Correcting historical “distortions” as a way of achieving peace

Fr. Jodimar Bañas, Butuan diocesan youth director, said correcting the distortions of history, and increasing the people's appreciation of the varied cultures of Mindanao is one way of promoting a just and lasting peace in the island’s 27 provinces and 33 cities.

He said different government agencies raised the concern during the gathering of various stakeholders for the Mindanao Week of Peace in Butuan, which runs from November 29 to December 6.

Fr. Bañas said the history taught in schools is replete with distortions and have for a long time, excluded Muslim heroes from the mainstream national discourse.   A deeper understanding of what went on in the past will make us better appreciate the present, he said.

Ronald Bocboc, Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Conference (MSPC) regional youth leader, said erasing prejudices and biases against the numerous Moro and indigenous groups is better worked out among the young, whose consciousness is not yet "scarred" by conflict.   He said the Mindanao peace week celebration here gives more focus on the youth sector because of their role in the future of Mindanao..

"It's in fact our fear and our biases that breed more misconceptions," he said. "These misconceptions breed discrimination which often results to conflict," Bocboc said.

He added that fighting old prejudices and integrating a new consciousness among the youth is better done in the classroom. He said addressing prejudice will hopefully bring about a culture for peace.

"I used to fear traveling to the southern part of Mindanao before, until I happened to formally study the root causes of conflict at the Mindanao Peace Institute (MPI)," said Bocboc.

 "After that, I developed appreciation of the varied cultures of Mindanao. I no longer fear going to remote places usually depicted in the media as 'war-torn.' I frequent places like Bongao, TawiTawi, Basilan and Jolo, Sulu.   Even two days before the release of Fr. Cirilo Nacorda,  from the Abu Sayyaf in Basilan in 1994, I was in Isabela City," he said.

Fr. Bañas said lobbying for the inclusion of Mindanao cultures and history in the regular DepEd curriculum will be the first step in appreciating Mindanao culture.

Among the Mindanao historians, Prof. Rody Rodil, a member of the GRP peace panel in the ongoing talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had written a book Mindanao History in Question and Answer, tracing the root causes of the Mindanao conflict, as current history textbooks are mum.  "Addressing these distortions in history is one way of addressing peace in Mindanao," said Bañas.