On Mindanao Peace

By Andre B. Atega
Businessweek Mindanao
January 07, 2011

There is money in war. But war in Mindanao has impoverished the island and ravaged its people even if the war happens only distantly in the time line and only in a very few barangays. Whatever money Mindanao wars had made for some people were not enough to compensate the loss of lives and business opportunities. If they were enough money from war, maybe the island could have become like Israel than be the place of the two poorest regions in the country: CARAGA and ARMM.

Christianity and Islam are imported religions! Both originated somewhere in the Middle East. Both almost replaced and nearly obliterated (what a loss!) the indigenous spirituality of our ancestors. Now in Mindanao, as anywhere else in the world, their converts — Christians and Moslems, co-exist in precarious peace.

The Pseudo Differences

To over simplify the visible differences of Christianity and Islam will show outright that they cannot become a valid basis for a moral war. These differences are:

• Food: Christians could eat anything but poison. Moslems think of pork as soul’s poison;
• Religion: the shapes of church and mosques are both beautiful but distinctly different and their converts worship differently — Christians dance, kneel or genuflect to pray; Moslems lay prostrate and humbly to Allah.
• Women: Christians displays assets and sexiness; Moslems hide beauty in a shroud;
• Marriage: Christians are limited to monotony or monogamy while Moslems allow limited or four-time polygamy;
• Punishment of crimes: some Christians think the Moslems method as cruel and unusual while the Moslems think the Christian’s approach to criminals is “westernized”;
• Governance: Christians adhere to separation of church and states while Moslems go for church-state union with church dominance;
• Treatment of the dead: Moslems bury the dead immediately while Christians allow embalming and vigil for nights and days;
• Politics: Moslem leaders derive power divinely from Allah and by family tradition or thru Sultanane while Christians derive political power from law and by popularity. Both can derived power by vote buying and terrorism.
• Music: the sounds, instruments and arrangements are both enchanting but distinct from each other.
• History and Culture: Both have greatness and dark ages.

Certainly such differences are not enough to account and justify for meaningless cost of 200,000 lives in about 30 wasted years of intermittent war in isolated areas in Mindanao. The real problem is probably merely the contentious process between distinct cultures of people in search for economic-political leverage or a working relationship, which in a world that has gone smaller by the globalizing interests of powerful nations: the oil-rich Islamic countries with zealots who dream of establishing an Islamic world and the Western power who seek to maintain their dominance in all spheres, co-existing Christian and Moslem communities in Mindanao are somehow egged on disharmoniously.

History’s Time Warp

History, despite its impartial stride along the time line, is recalled by scholars to justify the conflict in some areas in Mindanao. In its long and anthological trail, history recorded many mistakes committed by conquests of civilizations pursued in the name of many Gods of many religions. Historians correctly labeled those era Dark Ages.

But many religious scholars today intellectualize the past and bring out history to justify present day war and violence. This enlivening of the past have activated the campaign to retrace and attempt to recover lost territories and glories even when such approach to peace and development process will only bring horrible and violent consequences.

Studies of religion and history are supposed to be enlightening than blinding to produce scholars who will theorize a peaceful process through a problem than zealots who will terrorize in re-orienting territorial claims backward. These backtracking scholars allow fundamentalism of both sides to suck us back into the past and force a violent and bloody time warp that make us forget the lesson of history that religion is for love and tolerance while fundamentalism can make us mean and hateful or in the language of Atty Mehol Sadain, “ritualistic than spiritual”.

Invoking history to re-claim lost territories and glories would force a time warp that will bring us further back into the past ridiculously. It will take us back to the faith of our indigenous people to avoid the curse of terror that Islam and Christianity have brought to our lands. If we want to reverse natural progression and repeat or bring back history, we must go back much further to the earliest days of civilizations before 1300 A.D (the arrival of Islam) and 1500 A.D (the arrival of Magellan in Butuan) so that we can retrace our roots and identity and escape the Christian versus Moslem wars and go back to the tribal conflicts in our long forgotten past. Going back absurdly this far might lead us to the identity of rightful claimants of conflict-prone and inescapably war-scorched search for lost kingdoms and ancestral lands.

The Formation of the Sulu State

The conflict-prone search for ancestral lands and lost kingdoms continue to this day with the formation of BIMP-EAGA which is feared to ultimately breakup the Philippines to form a new Sulu State. Some sources are paranoiac in the growing consciousness and magnification of the once great and ancient Sulu Sultanate.

Consciousness of history can be the basis for moral claim that could plant the seed for violent struggle to further divide and subdivide the Moslems or disunite Southeast Asians. It is the same stratagem as supporting indigenous peoples with foreign funding to divide or block the formation of the Bangsa Moro State.

Truth about the past can be encouraged to form political groupings with enough funding. In Political Science, it is consistent with the “quake land” and “divide and rule” unspoken policy to break apart Third World countries into smaller territories by enhancing the conflicting moral and historical claims of local leaders. The search for truth and historical rights can be a divisive tool or a fertile ground to exploit for those who seek to destroy multi-cultured republics that are still searching for a unifying framework for lasting co-existence and peace.

The Bangsa Moro State

The Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE) is another war-prone journey to the past. Some people in Mindanao think the aborted BJE was a deliberate trigger for another war or a seed planted to clamor for more violations of agreements. It has been interpreted by some people as an agenda of the military-CIA clique with Moslem conspirators to serve the interests of the war industry and timely to save the US banking meltdown similar to World War II as a savior of the Great Depression even if the latter was dismissed as nothing but paranoiac and conspiratorial theorizing.

The BJE is being criticized by concerned people who wish to live in peace contemporarily. The four (4) major points raised are: 1) its concept or idea is outside of anything legally contemplated by the Philippine Constitution; 2) the provision of its own and separate army smacks of secessionism or independence; 3) its expanded territory is made merely by listing of districts, not by consultation; and 4) the negotiating panels have exceeded their authority beyond constitutional boundaries and diplomatic directions.

If the intention of BJE is to reclaim an Islamic ancestral land as pre-existing or priori rights over the Christians, they should give way to the claims of the IPs having earlier and indigenous rights over all these islands. If the aim is laying the groundwork for ultimate secession, such deception will only end in bloodshed. If the purpose is co-existence with the Christians, this will lead to a rethinking process in our understanding of forms and systems of government. This will show respect and acceptance of the present divergence in culture and values which will eventually lead to the adoption of new politics as necessity to accommodate the differences.

In De Tagle’s 3 Fs

A just and peaceful co-existence is possible only under a new political system. It can never be attained by destroying the present to bring back the past. To really deal creatively and responsibly with the Motley Mindanao Crowd, we will have to surf with President Jorge Perez de Tagle and pick any of his recommended natural reaction-response to change: either Fight, take a Flight, or stay Frozen in the present.

To fight means getting into war the way it is being done now. To take a flight means to break up this country into two new independent states which will lead to bloodshed because no country wishes to become smaller unless its leaders are too small in brain-size that personal ambition for kingship in a small kingdom becomes grosser than the concern for keeping the republic intact.

To freeze in the present means to define the limits of rights and territories and common grounds for both Christians and Moslems to co-exist not necessarily peacefully but in a working relationship as partners in community building. For this relationship to become possible, we need to adopt a new political system and ideas like federalism.

Taking a Flight to Alleones’ Health Nirvana

Atty. Maria Anthonette V. Alleones’ concern for the health of government executives is tangibly and ingeniously acted out by introducing Yoga in the CESB activities. The same sincerity and care for wellness for Mindanao’s disjointed parts can be pursued by both Moslems and Christian leaders.

There is always a positive way of looking at any negative and difficult situation in Mindanao.

Taking a flight
From the Moslem-Christian fight
Can be positive if the direction is right!

Transcendence is a kind of Yogi flight that will take us away from the conflicting, depressing and stressful present to a certain realistically attainable Nirvana or wellness. The war is not really for us but for the alienated followers of Christ and Mohammad. How could war come from two religions that teach peace and love if its followers are not stressed out and lost? A Zen Buddhist will tell us: “We have two eyes but we are blinded by what we see.” We look at each other through the eyes of Christianity and Islam and we fight? Yucks not charrr!

Transcendence is looking beyond the differences of these two imported religions. We can look at our distant past where Indigenous Spiritualities say: “Do not strive to cause your neighbor’s undoing, for as you strive for your own good treatment, so render it to others”. How is that expressed in Christianity? “Whatever you wish that others do to you, do so to them – this is the sum of God’s law, and the teachings of the prophets.” What about in Islam? “No one of you is a believer, until you desire for your neighbor that which you desire for yourself”!


The basic truth in all our religions shows that there is no substantial difference in all of them to cause or create any conflict or war. In other words, what is happening in some areas in Mindanao is not really a religious war. Certainly, the skirmishes in Mindanao are not by our own making alone but by the divided world. Poor Mindanao communities cannot afford to buy war materials and sustain any war.

Strong and rich nations, for whatever interests they may have in our country, are feeding the warring machines and elements. For strong and rich nations, while cohesive and intact in their own territories, in political and economic relationship are hungry economically and compete with each other that they fight for political and economic gain in all places in the world. Weak ones like some of us play pawns to their power games!

In Mindanao, imported religions have tragic and comedic effects like in the movie “Gods Must Be Crazy” where a bottle of coke that was dropped from an airplane created outrageous religious confusion in an African desert community. Some areas in Africa are war-torn like a few areas in Mindanao.

In Mindanao, religions are maybe just twisted victims in rivalry or power play. Like truth, religions are “the first casualty of war”. But if our wars cast doubts on the power and effectiveness of our faith to promote love and peace, we only have ourselves to blame in not seeing each other as Filipinos but as Christians and Moslems. The Americans see themselves as Americans and Chinese see themselves as Chinese whatever religion they take. The worse is we see religion as an end and go to war for it, while rich countries see religion and wars as means and even as business opportunities.+

*[Reference to peace process in Mindanao as the “Mindanao Problem or Mindanao War” has to be avoided. Cebu City attracts tourists as an Island in the Pacific, not in the Philippines with a bad image. Media’s inept, injurious and sweeping label of Mindanao as newsy place for war and kidnapping is scaring tourists away from the island. In reality the war occurs only very infrequently in very few almost inaccessible remote areas. “Very Few” because peace is prevalent in more than 98% of people and areas in Mindanao and only less than 2% is actually in distantly spaced war. The war news spins off only as business of the media or for some groups which made the intermittent violence look widely spread to invite military intervention and funding. Kidnapping is more a serious case and with more incidence in Metro-Manila than in Mindanao but families with kidnapped members in Metro-Manila pay ransom discreetly.]


Christianity and Islam are imported religions! Both originated somewhere in the Middle East. Both almost replaced and nearly obliterated (what a loss!) the indigenous spirituality of our ancestors. Now in Mindanao, as anywhere else in the world, their converts — Christians and Moslems, co-exist in precarious peace.

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