"Unity in the face of empire"
International Muslim-Christian Solidarity Conference for the Philippines,
General Santos City, southeastern Mindanao, Philippines,
August 22-25, 2005.
We, Moro people from ten different organizations, church
leaders from the National Council of Churches in the
Philippines and the Roman Catholic Church, and representatives
of various organizations in nine other countries, gathered for
the International Muslim-Christian Solidarity Conference for
the Philippines in General Santos City, southeastern Mindanao,
Philippines, from August 22-25, 2005.
We celebrate the presence and participation of imams, ulama, nuns, pastors, priests, bishops, other church people, professionals, and a significant number of women and youth, who came in an act of solidarity with the suffering Moro people in Mindanao.
We rejoice that peoples’ movements continue to thrive in the Philippines, especially in Mindanao, diligently sowing the seeds of unity and freedom. We rejoice that there are yet communities whose hopes for a better nation and a better world have not been dimmed by the din of conflict and human degradation. Our dialogue was grounded on the stories of grassroots representatives along with the experience of international delegates who made community visits to integrate and enrich their understanding of the local context. We were inspired by resource persons, who were all committed undeniably to the quest for Muslim-Christian unity and peace and justice. Their presentations sparked lively discussions which not only placed squarely before the conference the objective realities that plague the Moro people in Mindanao but also roused the participants to deeper solidarity and concrete action.
The Context of the Conference
The suffering of the Moro people in Mindanao has an historical beginning: from the 300-year Spanish colonial period to the United States pacification campaigns in the early 1900’s, until the repression perpetuated today by no less than the state itself. This is inextricably linked to the Moro resistance to subjugation and the rapacious desire of foreigners, supported by state instruments, to exploit the natural resources in Mindanao without regard to the welfare of its inhabitants, the sovereignty of this country and the future generations.
The state’s response to the demand of the Moro people for respect for self-determination has been one of deception and betrayal. Worse, the state unleashes its military might to suppress legitimate dissent with horrendous results: escalating violence, the dislocation of communities, the deaths of innocent civilians and numerous violations of human rights. Equally lamentable is the use of religious concepts, ideas or differences to sow disunity, confusion and fuel hatred.
Since September 11, 2001, the plight of the Moro people has turned for the worse. U.S. President George W. Bush’s all-out war against “terrorism,” and the declaration of some countries as “axis of evil” or “second fronts” have exacerbated the situation in Mindanao. That President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo instantly and unabashedly committed the Philippines to the “coalition of the willing” meant another nail hammered into the withered bodies of the Moro people. What has become obvious in this war against terrorism is the Bush administration’s unquenchable greed for power. U.S. unilateralism brought to the fore the truth of its own intent – control of the world’s resources and hegemony. What is now true is that President Bush, his multinational corporate allies, and their cohorts around the world have been unmasked as the Empire. This empire has become the primary terrorist in our time, attacking countries under the guise of pre-emptive strikes and subjecting Muslims to indignity. The Moro people have felt acutely the demonization of Muslims around the world.
The presence of U.S. armed forces in Mindanao and elsewhere in the Philippines under the insidious Visiting Forces Agreement and other related agreements, not only violate the Philippine Constitution but also dim chances for genuine peace. The victims of human rights violations, damage to property and the disruption of the livelihood activities of the people have grown dramatically since the government intensified its military operations.
A better Philippines awaits us for as long as the struggle to live out this hope is done within the context of resistance to empire.
As people of the Books, we Muslims and Christians are called to live out the primary command to love and have compassion for one another, seeing in each other the face of God the creator.
The war in Mindanao has never been motivated purely on religious grounds though the warring forces have often been polarized into Christian and Muslim factions. Unless the roots of the conflict in Mindanao are properly addressed, genuine peace and justice shall remain elusive.
We commit ourselves to bridging gaps, breaking religious barriers and strengthening Christian-Muslim solidarity. We will strive to create, sustain and expand this solidarity within our local communities, throughout and beyond the shores of this republic.
We are one in calling for a speedy trial of incarcerated Moro brothers and sisters in many parts of the archipelago as well as justice to the desaperacidos (forced disappearences). We join the people’s demand for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign. At no chapter in Philippine history has the presidency been so besmirched and lost the people’s trust as now.
This conference prays and hopes for Christian-Muslim solidarity in Palestine. We denounce the continuing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan by the United States Armed Forces and join the call for their withdrawal from these two countries.
In the search and struggle for that better Philippines, we call for the creation of an international network that shall embody the aspirations set forth in this conference and build on the years of tireless grassroots work laid down by community development and peace advocates in Mindanao. The network shall seek to implement the resolves of this conference and take initiatives in attaining the vision of “Chrislamic” – Christian and Islamic peoples in unity – communities of genuine love and peace in Mindanao.
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