09/18/2009, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Opportunities and uncertainties in Mindanao’s peace process

by Santosh Digal
In her visit to Turkey, Filipino President Arroyo urges Islamic countries to contribute to the peace process in Mindanao. In the meantime, the Bishop-Ulama Forum is working on the annual “Week of Peace”, and views the mobilisation of the population as the best path to end the conflict.
Manila (AsiaNews) – The government of the Philippines wants Islamic countries to play a greater role in the peace process in Mindanao. Filipino President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo made the plea during her visit to Turkey on 16 and 17 September.

During her two-day stay, Ms Arroyo met Turkish President Abdullah Gul and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organisation of the Islamic Conference (OIC), in an attempt to broaden the framework for negotiations with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The visit itself follows the creation of an International Contact Group (CG) in accordance with an agreement signed by the Filipino government and the MILF last Tuesday in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia).

The ICG wants OIC members to take part in the peace process in addition to Malaysia, the European Union and NGOs, especially those already active in promoting inter-faith dialogue between Christians and Muslims.

in Mindanao itself, the Bishop-Ulama Forum is working on the 11th annual “Week of Peace”, which is scheduled to run from 29 November to 3 December. It normally brings together Catholic and Protestant clergymen as well as ulama in a meeting-filled week that is designed to encourage the population of Mindanao to get involved in the peace process.

Fr Amado Picardal, an expert on inter-faith dialogue, said, “This event can help the participants see how the various groups view Mindanao history and come up with a common perspective that will help us understand the roots of present conflict.”

In his opinion, peace plans that are currently under discussion cannot be left to top officials, but must involve everyone on Mindanao, and include the rights of women and indigenous Lumad.

Over the past six months, 290 focus groups have held discussions in various towns on the island, bringing together people from different social and ethnic backgrounds.

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