Why peace has a foothold in the Philippines
The Philippines has been fighting a decades-long insurgency. But a cease-fire is holding and peace talks are advancing. What makes this possible is commitment from the top and the bottom: Leaders insist on moving ahead, and warring families want peace for their children.
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“This event confirms the support of the individual tribes for the peace process and is a key factor in stabilizing the region. Without stability, peace cannot move forward,” said Walee Roslie, a member of the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao.Skip to next paragraph
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2. In June, two families who were known for their clan warfare in the Basilan Province – an area particularly susceptible to violence – signed a peace covenant. One of the most cited forms of violence in Mindanao is clan warfare, or rido, I was told by ceasefire monitors.
The peace covenant between the Hataman family and the Akbar family goes well beyond the borders of Basilan. “Forget about pride. If you want to have real peace and unity, you must learn to swallow your pride for your children, for your people,” said Mujiv Hataman at the peace signing, encouraging clans throughout Mindanao to follow a similar path toward reconciliation.
3. In July, the Bangsamoro General Assembly in central Mindanao – the heart of MILF country – brought together 200,000 participants who listened to their leaders about the ongoing peace process. Perhaps most notable were two representatives from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), who, until recently, have had a strained relationship with the MILF. In an unprecedented show of unity, the MILF and MNLF leaders expressed their desire to create a joint forum in an effort to strengthen the peace process in Mindanao.
Each of these events is not enough to suggest that lasting peace in the Philippines is an imminent possibility. But combined, they certainly point toward a bright future for the Philippines.
Of course, much is still needed for a signed peace agreement. The next round of peace talks, scheduled for the end of this month, will continue to identify ways to implement agreed-on principles – from strengthening the sharia judicial system to upholding basic human rights, including the right of women to meaningful political participation.
The road to peace is long, sometimes washed out by drenching rains. But as my peace activist colleague, Dedette Suacito, said to me, “Next time, come with your five children to Basilan. I will show them the beauty of our island. I will show them our beaches and ocean. I will teach them how to dance in the rain.”
I have no children, but I am certainly learning how to dance in the rain.
Angela Lederach is a research associate for the Center for Public Policy Studies and holds a degree in International Peace Studies from the University of Notre Dame. She has recently returned from a 6 month internship in Mindanao, Philippines. To read more about her time in the Philippines you can visit her blog.