ANGAY-ANGAY LANG: Kalinaw Mindanaw: The Story of the GRP-MNLF Peace Process, 1975-1996 (18)


Last of 18 parts
Rudy B. Rodil

(This is a revised version of the book “KALINAW MINDANAW: The Story of the GRP-MNLF Peace Process, 1975-1996” published in 2000)

Birth of Kalinaw Mindanaw; Spread of the Culture of Peace

A movement and a network rather than an organization, Kalinaw Mindanaw (spelled with a w) was born, committed to propagate the culture of peace, as we have noted earlier; at a conference of peace advocates and educators at the South East Asia Rural Leadership Institute (SEARSOLIN), Xavier University, Cagayan de Oro City, on July 4-6, 1996. It was called Consultation-Workshop on Peace Education in Mindanaw with the theme: Journey to Peace and Harmony, jointly hosted by the Mindanaw Support and Communication Center for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (MINCARRD) and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP). The participants produced, ratified and adopted a Peace Credo in Filipino. Kalinaw Mindanaw has contributed substantially to the rapid spread of the culture of peace in Mindanaw.

Since that time, more than 50 Culture of Peace seminars have been held all over Mindanaw with the participation of educators, NGO workers, students, church workers, community leaders, religious leaders, including bishops and ulama. Several trainors’ training seminars were also conducted to expand the ranks of peace advocates in the different localities. A culture of peace module called Panagtagbo sa Kalinaw (Convergence in Peace) had been formulated by the early seminars and, once finalized, extensively used. Initially, funding was provided by the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process. Later, the UNICEF and the Catholic Relief Services (CRS) also joined in. For a while it also published Kalinaw Mindanaw, the official newsletter of the network.

The culture of peace caught on such that even the National Youth Commission (NYC) institutionalized its own Mindanaw Youth Peace and Development Advocacy Program. To date, the NYC has conducted a number of seminars with participation from the youth of the Lumad, the Muslims and the Christian settlers.

Initiatives from Catholics and Other NGOs

Peace groups also emerged in the different regions. Zamboanga City came up with PAZ or Peace Advocates Zamboanga; its Muslim counterpart was Social Amelioration and Literacy Agenda for Muslims Foundation (SALAM). The Catholic Diocese of Marbel integrated the peace component in its Basic Ecclesial Community (BEC). The archdiocese of Davao organized the Archdiocesan Center for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue (ACEID) which has so far launched several dialogues among the religious leaders, and the youth, always ensuring representation from the Lumad, the Muslim and the Christian settlers. The Prelature of Ipil has its own Local Government, Community and Church Organization for Peace of LOGCCO sa Kalinaw, an inter-religious, inter-tribal and multi-sectoral forum covering the western half of Zamboanga del Sur comprising the jurisdiction of the Catholic prelature of Ipil. It is a combination of two earlier forums, the LOGCCO and Tulay sa Kalinaw (Bridge of Peace), organized respectively in 1992 and in 1997. They have sponsored their own culture of peace seminars within the prelature.

Equally refreshing is the group that calls itself Agong, after the traditional Mindanawon instrument used to call or warn community members, a Mindanaw Peace and Reconciliation Group. It started in 1987 with seven member-institutions, all active in the peace building front: Archdiocesan Center for Ecumenical and Inter-religious Dialogue in Davao City; Peace and Reconciliation Desk of Butuan Social Action Center; Kadtuntaya Foundation, Inc. in Cotabato City; Maguindanaon Development Foundation, Inc. in Koronadal, South Cotabato; Mindanaw Grassroots Development Institute in Cagayan de Oro City and Sultan Gumander, Lanao del Sur; Reconciliation Center in Cotabato City; Women Indigenous Focus for Enhancement, Inc. in Marbel, South Cotabato; Prelature of Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur; Prelature of Isabela in Basilan; and Notre Dame of Jolo College in Sulu. They also have individual members.

Kalinaw Mindanaw in the Internet

Kalinaw Mindanaw, the movement, has invaded the Internet. A Kalinaw Mindanaw web site (http://www.mindanao.com/kalinaw/), dedicated to the attainment of peace in Mindanao, is maintained by Robert Timonera, a journalist, and this author from Iligan City. The internet space is provided by Bob Martin of General Santos City. The last letter w in Mindanaw instead of o is used to emphasize the indigenous flavor. Mindanao has been a troubled land. Slowly the peace lovers among the people are transforming it into a land of peace. This transformation is an interesting story that can be shared to all peace lovers. This web page is committed to tell this story. Its main fare will be peace building activities, peace news and unique development efforts.

Peace Education Through Self-Transformation

Also active in the peace front is a sub-group of Kalinaw Mindanaw in Iligan made up of teachers from the Mindanao State University – Iligan Institute of Technology that specializes in self-transformation seminars in collaboration with the principal author of the Self-Transformation Modules, Vic Hao Chin, Chair of The Peace Center and President of the Theosophical Society in the Philippines. Its focus is the development of the inner self of the person. Its seminars involve the processing of the internal personal conflicts of the participants, which is a necessary foundation for teaching others the science and art of conflict resolution; the development of skills in the handling of interpersonal conflicts, and the application of these insights and skills on the social conflicts in Mindanao.

Inter-Religious Dialogue

Inter-religious dialogue in Mindanao goes back to the martial law days. In light of the then raging war between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro National Liberation Front, there was a conscious effort among a small number of independent individuals and institutions to bring together Muslims and Christians or establish a bridge between them. One such effort was that of PACEM, an NGO affiliated with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines based in Midsayap, Cotabato. It initiated the Duyog Ramadhan (Cebuano Bisaya for “Accompany Ramadhan”) program in 1977 to encourage dialogue between Muslims and Christians. It drew support from the Catholic Mindanao Sulu Pastoral Council. By the early ’80s, it included the Lumad among its participants. A joint summer project was undertaken by the Protestant Dansalan Research Center and the Catholic Church in Marawi which included their own version of Duyog Ramadhan.

The Lanao Muslim-Christian Movement for Dialogue was started by concerned citizens of Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Marawi and Iligan since 1972, in response to attempts by unknown groups or individuals to sow division among Muslims and Christians as exemplified by the Easter Sunday bombing of. St. Michael’s Cathedral in Iligan City, the massacre of a Maranao family in Iligan and the series of killings of poor Christian vendors in Marawi City. The ongoing Muslim-Christian dialogue is the brainchild of this group. It can also claim credit for the formation of the Bishops Ulama Forum since the creators of the BUF were also the founding members of the Movement. As early as August 1993, the group started monthly or quarterly meetings of 10 Muslim and religious leaders to serve as role model for people at the grassroots level.

The Bishops Ulama Forum

The leading element in inter-religious dialogue in Mindanao at present is the Bishops Ulama Forum (BUF), presently made up of all the bishops from the Catholic and Protestant churches in Mindanao and the ulama from the Ulama League of the Philippines. It is presently considering the inclusion of spiritual leaders from the Lumad or indigenous communities.

Its establishment on July 16, 1996 is hailed as the emergence and recognition of the “missing component in many failed peace efforts — an affirmation of the convergent spiritual and cultural bases for peace,” or the faith dimension.

It started when the Mindanao Catholic bishops and the Ulama League of the Philippines independently wrote letters to their respective constituents in reaction to the emergence of the SPCPD. Both letters emphasized peace and development notwithstanding religious affiliations; there was also a call for dialogue among religions.

Not very long after, five Catholic bishops and 10 ulama met for the historic first meeting at the Ateneo de Manila University to discuss the prospects of peace at a time when the SPCPD controversy was at its height. It was a historic first because it was the first time ever that a Muslim religious leader invited Christian religious leaders to a dialogue in a Christian setting. Dr. Mutilan initiated the dialogue and arranged for the venue.

Present in that meeting were Dr. Mahid Mutilan, Lanao del Sur Governor and President of the Ulama League of the Philippines (ULP), and other leaders of the same organization, namely, Imam Yacob Ismi, Vice President for External Affairs; Aleem Sharief Mohsin Julabie, Speaker of the National Assembly; Aleem Abdul Wahid Amil, Aleem Mahmod Adilao, and Aleem Lucman Alawi, Regional Chairmen of Regions I, II and III, respectively; Aleem Abdul Rahman Rumenda, National Treasurer; Aleem Elias Macarandas, Executive Secretary; Aleem Abdul Basit Hadji Noor, Public Relations Officer; and Aleem Moctar Juailan.

Five Catholic bishops were there: Archbishop Fernando Capalla of Davao; Arch. Orlando Quevedo of Nueva Segovia; Bishop Francisco Claver, Apostolic vicar of Bontoc-Lagawe; Bishop Teodoro Bacani, District Bishop of Caloocan-Malabon-Navotas in the Archdiocese of Manila; and Bishop Jose Ma. Querexeta, Bishop Prelate Emeritus of Isabela in Basilan.

This initiative led to the first dialogue of the Mindanao Bishops and Ulama in Cebu City on November 26, 1996. As of this writing, the BUF has had 13 dialogues. The last one in Cagayan de Oro on May 17, 2000, was an emergency meeting in light of the raging war between the AFP and the MILF. It has also spawned many other peace or dialogue-related assemblies.

Two years later after its founding, in a meeting with peace partners in Mindanao, the BUF saw the important role of schools in the promotion of dialogue and decided to sponsor a seminar on the development of the culture of peace for superintendents and administrators of schools from the Muslim and Christian communities of Mindanao, thus the Camiguin seminar on Oct 27-31, 1998, attended by 21 superintendents and heads of religious and diocesan schools, six Ulama, and one Ustadz from Marawi and Lanao del Sur.

School administrators-participants in this seminar subsequently organized their own Culture of Peace seminars with the specific mission of studying the feasibility of introducing peace modules into their curriculum. The Religious of the Virgin Mary administers more than 20 schools all over Mindanao and promptly organized such seminars among their teachers and administrators. The Teresian Daughters of Mary who had nine schools in the Davao provinces did the same. The dioceses of Dipolog, Iligan, Pagadian, Ipil and Marawi sponsored similar seminars for teachers and administrators of diocesan schools.

Inspired by the 2nd BUF dialogue, the Archdiocese of Davao organized the first inter-religious dialogue among priests, pastors and imams in the Archdiocese itself on October 24, 1998. This gathering formed the Imam-Pastors-Priests Forum (IPPF) and planned the First Imams-Priests’ Conference two months later. It represents the localization of the peace and development process started by the BUF at the top.

Earlier, the Diocesan Clergy of Mindanao and Sulu at its 24th annual convention and silver jubilee celebration on February 1997 focused on their role in promoting the culture of peace in Mindanao in its tri-people setting. The heads of the BUF, Arch. Capalla and Dr. Mutilan, were invited to give input in this meeting; 10 ulama came with Dr. Mutilan. Arch. Capalla noted that this gathering was another historic first where 305 Catholic priests and 11 Muslim religious leaders rubbed elbows with one another in the same room. It was the first, he said, in the country, in Asia, perhaps even in the world. Given the backdrop of the 333 year Spanish initiated conflicts between Muslims and Christians, this meeting was a historic one indeed.

Bringing in the Lumad

Equally unprecedented was the second annual conference of dialogue between the Lumads and the Christians sponsored by the Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue (ECID) on November 27-30, 1997, one of the commissions of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP). Fifty-seven participants came from the 11 of the 18 Lumad ethnolinguistic groups; only a small group of Christians headed by Arch. Capalla was invited. The organizers would have wanted specifically the baylans to come but only a handful came, the rest were tribal leaders or the baylans’ representatives.

The Lumad participants were especially candid in the expression of their thoughts and perceptions during the dialogue. They generally regard Muslims and Christians as some of the major causes of their present political, economic and cultural predicament where they have experienced the death of their self-determination, their unchecked plunge to poverty, and the deterioration of their culture.

They were touched by the gesture of Archbp. Capalla who, as chairman of the Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue of CBCP, asked forgiveness for the wrongs of the past that his Church had been involved in.

Both sides profited from the dialogue. At the end, they agreed on certain self-imposed tasks. The Christians promised to continue to respect Lumad beliefs, and teach Lumad beliefs in the seminaries. Such respect should lead to the stoppage of activities destructive to Lumad beliefs. For their part, the Lumad vowed to take decisive moves to regenerate their dying culture, their environment and their communities from which they have been alienated.

Lately, to strengthen its experience and data base on the Lumad belief system, the BUF has co-sponsored with the Episcopal Commission on Inter-Religious Dialogue and the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process a series of research training workshops on Lumad belief system among diocesan personnel all over Mindanao, both Lumad and non-Lumad. The project is expected to be completed by the end of the year 2000.

This research on Lumad belief system will complete the vision of the BUF to generate active dialogue among all religions and beliefs among the inhabitants of Mindanao. This will complete the tri-people framework of the BUF, thereby generating a positive climate in pursuit of the peace process.

The Silsilah Dialogue Movement

Founded in May 1984 in Zamboanga City where it has remained to this day, Silsilah, meaning chain in Arabic, is meant to bring together Muslims and Christians to live together in harmony. In the founders’ own words, Silsilah refers to (a) the chain of unity that binds together all human race in God, the Creator; (b) the chain of faith that binds together peoples and cultures in the experience of the divine, and (c) the chain of dialogue that inspires Muslims and Christians together to seek reconciliation and harmony.

Among its various activities, the most outstanding, perhaps, are the summer course on Muslim-Christian Dialogue and the quarterly Silsilah Islamo-Christian Bulletin. The five-week summer course in 1995 is heavy on a balance presentation of the respective histories and theological systems of Islam and Christianity.

It should perhaps be mentioned that some of those who have been active in the Marawi Annual Summer Seminar on Mindanao and Sulu Cultures are also presently involved in the Silsilah Dialogue Movement.

The Silsilah Bulletin is a quarterly publication that is given away for free to interested parties. It has so far maintained a high standard of quality of content and spirit.

Peace Education in Notre Dame University and Other Institutions

As early as 1987, Notre Dame University in Cotabato has initiated Graduate Programs in Peace and Development Education. It also maintains a Peace Center which carries on an active involvement in the settlement of conflicts within the city and surrounding provinces. Its graduate program is now operating in consortium with Ateneo de Zamboanga in Zamboanga City, Ateneo de Davao University in Davao City, Xavier University in Cagayan de Oro City and Mindanao State University in the Islamic City of Marawi.

In coordination with the Commission on Higher Education Mindanao Advanced Education Program, this consortium is expected to graduate 50 masteral students in peace and development and 25 doctoral students.

The Catholic Relief Services (CRS) and the Mennonite Central Committee have jointly launched their Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute in Davao City, in cooperation with the Agong Peace Network. One of their objectives is to provide intensive in-depth training and education on various approaches, theories and praxis in the fields of conflict transformation and peace building. Its facilitators will include professors at the famous Summer Peacebuilding Institute of the Eastern Mennonite University and Mindanawons experienced in various aspects of conflict transformation and community development in their place of work.

Mindanao Week of Peace

Not too long ago in 1998, Peace Advocate Zamboanga members initiated the Week of Peace celebration in Zamboanga City. The activity was so successful, they proposed it to the BUF for adoption all over Mindanao. It was approved carrying the theme “Healing the past, building the future.” Upon the suggestion of the BUF, President Joseph Estrada issued Proclamation No. 207 declaring November 25 to December 1, 1999, and every year thereafter as the “Mindanao Week of Peace.”

The major cities of Mindanao, like Basilan, Zamboanga City, Iligan, Pagadian, Davao, Cotabato, General Santos, Butuan, Marbel, even small town parishes like Ipil in Zamboanga del Sur, and Pikit in Cotabato blossomed with peace activities. In Zamboanga City and Ipil, they had the longest parade ever in many years. In Iligan and Marawi, religious leaders had exchange visits: priests from Iligan went to Marawi to observe the Friday prayer of the Muslims in the mosques, and Dr. Mutilan, president of the Ulama League of the Philippines, hosted lunch for the guests; Alims came down to Iligan on Sunday to observe the prayer of the Christians. Lunch was served at the Bishop’s residence. What concrete proof is needed that the culture of peace has seeped down to the grassroots level. But given the complexity and immensity of the problems among the tri-people in Mindanao, no one doubts that the positive gains of 1999 must be sustained; we need more “week of peace.”

Kalinaw Mindanaw: An Era of New Relationships

With the convergence of peace building activities in Mindanao, namely, the GRP-MNLF formal peace talks, the resumption of GRP-MILF peace negotiations, the people’s initiatives, and the efforts of organized religions spearheaded by the Bishops Ulama Forum, it must be said once again, we can only have peace if the peace of one is the peace of all, the Lumad, Muslims and the Christian settlers, when the vision of one is the vision of all.

The increasing number of peace advocates, the new terms of relationships that are being developed point to more hard work but a brighter future.

This is one moment in history when Kalinaw Mindanaw can be a call to panagsuon (brotherhood-sisterhood) among the tri-people of Mindanao, a process with emphasis on peaceful means of resolving conflicts, and a vision. We can all make the new millennium an era of new relationships.

Kalinaw Mindanaw!!!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. A peace specialist, Rudy Buhay Rodil is an active Mindanao historian and peace advocate.)