Autonomy…Again? Foreword This paper summarizes the historical background, causes, and a possible solution to end the ongoing ethnic conflict in The Philippines. The Muslim Filipinos of Mindanao and the Christian Filipinos have been fighting the second oldest internal ethnic dispute in the world. Over 120,000 people have died and 2 million have been displaced in this four decades long battle.1 For many years, the central government’s attempts at peace, institutional restructuring, and regional autonomy have failed. It is clear that this ethnic conflict must be resolved in order for the country to progress economically, and by allowing the Muslim Filipinos of Mindanao to truly be autonomous and having equal and fair representation in the central government, economic development can finally occur in Mindanao and the Filipino people may finally see peace. History2 Some people suggest that the ethnic conflict in the Philippines began when Magellan arrived in the Philippines in 1521. Under Spanish colonization, a majority of the country converted to Roman Catholicism. The only exception was the Southern Island of Mindanao, who’s strong and organized Muslim sultanates could not be overwhelmed by the Spanish Conquistadores. The Muslims of the south were given the name “Moros” by the Spanish; a name with many negative connotations. As a result the Muslims of the South were forever stigmatized
Schiavo-Campo, Salvatore, and Mary Judd. The Mindanao Conflict in the Philippines: Roots, Costs, and Potential Peace Dividend. Publication no. 24. Feb. 2005. World Bank. 18 Mar. 2009 2 This text draws heavily from: Jumaani, Prof.Datu Amilusin A. Philippine European Solidarity Centre. 23 November 2003. 20 March 2009 .
in the eyes of the Christian Northerners, and the Muslims of the South saw their fellow Filipinos as supporters of the violent Spanish attempts of conversion. The 20th Century brought major changes in the landscape of ethnic tension in the Philippines. During the earlier part of the century, the Philippines was under American Colonial rule and ethnic violence was controlled by a strong military presence. Once the US government moved to grant independence to the Philippines during the 1940’s, it was met with large resistance by the Moros of the South. In the Dansalan Declaration the Moros clearly stated their unwillingness to be grouped with the rest of the Christian population: “We do not want to be included in the Philippines for once an independent Philippines is launched, there would be trouble between us and the Filipinos because from time immemorial these two peoples have not lived harmoniously together.”3 However, their pleas were unheard by the American government, and The Republic of the Philippines gained its full independence on July 4th, 1946. The Mindanao Independence Movement4 Once the Philippines began to self govern, one of the first tasks of the government was to somehow unite the 180 different ethnic groups and 100 mutually unintelligible languages, under one nation and one language. While the Christian Filipinos were separated by language barriers, cultural stereotypes, and location, they were able to unite under the same religion. The Moros of the South refused to integrate, seeing the nationwide movement as a threat to the Muslim religion and the culture of Mindanao. The Philippine government further aggravated the cultural tensions
David, Ricardo A. "THE CAUSES AND PROSPECT OF THE SOUTHERN PHILIPPINES SECESSIONIST MOVEMENT." Thesis. Naval Post-Graduate School, 2003. Center for Contemporary Conflict. Dec. 2003. Center for Contemporary Conflict. 20 Mar. 2009 4 This section draws heavily on a lecture given by Jamail Kamlian. Kamlian, Jamail A. "Ethnic and Religious Conflict in Southern Philippines: A Discourse on Self-Determination, Political Autonomy and Conflict Resolution." Islam and Human Rights Fellow Lecture. School of Law, Emory University, Atlanta, Georgia. Islam and Human Rights...
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