PERSONAL ESSAY: A letter to Bro. Alber Husin

Dear Brother Alber,

Assalamu Alaikum warakmatullahiwabarakathuh!

When a member of our family, a relative, or a friend is hurt, my initial reaction has always been to ask them, “sino ang may gawa nito? Ilan sila? Saan sila nakatira? May mga relatives ba sila dito na malapit?” This was my initial reaction when I heard what happened to you. This was my reaction because when I was a young boy, my uncle told me that if someone slaps you on your face, punch him. If he punches you, call your cousins and beat the hell out of him. If he beats you, get a gun and shoot him. And if he shoots you, burn his village.

As a little child,  I did not know that was what we now refer to as rido

I know you have always tried to change my views about guns and rido. But for me rido is not common only to us, Islamized Indigenous Peoples, or what you call Moro (which we sometimes argue about, but agree at the end by defining the context of the term Moro). Rido is in fact present in almost all indigenous peoples of Mindanao. Hey, it is even present in the gang wars, or even Mafia, or even in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Thus, don’t say that rido is unique to us only.

Because of lack of law and order and protection of family honor is a top priority, we buy guns before we buy anything else. We buy guns like we don’t even know when to stop despite the fact we need to fix our house, buy a car, or even save money for the education of our children.

Yes, I am a peace advocate. I was even a United Nations Volunteer for more than five years, but I did buy guns, ammunitions. My family even helped me set up a security agency which made
it all legal in the eyes of the law.

But a sudden change of that paradigm happened to me when Maguindanao Massacre happened last November 23, 2009. During those times, we were the few Moro (for lack of appropriate term) who believed that we can change the political landscape of our province. I could have been part of that convoy if  I did not accompany Father Albert Alejo to Simuay a day earlier to present to MILF Vice Chair for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar the results of Konsult Mindanaw’s year-long community consultations on peace in Mindanao. Fr. Albert was project director of Konsult Mindanaw.

I used to carry two pistols everywhere I went. Yes. I considered myself as peace advocate at that time even though I carried guns. I carried them because I know the world is not safe. Some men in uniform at that time could be bought,  part of private armies of this or that group. And I could not  allow myself to be just their victim.

But going back to Nov 23, 2009, I realized, what if I was part of the convoy? Even if I had my two hand guns and a rifle, I will still not be able to protect myself and the rest of the people in that convoy. I realized, when it is your time, it is your time. No one can stop that.

Yes, Bro, you were right.  I have been able to let go of that mindset. I now put my trust in Him. Because keeping guns, ammunitions, will lead to rido. And rido kills us all. No one wins in rido because you cannot correct a hurt or a crime by doing another crime.

I know your wife Irene and your children are tough. They are exposed to the realities of our time, I hope they will continue your struggle. I hope they get inspiration from what you have started. I know they have questions in their minds as much as I have questions, but I have to let go. Innalillahi Wa innalillahi Rajiun (To All we belong, To Him we return).

My wife and children  did not have a chance to meet you. But I tell them about our good short memories when I first met you at the Jesuit House with Father Albert. You were talking about the M16 and kris. I was like, “dude, seryoso ka ba sa sinasabi mo?” Because at the back of my head, it’s hard to change paradigms when the reality out there defines it. But then again, you were right.

Bro, I know you may be busy somewhere out there. But remember this and may your wife and children remember this. You are a martyr in Islam. As a martyr in Islam you are one of those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of Allah Almighty for a good cause, as  a peace advocate. The Holy Quran says:

“And say not of those who are slain in the way of Allah: ‘They are dead.’  Nay, they are living, though ye perceive (it) not.  (The Noble Quran, 2:154)”

not of those who are slain in Allah’s way as dead.   Nay, they live, finding their sustenance in the presence of their Lord.  They rejoice in the Bounty provided by Allah:  And with regard to those left behind, who have not yet joined them (in their bliss), the (Martyrs) glory in the fact that on them is no fear, nor have they (cause to) grieve.  They glory in the Grace and Bounty from Allah, and in the fact that Allah suffereth not the reward of the faithful to be lost (in the least).  (The Noble Quran, 3:169-171)”

Stay happy bro! See you when we get there! May you find peace with Him!



(Mussolini Lidasan, an Iranun from Maguindanao,  is executive director of the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia, based at the Ateneo de Davao University where he is also pursuing his MA Anthropology)