03/11/2019, 16.25
PHILIPPINES
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Tribal ritual to renew friendship between natives, Muslims and settlers

The ritual has been held at the foot of Mount Kitanglad since 2012. For Talaandig tribal chief, this year’s ceremony is “important now, especially that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is being implemented”. Tensions among Muslims continue. The MILF’s central role fuels disagreements. For PIME missionary, the “situation remains fluid”.

Mindanao (AsiaNews) – Representatives of eight Lumad tribes, their Moro kin and settler groups gathered in Songco, a village in Bukidnon province (Mindanao), three days ago, to renew their vow of friendship.

During the ceremony, hosted by the local Talaandig community, participants slaughtered some chickens and smeared their blood in their palms and on their foreheads.

Drops of blood were sprinkled on the monument marking the kinship reaffirmation, featuring a clay ‘tibod’ or jar that symbolises the unity the three people of Mindanao.

In addition to the Lumad, an un-Christianised and un-Islamised indigenous group, concentrated in southern Philippines (Mindanao, Cebu and Panay), the island is home to the Moro, predominantly Islamic ethnic groups, who live mainly in the south-western part of Mindanao, Sulu and Basilan; and predominantly Christian settlers from the north.

Talaandig tribal chief Datu Migketay Victorino Saway said that the ritual has been carried out each year since 2012 at the foot of Mount Kitanglad, in the heart of Mindanao.

This year's ceremony is ‘important now, especially that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao is being implemented,” Saway told MindaNews.

For many the new region is the key to achieve lasting peace with separatist rebels and counter the rise of Islamist extremism on the island.

On 22 February, the Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte handed over power in the new region to Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim, leader of the former rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Ebrahim will lead the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) until a regional parliament is elected in 2022.

A referendum endorsed the new region, which will include the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, as well as the cities of Marawi, Lamitan, Cotabato and 63 villages in North Cotabato province.

Mindanao Muslims are however divided. Sources told AsiaNews that tensions persist.

The central role played by the MILF, which is largely made up of ethnic Maguindanao, has fuelled dissatisfaction among other Islamic ethnic groups, most notably the Tausugs, who have always preferred a federal structure, and the Maranao.

The tensions during the campaign peaked a few hours after the Yes victory with the attack against Jolo cathedral (Sulu province) and the attack on a Zamboanga mosque.

Divisions have thus become fertile ground for certain politicians and interest groups, sources note.

Many Muslims fear that the autonomous region might be undermined, leading to the outbreak of fresh violence. Ceremonies like that in Songco represent an important opportunity for intercommunal dialogue.

Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra, missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and founder of Silsilah, a movement for Islamic-Christian dialogue, said that “the situation is under control at present, especially ahead of elections on 13 May”.

"People are waiting to see how things unfold during the transitory phase.” Meanwhile, “The situation remains fluid.”

(Photo credit: MindaNews)

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