CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (MindaNews/19 February)–In a sense, pushing the Bangsamoro deal through is like coaxing two uneasy and not entirely friendly parties to submit to a shotgun wedding. Not only that, but for each party to get to the ceremony, it has to emerge from behind a tangled thicket of prejudice and work its way through mists of distrust accumulated over long years of conflict.
Will they step into the clearing with open hearts and minds and sign on the dotted line with confident strokes, unhesitating, bent on realizing the vision of peace in a progressive multicultural community, and let bygones be bygones?
What if the vision is shadowed by doubt, distrust, even hatred?
Better Late than Never
I know some would rather not raise such questions anymore, believing them to be already moot and academic.
But transparency is important; candor is essential; and clarity is imperative in forging an alliance of this sort. Nothing should be taken for granted.
To hold back anything could affect the long-term viability of the arrangement. There are forces waiting to pounce upon any weakness or infirmity of purpose even now.
For instance, do we ignore attempts to sabotage it? Do we just pretend that Ameril Umra Kato and his Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) pose no threat? How about Nur Misuari who is out on the lam and his MNLF?
Attempts at peace-building in our region have been foiled so often that one can’t be certain whether or how it will be shattered all over again.
Moreover, generations of Mindanaons have grown up amid so much killing, hurting, and dissembling that the trauma and the stress in their lives may be beyond the pale of ordinary healing.
Better to bring out suppressed and unresolved issues now and lay them out at the conscious level so they can be addressed rationally. Otherwise they may surface later on in a form or with such virulence that will cancel out any good intentions.
There’s lots of mending to do on both sides. So much harm has been caused by bombing, gunfire, beheading, and unspeakable indignities to individuals and communities. Lives need to be normalized, homes restored, communities rebuilt, reconciliation effected; no more enmity.
Thus, rather than evade or suppress questions, let’s face them now and answer them.
The Elephant in the Room
There’s this idiom to be familiar with: “Elephant in the room” refers to an idea, a feeling, or even an event that’s too odious to acknowledge or discuss even though it’s right in front of everyone. And it’s so big that no one can possibly fail to see it. But people avoid it, ignore it, or pretend it doesn’t exist. It’s there nonetheless.
For us, Christians and Muslims, the elephant in the room is DISTRUST. It’s there but most everyone pretends it isn’t.
Some may hint at it, talk indirectly about it, or mention it in whispers. It just goes to show they’re in a state of denial.
Yet who can deny that distrust has fueled hatred and enmity and caused killings and destruction?
Wars have been waged by vigilantes on both sides, notably by the “Ilaga” and the “Barracudas” and the “Blackshirts” not too long ago during which Christian and Muslim antagonists were at each other’s throat. And who can deny the deadly reality of the Abu Sayyaf?
Offending Peace, Love
It is such an irony that so deadly a conflict still happens: one side professing the religion of peace; the other side professing the religion of love—both simultaneously violating the tenets of love and peace.
Hate crime has been with us for so long, one wonders whether or how it can be effectively banished, especially the practice of “rido.” It doesn’t make sense that barbarism should remain in a modern-day society.
It’s time Mindanaon society wrestles the mean spirit that bedevils and enrages persons who engage in rido. And it would be so good if the MILF would be the vanguard of a drive to rid Mindanao of barbarism, prejudice, and hatred.
Like the violence of warfare that calls for trauma counseling or treatment, rido and its bad effects need to be brought out into the open and addressed accordingly. The aim must be reconciliation, to make shattered families and communities whole again, repairing and reconnecting severed relations.
Let us exorcise the ghost of hate crimes once and for all!
(Manny is former UNESCO regional director for Asia-Pacific, secretary-general of Southeast Asian Publishers Association, director at Development Academy of Philippines, vice chair of Local Government Academy, member of the Cory Government’s Peace Panel, and PPI-UNICEF awardee for outstanding columnist. firstname.lastname@example.org)