When I heard the news of the planned pull-out of the Malaysian contingent from the International Monitoring Team, the first question that came to my mind was, Why? Why will Malaysia, who is acting as third party facilitator to the GRP-MILF Peace Talks, do that? I may not entirely know the real reason why Malaysia is pulling out from the IMT but I surely know why a lot of civilians from conflict affected communities, including the Bantay Ceasefire volunteers, are deeply worried of this new development.
PIKIT, North Cotabato (MindaNews / Nov 23) -- I heard them all speak Maguindanawon. The cook. The driver. The kids who were washing dishes. They conversed with each other in Maguindanawon. I had just arrived then at the convent of St. Therese Parish in Datu Piang to give a seminar on Intra-Religious Dialogue to lay leaders. Hearing them speak perfect Maguindanawon made me think initially that they were Muslims. To my surprise, I found out they were not Muslims. They were actually Christians.
(A sharing presented during the International conference on Church Inter-religious Dialogue and Peace-building sponsored by the Catholic Relief Services and KROC Institute held in Davao City on October 21-26, 2007)
A church caught in the midst of armed conflict
The Immaculate Conception Parish of Pikit is one of the oldest parishes in the Archdiocese of Cotabato. Because of the Basic Ecclesial Communities or BECs, Christians have developed deep religiosity and a strong sense of community and responsibility towards fellow Christians. What was considered as the strength of the Church in Pikit, however, turned out also to be one of her weaknesses.
(A sharing presented to Field Officers of the AFP and BIAF during a roundtable discussion sponsored by the International Monitoring [IMT] on June 9, 2007 at the Pacific Heights in Cotabato City)
"If you want peace, don't talk to your friends. Talk to your enemies." Indeed, seeing AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) and BIAF (Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces) [of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front] officers gathered here in the same hall makes me believe that peace in Mindanao is, indeed, not entirely mipossible.
PIKIT, North Cotabato (MindaNews/25 February) -- After the Rajahmuda war in 1997 which displaced 30,000 civilians in the Liguasan Marsh, massive rehabilitation projects were implemented by the government. A local monitoring council was formed by the local government unit of Pikit. It was tasked to monitor the implementation of government projects in the conflict-affected communities. Both Ustadz Piang and myself were in the council then.