by Bienvenido Tudtud (1987)

PRENOTES

* The conflict in Mindanao is not a “Muslim Problem”. It is a Philippine Problem

* The Mindanao question is not to be answered only by Mindanao and in Mindanao. The needed answer is a Philippine answer

* The Problem is a complex one. Quick, simple and violent answers will not compound it.

THE SITUATION

Throughout the country there is a conflict between ways of looking at the world and of responding to it.

In this brief outline, to have a better grasp of the situation, we may use with some hesitation the well-known Western categorization of human life – Political, Economic, Religious and others.

It is natural for tensions and conflicts to arise when there is a meeting in the concrete of worldviews and cultures. The problem becomes acute when one side tries to impose and is equipped to erase the other.

The Mindanao conflict is essentialy the same as the conflict in other areas of the country. The difference lies in the fact that in Mindanao some ethnic groups, such as the Maranaos, Maguindanaos, Tausugs, and others have become culturally stronger because of a sense of religious identity. Islam is their religion. With the help of certain Islamic countries, through arms and inspiration, they are able to struggle for their political, religious, cultural and economic identity.

POLITICAL

The Muslim groups in the Philippines feel that they are a distinct group and they also have a sense of nationhood. The sense of belonging to the rest of the nation is low and weak. Thus we have a case here of national groups which are being governed by a state which they do not consider to be their own. To elavate leaders from among them into high positions in that state is not necessarly a solution. Neither is the show of force by the military, even prescinding from its actual and rampant abuses.

ECONOMIC

The economic philosophy of the country is Western and its values of profit, speed, optimization and production, are not readly understandable and acceptable by the ethnic groups. The land on which they live is being used without their true consent, to feed the economic system of the rest of the country. The system cannot and does not wait for the “sloth” of these peoples.

RELIGIOUS

While Christians can readly make distinctions between Church and State, religion and politics, the Muslim consider the community and religion as one. Only one law must govern them – The Divine Law. Hence it was not difficult for them to make the equation beteween Christianity and the government of Spain and United States. It is easy for them today to identify Christianity with the government of the Republic since this is a “Christian” government.

OBSERVATIONS TOWARDS A SOLUTION

* History and the present situation have provided rich grounds for mutual prejudice beteween muslims and christians.

* Ignorance of each other is a cause of prejudice. Many Christians have strong feelings against Muslims even before any actual contact (and vice versa).

* To respect a people is to respect their faith…to belive that God’s Spirit is at work in Muslims and that they are saved because Islam.

* Dialogue is to be undertaken by equals.

* The church comes among Muslims as one which does not have all the answers and power. It is a Church that is also in need of other peoples, even for spiritual growth.

* In the past the priest came to the Muslims for the Christians only. To strengthen them against the hardships posed by Muslims. Now he should also come with the Christians to make them aware of their obligations as Christians to relate meaningfully with the Muslims.

* In any intercultural exchange there is bound to be the pain of change. One important work for a concerned Christian is to offer a reconciling presence which makes the conflict more bearable for all sides.

* The lives of the Christians must help Muslims make the needed distinction between Christianity and any form of government, system of economics or mode of culture. It does not help matters if the Church through her actions is identified with these.

CAVEATS

* Whatever is said should not lend itself to the interpretation that this is yet another attempt to Christianize or convert others. Hence care in the use of words like “Mission”, “Missionary”, “Evangelization”, and others

* The Muslims do not use the word “Father” for God

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