the middle of much sorrow and anger at the death of 44 Special Action Force troopers, and in the midst of a storm of rhetoric against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, some of whose members were involved in the shooting of the “Fallen 44,” even as some MILF fighters as well as those belonging to other rebel and armed groups likewise fell in the course of the fighting. Then there are the civilians who perished in the crossfire, including a little girl, mourning for whom seems to have been confined to their families, treated as little more than collateral damage.
One would think that much of the moaning and rending of garments against so many deaths had but one purpose: to foil the passage of the pending Bangsamoro Basic Law, which is meant to lay the basis for the establishment of the Bangsamoro autonomous region. This is the promise that brought the MILF to the peace table, that led to years of ceasefire and cooperation, and augurs for a future of development, progress and amity not just between Muslim Filipinos and their Christian and lumad neighbors, but also among the Moro people, who have long felt themselves alien to and discriminated against in their homeland, and the nation as a whole.
Will this period of darkness and doom give way to an Easter resurrection, to an era of hope and harmony?
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PRESIDENTIAL adviser on the peace process Teresita “Ging” Quintos Deles was recently honored by Xavier University with an honorary doctorate in humanities, and the chairs of the government and MILF peace panels—Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal—with the Fr. William Masterson SJ Award.
The three were recognized for their work in bringing the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro to fruition. But in the face of the post-Mamasapano backlash, perhaps also for their steadfast work in support of the peace process, even despite much public criticism and even ridicule.
Indeed, even Xavier University’s decision to stick by its choice to honor the three had come under fire, and as Deles put it in her address, the university’s support “signals your steadfast advocacy of peace in Mindanao.” Deles declared that in the pursuit of peace, “we must be steadfast. We must be careful and we must stand fast—especially when assailed by the frenzy of words and emotions that can and does harm to, rather than help, the cause of peace in Mindanao.”
Discussing the possibility of peace in Mindanao, and its prospects for surviving the current atmosphere of hostility, Deles raised some questions for the graduates and students to consider: What are the roots of the conflict in Mindanao? What are the costs of the conflict? What will it take to transform the conflict?
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WHILE it has been explained repeatedly that the so-called Muslim-Christian conflict in Mindanao is not a religious conflict, said Deles, the “long drawn-out and vicious conflict involves by and large, Muslims on one side and Christians on the other side.” But in the years, decades, even centuries of fighting, added Deles, quoting a recent statement of Catholic bishops, “no one has a monopoly on guilt or on righteousness.”
Deles then spoke of “fault lines” that to this day prevent Moros in the south and Christians in most of the country to come to an understanding and common cause.
The first fault line, divide if you will, is “them vs. us,” the second is “north vs. south,” said Deles. ‘“Them vs. us’ bespeaks of a deep-seated dualism cemented by culture and history. It relates to the Crusades in Europe that waged war against the Muslim Moors to reclaim the Holy Land. When the Spaniards came to the Philippines, Moors would be transmuted into the Moros of the south. Spanish colonial Catholicism then painted Muslims as the ‘other’—the heathen, the infidel.”
This “dualism,” said the OPAPP head, resurfaced in the wake of Mamasapano, in phrases, used even in the halls of Congress and the Senate, like “Traydor ang Muslim (Muslims are traitors),” “Hindi pwedeng pagkatiwalaan ang Moro (Moros cannot be trusted).” “And the unspoken,” she added: “Let the BBL pay the price.”
Deles tells of a TV interview with Party-list Rep. Djalia Hataman who recounted how, at a leadership training seminar in Basilan, she asked a young woman from Al-Barka what she wanted most, and the woman said: “Saan po ba kami makakuha ng ID o certificate o kahit anong kasulatan na nagsasabing mabubuting tao kami (Where can we get an ID or certificate or whatever document that says that we are good people)?”
More on the roots of the Moro “conflict” and on overcoming age-old biases against Moros tomorrow.
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