barbarians in our midst

February 16, 2005 at 7:51 pm | Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

There’s blood on the streets again.

It’s so sad, really. To attribute misery and poverty to religion. While I do think that Muslim minorities in the country do struggle with even more marginalization than the average Christian, I don’t think religion accounts for the problem, nor is the solution a holy war against members of another faith.

The recent bombings in the business center, and in a couple of cities in the South are not the first, nor will they be the last. But the important thing to remember is that these few people who are emboldened by a sense of religious righteousness do not speak in behalf of the rest of the Muslim community. And they never will. Every single day, initiatives are going on in the rest of the country to encourage more dialogue and interfaith exchanges to bring to light the dilemma that is Mindanao. The vast majority of Filipino Muslims are not violent, fundamental types out for Christian blood.

Government should lead the way in showing that this is so. By putting its money where its mouth is. Not by issuing empty threats. Mindanao should be right there in the middle of its development agenda. Its policies are however very discouraging. From the anti-terrorism bills, to the national ID system, to the ongoing military exercises with American troops in Mindanao, to renewed military offensives in predominantly Muslim communities — this government, like those before it, gets it all wrong.

What we need are concrete steps to definitively address the Mindanao debacle. The issue of Mindanao is not a military problem; it is first and foremost a matter of finding an economic and political solution. Poverty, disempowerment and under-representation are not issues of religion, but of social structures and power relations.

As I’ve said somewhere else, if government continues to pursue its policies – namely the continued presence of US troops, the holding of military exercises (in Peace Zones, nonetheless!), and the possibility of massive extraction of resources with no assurances of benefits to the local communities and only the threat of continued displacement and conflict – will naturally set Muslims farther and farther from the mainstream of our country’s political life and closer and closer into the folds of groups like the Abu Sayyaf. The greater fear we have to exorcise now is whether government will be able to carry out its promise to put a stop to these killings, or again rely on its soldiers to do the talking.

For both government and the terrorists: shame, shame, shame.

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