Basilan youth leader hopes communities benefit from Bangsamoro law

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews /15 July) — A young Moro leader from Basilan province hopes communities in conflict-affected areas would benefit from the new Bangsamoro law so that the peace process can move into a “peace progress.”

“As a Bangsamoro, what I want is for us to have a peace progress and not just peace process always. After the peace talks, there would be implementation and then they would go back to peace talks again even if they have not yet completed what should have been implemented. We feel it becomes a cycle that keeps repeating,” Hatima Sahal said at the sidelines of the six-day Youth POWER (Peacebuilding Our Way, Engaged and Resilient) Training of Trainers at he Marco Polo hotel here on Thursday.

Sahal is among 34 young Moro from the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) who attended the trainers’ training organized by Office of the President Adviser on the Peace Process and supported by UN IOM. The training envisions “to strengthen the role of youth in peace building in line with the Conflict-Sensitivity and Peace Promotion Framework of the 2017 PAMANA in the ARMM.”

The 24-year Moro leader, a member of Action Bridges Aspiration (ABA), which conducts trainings for students, out-of-school youth, and young professionals in Zamboanga, Basilan, and Tawi-Tawi, said other young Moro are already losing hope on the peace process because of the failed promises that merely led to disappointment and frustration.

She asked: “When do we have the peace progress? When does this end? When do all of us in the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao) start working for peace?”

Sahal hopes the Bangsamoro people will work together to achieve peace.

“The government is just there but sometimes we cannot also blame the youth if they no longer want to participate because they might feel it wouldn’t be sustained and it would be gone again,” she said.

She said there would be no progress in their communities if the law “remains like a concept paper.”

The Bicameral Conference Committee on the proposed BBL (bicam) is “99% done,” according to Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, bicam co-chair, as of 12:50 a.m on Friday, July 13. The bicam is meeting to tackle the remaining 1% on Tuesday, July 17.

Sahal urged young Moro people to keep their hopes in the BBL, now referred to as the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (OLBARMM), and emphasized the need to continue their participation in the peace building activities in their communities.

“I hope they would participate and be aware of what’s happening as this is their right as a youth. They are useful, even the out-of-school youth, and the old and young. All of us have the right. If they do not take part, if something happens, they will not understand because they are not informed,” she said.

Sahal urged the youth to “continue doing what is right and continue what our predecessors have started because we cannot start if we do not know our roots and our identity.” She said it’s important that they know their origin to achieve understanding among people in a multi-cultural society.

Sahal, a member of the Basilan Young Leaders Program in 2015,  knows the work for peace would not be easy because there would always be “misunderstanding.”

“In peace building, there will be misunderstanding, for example, when you go to the community to give projects and, of course, projects are targeted for specific beneficiaries. But people will tend to ask why only Basilan? Why only Sulu? Why only Tawi-Tawi,” she said.

But she emphasized that it’s important to continue despite the difficulty and do not promise the youth something that cannot be done or sustained.

She dreams the image of ARMM would be changed one day, most especially in her home province of Basilan and Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, which was destroyed by a five-month armed conflict between the military and Maute Group.

“Some people are afraid of us (and would say) ‘they are Muslims.’ We cannot avoid that because it’s what they see on social media. We wish that one day nobody would be afraid of us because everyone is welcome in our home. They can visit us in our place),” she said.

She boasted that her province of Basilan has several beautiful destinations and a melting pot of Moro, Christians, and Lumad cultures.

“In ARMM, there are so many things that we lack. Like our heroes, we are not taught in schools who they are,” she said.

She added that the Department of Education must incorporate peace education in all academic institutions in the autonomous region. (Antonio L. Colina IV / MindaNews)