Ateneo de Davao University

Ateneo de Davao

Conversations with the Jesuits

Last December 26 – 28, 2013, I was invited to participate in a forum entitled Jesuit Mindanao Conversations. Father Joel in his blog said that, “[A]fter the Zamboanga Standoff of Oct., 2013, Fr. Antonio Moreno, Provincial Superior of the Society of Jesus in Mindanao, asked for shared communal discernment on our apostolic directions in Mindanao. In response, Ateneo de Davao University (ADDU) hosted “Mindanao Conversations,” in its Finster Hall Auditorium from the afternoon of Dec. 26 to noon of Dec. 28.  To these conversations in discernment, twenty-five invited Jesuits engaged in Mindanao or in apostolates relevant to Mindanao came, as well as prominent Mindanao leaders from the Church, the Muslim and Lumad communities, government, the military and civil society.

For this article, I would like to share my short message.

“When I was informed to speak before this gathering, I was hesitant at first. Having known that this conference, Jesuits Conversations in Mindanao, is composed mainly of distinguished men with impressive credentials, I cannot imagine a layman like myself delivering a short message to a religious and scholarly audience. But my dear friend and classmate, Vinci, told me that I was only required to deliver a brief message that would, at least, give a glimpse of the issue on how the Ateneo Community work for Peace in Mindanao. Thus, hesitance gave way to enthusiasm.

I am heading Al Qalam Institute based on many reasons, two of which are quite obvious. One reason is that I was one of the pioneer advocates of upholding the Filipino Muslim identity as a proactive way of transcending the “moro-moro” identity. Based on my personal studies and research which I presented to a number of international conferences, I come to accept that the moro identity refers to a civil right issue. Another reason is that – as Father Joel can attest —  I have been (and shall always be) a serious student of the Mindanao culture and history. This is a matter of interest, as well as by virtue of my calling as a member of the Royal House of Maguindanao, also belonging to the very few Iranuns who can articulate their voices and views, I am all the more mandated to be engaged in the study and propagation of our indigenous culture and history.

“Ex injuria jus non oritur” Right cannot originate from wrong.

For several years, we were made to believe that, “the moro struggle for freedom and self-determination is the longest and bloodiest in the entire history of mankind”. But history and thorough research will show us that this is not the truth about our people.

Is there such a thing as Muslim nationalism? Is the struggle of our forefathers in defense of homeland? Our answer is – There never was a Mindanao Muslim nationalist struggle. The struggle of our people was in defense of their religion and way of life. The Spaniards came to christianized the “uncivilized” Moros. So our forefathers fought them. The Americans came, not to impose a new religion but a new order. So they were welcomed. But, when they, introduce new laws that threatens our forefathers’ way of life and economy (slavery and datuism), there arose the conflict. But it was only at the time of Chairman Nur Misuari of the MNLF that consciousness emerged. It was to fight Marcos dictatorship.

Take the case of the American Period. My elder brother, Datu Mohammad Sinsuat Lidasan,  told me that, “the motive of the collaborators of Japanese and Americans were according to each clan’s interests. One example was Datu Sinsuat Balabaran and his sons. Datu Sinsuat tried the win-win solution. His son Datu Duma Sinsuat joined the Bolo Batallion with a strength of 4,900 men, while his father Datu Sinsuat maintained ties with the Japanese and the puppet government of Pres. Laurel. The same is true with Datu Piang. His son Datu Gumbay was the overall in command of the Bolo Batallion but his brother Datu Ugalingan Piang declared support with the Japanese”.

He further said that still many of us consider that it is longest armed resistance in human history. From 15th century to date, the armed resistance continues. But it is an off and on resistance since we have to consider the treatise signed and what do we expect when colonialism continued for centuries. Logically, there will always arise peace-conflict, alliance against common enemy, treaties-betrayals and vice versa.

What then is the problem? Is it religious? Economic? Political? Difficulty to observe Islamic tenets and practice is not an issue. Everywhere, even in Muslim countries, it is even more difficult to practice the right and natural religion of Islam. Poverty is not an issue. It is a global reality asking for no special solution.

Several studies have been conducted in understanding the moro problem. Scholars, peace advocates, and NGOs tried different solutions in addressing this problem. Most of the view being used is the historical and political perspective.

Cesar Majul tried it with his “Stages of Moro Wars”. But very few interdisciplinary and anthropological lens have been applied in understanding the nature of the so called “moro problem”.

Lastly, the dilemma faced by the Muslim Filipinos in the 21st Century is how to preserve our  culture  in  the  face  of  pervasive  cultural  influence coming from  the  West,  the Philippine state, in media, the  academe, government and so on. At the same time, the intra-Muslim challenge is to protect it against the incursion of Islamist extremism and Moro pseudo-nationalism.

In short, we are faced with a dilemma as to the preservation of our identity, assertion of our right to self-determination; ensuring our cultural, if not political autonomy.

I do hope that the Ateneo community can help us in our peaceful struggle of our right to self determination.” (Message during the Jesuit Mindanao Conversations)

The detailed documentation is still being prepared. At the end of the conversations, the participants and the Jesuits came up with 10 Action Points. These action points I will discuss in my next article.