RELIGIOUSLY MOTIVATED CIVIL WAR IN THE
Arab traders brought Islam to the southern part of the Philippines in the 13th
century. Several of its southern provinces remain predominantly Muslim at the
present time. The rest of the country is Christian -- almost entirely Roman
Friction between the Muslim south and Christian north has been a
continual problem for centuries. Intermittently, it flares up into open
conflict. The largest guerilla force is currently the Moro Islamic Liberation
Front (MILF). They claim to control 26 southern "territories;" the
government admits that they have taken charge in only ten. Their aim is
succession from the national government. Newsroom 2 claims
that about 120,000 people have been killed over many decades.
During 1999, over 50,000 families (over 300,000 people) were displaced
from their homes. From 2000-JAN to mid-MAR, another 75,000 civilians had
to be relocated from the area of conflict. In 2000-FEB, a bombing campaign
killed 36 and wounded 49. The government and rebels blame each other for
the attacks. The deaths triggered a second round of peace talks between
the government and rebels. Both sides have declared a cease-fire.
A Roman Catholic priest who is helping monitor the cease-fire, Eliseo
Mercado, commented: "We must prepare for the worst." He said
that the national government exhibited "no vision"
towards the peace process, which
he described as "directionless and ambiguous."
Philippines Defense Secretary, Orlando Mercado, has said: "There are people instigating the Christian
community to go after the Muslims. Let us not allow this to
into a Muslim-Christian conflict."
A MILF spokesman, Al Haj Murad, has been quoted as saying that military
and police officials were creating unrest in the south in order to
destabilize the national government and justify a military takeover of the country.
said that the MILF had three government
infiltrators in custody who they accuse of being responsible for the recent bomb attacks.
The military has dismissed these claims as "fantasy."
In 2000-MAR, The National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the
Catholic Bishops' Conference were organizing a joint peace committee to
mediate in the conflict.
2000-MAR-20: According to DayWatch, members of the Al
Haratul Islamiya rebel group attacked a Catholic school in the
village of Tumahubong in southern Basilan province. A pregnant school
teacher was allegedly killed. School School director Father Roel
Gallardo, principal Reynaldo Rubio, five teachers, and 20 students are
being held hostage as of MAR-22.
2000-APR-19: According to Newsroom: 2 "Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines say that
they will release 29 hostages from a Catholic school if the government
will prohibit Christians in Basilan province from displaying crosses
in public, according to news reports. The Manila government has
rejected the demand as 'unacceptable.' "
2000-APR-21: According to Newsroom: 3
"Muslim rebels in the southern Philippines say they beheaded
two teachers Wednesday who were among 29 Catholic hostages in Basilan
province. Meanwhile, the provincial governor has expressed fear that
news of the executions may spark a religious war between Muslims and
2000-MAY: Government forces rescued 15 hostages. Four died in
the assault. Eight are believed to be still in rebel hands.
2000-MAY-16: According to the Manila Bulletin:
The leading institute of mainstream Islam denounced as un-Islamic the
kidnappings by Muslim rebel groups in the Philippines. The Permanent
Committee of Al-Azhar for Dialogue with the Monotheistic Religions
"expresses great concern and condemns the violent actions of
groups in the Philippines who claim to be motivated by Islam....Such
acts of violence have nothing to do with Islam as a religion. The
Muslim religion promotes peace, brotherhood, and justice," the
committee quoted the Grand Sheik of Al-Azhar, Mohammed Sayed Tantawi,
Sophie Lizares-Bodegon, "Catholic Priest Fears That Violence Will
Continue in Southern Philippines," Ecumenical News International,