Tag: moro islamic liberation front

Jun 11 2016

I’M AN ANABAPTIST. I MUST NOT BE MILITANT AGAINST MILITANT PEOPLE

Militant. Combative. Aggressive. Violent. Confrontational. Usually for the purpose of advancing a worldview, a value system, a set of behaviors. Mostly visible in religious, social, or political advocacies or programs.

We live in a militant 21st century reality. Those who want to make good business in a world at war would like us all to be militant against the outsider-other as much as they like the outsider-other to be militant against us.

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This was the first photo that was circulated throughout the Menno cosmos when Joji and I first landed in Mindanao in 2006 as peacebuilding workers sent by Peace Mennonite Church, with the Mennonite Church Canada Witness as the supervising agency.

We had to answer lots of questions because of this picture. One of my favorite questions was from a beloved brother from Winnipeg: “What were you doing hanging out with those armed men? You’re supposed to be a peacebuilding missionary?”

“Umm… peacebuilding?” I answered, hesitantly.

What’s interesting was that, when I told him that those heavily armed guys were the government soldiers trying to protect me and my white Mennonite colleagues from kidnap-for-ransom groups, he immediately changed his facial expression, from frown to smile, and said: “Oh, I see. Those were the good guys!”

But I also hang out with the enemies of these good guys – the New People’s Army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

 

We hang out with the New People’s Army or the NPA.

Yup. NPAs are the commies.

Our colonizing masters from this great continent made sure that most of us, good Christian Filipinos, hate the commies.

But I embrace these so-called communist enemies.

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Because I believe that’s what Jesus expects of me. And the Mennonites sent me to them to represent Jesus as the Mennonites understand Him, right? Prince of Peace.

They allowed us to enter their territory because they heard about CoffeeForPeace.Com. Coffee For Peace is not just another coffee. Coffee For Peace is JUST coffee.

Joji and I approach these people with Jesus’ listening heart. When they tell their story, we drop all our preconceived ideas about them. All of them. Including all the concepts taught by our beloved Cultural Anthropology professor. Then they speak: “We are Matigsalog people. We have been fighting to protect our land for decades. Our ancestors were created in this land by our Creator. This land own us. We have been struggling for many, many years to defend our own way of living from people with pieces of papers that say this land belong to them. No. This land owns us. We belong to this land. Because we defend our people and land, they kill us. Their soldiers kill us, Lumads (Indigenous People).”

And so I’m bringing their voice before this gathering. #StopKillingLumads.

After listening to them. They remembered why I came to their Ancestral Land in the first place. “You’re here to buy coffee, right?” one of the elders asked.

I simply nodded.

“Just price?” another elder inquired.

I nodded again while raising my eyebrows twice, smiling. It means ‘Yes’. A sincere ‘Yes’.

Then all of them said, “Welcome.” And they all embraced Joji and me.

 

We also hangout with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

As a nation of 13 ethnolinguistic groups, they are referred to as Moro. They are officially known as the Bangsamoro (Nation of Moors). Most of the Moros are Muslim by religion.

It was in 2004 when I started knocking at the hearts of their community’s traditional gatekeepers. After six months living with them, the elders embraced me and treated me like a son. The young people treated me like a brother. The young men, after years of deep brotherly relationship, became my brothers.

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The Moros have resisted both the Spanish and American colonialization of their homeland called Mindanao. Their struggle for their right to self-determination continues until now with the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The Mindanao conflict is really a story about historical injustice.

When Joji and I came as peacebuilding missionaries in 2006, we were saddened by what we have learned. First, the majority Christian population of the Philippines has a strong anti-Muslim bias. The 2005 Philippine Human Development Report says that in Metro Manila, 57% of residents will opt for residency in a place with higher rent so long as it is far from a Muslim community. Second, the minoritization of the Moros came as a result of the failure of the government to protect the Moro ancestral lands. Once the majority in Mindanao, the Moros now comprise only 22% of the population. And third, the government failed to deliver basic services and the needed development to Moro communities. The 2005 Human Development Report shows that Muslim areas like Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan continue to suffer the highest poverty incidence.

One of the ways our small organization, PeaceBuildersCommunity, Inc. (PBCI), contribute towards peace and reconciliation is by bringing together Muslims and Evangelical Christians to foster better understanding of each other through dialogue, and by conducting ‘Peace and Reconciliation Seminars’ and ‘Inclusive Development Initiatives’. It is as a follower of Jesus that we engage these militant Muslims, with the hope of spreading to them the love that Jesus has showed, and continually shows, toward us.

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Last 02 April 2016, the bishops and national leaders of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), headed by Bishop Noel Pantoja, PCEC National Director, visited the Central Committee of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) headed by Chair Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim. After this historic meeting, the PCEC published a statement that was covered by the national media. Part of the statement says:

“In loving reverence and obedience to God, we shall appropriate the message of the Scripture by cultivating unity with Muslims and building peace in Mindanao as expressed in the following ways:

  • We call on the Government of the Philippines to persist in moving the peace talks with the MILF forward, and to explore new avenues in bringing about peace for the Bangsamoro and other people groups in Mindanao.
  • We call on all Christians to help diminish and bring down the walls of prejudice toward Muslims, and vice-versa, by being good neighbors to our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, as exemplified by the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25-37.
  • We shall conduct dialogues with other Muslim and non-Muslim stakeholders in the peace process in order to help in forging a truly inclusive peace agreement.
  • We shall form partnerships with the MILF and other Muslim and indigenous people groups for the purpose of providing necessary services such as disaster management training, psychosocial training and trauma healing that will benefit people on the ground especially those affected by the conflict in Mindanao.

In those aforementioned ways, we hope to demonstrate our solidarity with the just aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. In those aforementioned ways, we hope to faithfully follow God’s mandate to live in peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), and as Scripture attests, “the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11).”

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There’s something in our theology that builds capacity to do crazy things like embracing the militant outsider-other. It’s our view of Jesus. It’s our view of the Gospel. It’s our view of Justice. It’s our view of Peace.

I don’t have time to enumerate the contents of our rich theology. We can wrap it in one word. Anabaptist.

We’re Anabaptists. We must not be militants against militant people.

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://waves.ca/2016/06/11/im-an-anabaptist-i-must-not-be-militant-against-militant-people/

Apr 03 2016

WE HELPED BRIDGE TOP PCEC AND MILF LEADERS

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02 April 2016. Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat, Maguindanao — The PeaceBuilders Community initiated the top leaders’ meeting between the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), led by Bishop Noel Alba Pantoja, and the Central Committee Office of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), led by Chairman Murad Ebrahim.

The two bodies discussed how leaders of Evangelical Christian and Muslim religious groups can work together for a justice-based peace and reconciliation initiatives in Mindanao and in the whole Philippines. Among those who were with Bishop Noel Pantoja were Dr. Aldrin Penamora, Bishop Gene Udang, Pastor Nemuel Castrodes, Prof. Annabel Manzanilla Manalo, Ms. Jay Atiolla, Rev. Alborne Llera, Ms. Beng Bicaldo, and Bishop Tomas Duan Mascariñas.

This was an initiative of the PCEC Peace and Reconciliation Commission.

For Joji and I, this is like a culmination of 10 years of relationship-building on the ground. For this, we express our deep gratitude to Peace Mennonite Church, our sending congregation, the Mennonite Church Canada for being our administrative support as we focus on field tasks, and to all our congregational partners who have walked with us in prayers, in financial support, and pastoral guidance.

Most of all, we give all the glory to God for allowing us to serve in this way.

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PCEC Statement on the PCEC-MILF Leaders Dialogue
April 2, 2016, Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat

We, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) is very much appreciative of the leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) headed by Chairman Al Haj Murad Ebrahim and Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal for the warm reception they accorded to our delegation during the entire duration of the PCEC-MILF leaders meeting held on April 2, 2016 at Camp Darapanan. We are thankful to God for this Christian-Muslim gathering that has led to a deeper understanding not only of each other’s positions on the Mindanao situation, but also as to what Scripture means that every person is created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

In conformity with PCEC’s previous statements that proclaim our biblically based endorsement of the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF, we reiterate our unwavering support toward the attainment of genuine peace that is founded on justice for the Bangsamoro people. In this regard, PCEC highly commends the MILF for its continuous dedication to realize through peaceful negotiations the Bangsamoro’s aspiration of self-determination, especially in view of the non-passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) within the term of President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The meeting between PCEC and MILF leaders had shown the importance of sincerity in dialogue. When participants are sincere and open minded, dialogue can lead to a deeper understanding and unity among Christians and the Bangsamoro people. Indeed, without unity it would be impossible to forge a lasting peace in Mindanao. The importance of unity is reflected in the biblical passage that says, “Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor.13:11). In loving reverence and obedience to God, we shall appropriate the message of the Scripture by cultivating unity with Muslims and building peace in Mindanao as expressed in the following ways:

  • We call on the Government of the Philippines to persist in moving the peace talks with the MILF forward, and to explore new avenues in bringing about peace for the Bangsamoro and other people groups in Mindanao.
  • We call on all Christians to help diminish and bring down the walls of prejudice toward Muslims, and vice-versa, by being good neighbors to our Bangsamoro brothers and sisters, as exemplified by the “Good Samaritan” in Luke 10:25-37.
  • We shall conduct dialogues with other Muslim and non-Muslim stakeholders in the peace process in order to help in forging a truly inclusive peace agreement.
  • We shall form partnerships with the MILF and other Muslim and indigenous people groups for the purpose of providing necessary services such as disaster management training, psychosocial training and trauma healing that will benefit people on the ground especially those affected by the conflict in Mindanao.

In those aforementioned ways, we hope to demonstrate our solidarity with the just aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. In those aforementioned ways, we hope to faithfully follow God’s mandate to live in peace with everyone (Romans 12:18), and as Scripture attests, “the God of love and peace will be with you” (2 Cor. 13:11).

“May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (2 Cor. 13:14).

 

Bishop Noel A. Pantoja
National Director
Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC)
Philippine Relief and Development Services (PHILRADS)

 

Photos by Lakan Sumulong

 

 

Permanent link to this article: http://waves.ca/2016/04/03/we-helped-bridge-top-pcec-and-milf-leaders/

Oct 27 2011

MENNONITE CHURCH CANADA EXECUTIVE VISITS BANGSAMORO COMMUNITY

Tim Froese (Executivel Secretary, Christian Witness, Mennonite Church Canada) visited the Philippines during the time when some politicians and a few media personalities from Manila were shouting for an all-out-war against the Bangsamoro, the Muslims in Mindanao.

The socio-political atmosphere was so tense. In Tuesday, October 18, 2011 an armed skirmish between some elements of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and elements of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) happened in Sitio Bakisung, Barangay Cambug, Municipality of Al Barka in Basilan Province. In a gun-fight that went from 5:30am up to 4:00pm, about 31 government forces, and 6 of the Bangsamoro mujahideens, lost their lives.

In October 24, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) released a statement expressing that an all-out-war is not the answer.

Tim’s visit was timely. PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) was planning to visit our Bangsamoro friends and peacebuilding partners. We wanted to assure them that, during these times when many of the Filipinos in the power center of the Philippines were shouting for war, we, their Christian peacebuilding partners, are committed to help them build bridges of understanding. As executive secretary of Mennonite Church Canada Christian Witness, Tim saw, touched, listened, and prayed with our Muslim peacebuilding partners who belong to the Bangsamoro people.

PBCI, along with our Bangsamoro partners, requested Tim to tell Canada and the world that in Mindanao, there are voices of peace in the midst of those who clamour for war. There are many, many Muslims and Christians in Mindanao who are united to advance just-peace in this beautiful land of Mindanao!

Thank you, Tim Froese and Mennonite Church Canada, for your visit! Please help us tell our story to the whole world!

27 October 2011
Bagoinged, Maguindanao
Philippines

Permanent link to this article: http://waves.ca/2011/10/27/mennonite-church-canada-executive-visits-bangsamoro-community/

Mar 10 2011

EVANGELICALS ENGAGE ISLAMIC REVOLUTIONARIES IN A PEACE DIALOGUE

 

09 MARCH 2011. COTABATO CITY—The Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Peace Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) held an inter-faith dialogue on the newly-resumed peace negotiations between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the MILF.

Bishop Efraim Tendero (PCEC National Director), Bishop John Tayoto (Chairman, PCEC Peace and Reconciliation Commission), Bishop Genesis Udang (PCEC Mindanao), and Bishop Noel Pantoja (PCEC Board Member and General Director of the Conservative Baptist Association of the Philippines) led the 78 evangelical participants—pastors, church leaders, and mission workers—representing various Christian groups in Mindanao.

The MILF Peace Panel were represented by Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, Attorney Michael Mastura, and Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga.  They were assisted by Mr. Mike Pasigan, Head of the Secretariat, MILF Peace Panel.

Bishop Tendero, in his opening remarks, referred to the biblical concept of the Image of God—the view that humanity, as originally designed by God’s creative will, though fallen into imperfection, is a reflection of God.  This biblical teaching, according to evangelical theology, is a healthy starting point for Christians to engage in these kinds of dialogue.  Because evangelical Christians believe that all human beings are created in the Image of God, we are all equal before the eyes of our Creator—the God of justice and peace.

The PCEC bishop also quoted a couple of Scripture passages emphasizing that peace and peacebuilding are crucial aspects of the Christian mandate because we follow Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace:

Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God. Matthew 5:9

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. James 1:19-20

MILF Peace Panel Chairman Mohagher Iqbal, during his opening statement, quoted Prophet Muhammad in his letter to the monks of St. Catherine Monastery at Mount Sinai in the year 628 CE:

This is a message from Muhammad ibn Abdullah, as a covenant to those who adopt Christianity, near and far: We are with them.  Verily, I, the servants, the helpers, and my followers defend them, because Christians are my citizens; and by Allah, I hold out against anything that displease them.  No compulsion is to be on them.  Neither are their judges to be removed from their jobs nor their monks from their monasteries.  No one is to destroy a house of their religion, to damage it, or to carry anything to the Muslim’s houses… Their churches are to be respected…

“Insha Allah (God willing),” Iqbal publicly declared, “the Moro Islamic Liberation Front will also honor this commitment in the same way the Muslims before us had honored this covenant once the Bangsamoro state will be emplaced in some parts of Mindanao.”

Iqbal further explained their intention for having this dialogue with religious groups like the PCEC: “We, in the MILF Peace Panel, upon the expressed go-signal from our principal, get out of our way and conduct dialogues with church people, a very important sector in the society.  While there is separation of Church and State in the Philippines…the truth remains that the Church is a very powerful institution that holds the spiritual side of every Christian and, therefore, can influence their decisions, especially in relation to the cause of peace in Mindanao…  On our part, it is a matter of necessity that we must leave no stone unturned if only to make the cause of peace succeed.  This is also a sign of goodwill that we also reach out to groups other than those within the sphere of our responsibility…  There is also need for other people or groups like you to understand the MILF proposal, whether what we want for ourselves signals the demise of other groups, or whether our proposal is framed on extremism that defies logic and moderation.  Or we want to live and let others live in peace, love, and harmony.  Please examine our proposal very closely.”

Attorney Michael Mastura, explained the MILF draft on the comprehensive compact submitted to the GPH on January 27, 2010.  He summarized the highly technical document in a very passionate way: “We are not getting out of the country, but the unitary form of arrangement is a thing of the past for the Moros… There is really a need for a separate Bangsamoro state without severing ties with the Philippines.”

Professor Abhoud Syed Lingga, who is also Executive Director of the Institute of Bangsamoro Studies (IBS), shared the concept of “a united country in the form of an asymmetrical state-substate relationship.”  He expressed his anxiety that GPH might not even consider this new political way of relating between two peoples.

During the question and answer period, majority of PCEC participants shared their concern about religious freedom, specifically the liberty of Christian minority to express their faith, under MILF governance in those parts of Mindanao where majority of the population are Muslims.  Bishop Genesis Udang of Cagayan de Oro City best represented this concern: “Would there be genuine religious freedom in a Bangsamoro substate?”

“Yes, there will be religious freedom,” Attorney Mastura answered.

Rev. Norman Naromal, Senior Pastor of Davao Bible Community Church, represented the second most asked question: “Would the Bangsamoro substate eventually lead to Bangsamoro independence?”

Attorney Mastura responded with another question: “What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing’s wrong with that,” replied Pastor Naromal, “we just want to see transparency where this peace negotiation between the GPH and the MILF is eventually going.”

After many more theological, historical, political, and economic discussions, the dialogue ended at 3:00 o’clock in the afternoon.

The Mindanao People’s Caucus, led by its Secretary General, Attorney Mary Ann Arnado, organized this event.  Rev. Luis Daniel Pantoja, President and CEO of PeaceBuilders Community, facilitated the actual dialogue.

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:: MILF perspective of the story

Permanent link to this article: http://waves.ca/2011/03/10/pcec-engages-milf-in-a-peace-dialogue/