Fragile hopes for dialogue between government and Muslim rebels in Mindanao
Manila (AsiaNews) - "The dialogue between Islamic rebels and government need to give hope and find new solutions to bring peace to Mindanao, even if they will stop at the first obstacle”, say AsiaNews sources in Zamboanga, on the negotiations between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government ongoing today in Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), to restore peace in the Muslim majority region after more than forty years of war.
Negotiations have been stalled for six months and are the first under the Aquino administration, which has made peace with the rebels the top of its government program. At the moment the rift inside the MILF, which occurred in recent days, does not seem to worry delegates who have told the media they hope to sign an agreement within the next year. Despite this optimism, experts believe that the split has reduced the capacity of the Islamic group to abide by any peace agreements.
"The division of the rebels is not something new - says the source - we know that the MILF is already divided into four groups, but these stories are never reported by the media. ". "The rebels – they add – have been in trouble since the death of their historic leader Salamat Hashim in 2001 and it is still too early to tell what will happen in the future." "For the moment – they conclude - the new government has given good signals and is engaging in negotiations."
Meanwhile, efforts continue on a ground level with encounters between Christians and Muslims. Among them, the commitment of Silsilah ("Chain", "bond", in Arabic) a movement of Muslim - Christian dialogue founded by Father Sebastiano D'Ambra (PIME), which operates Zamboanga.
On February 3 last in Basilan, one of the most affected by the conflict between the Islamic rebels and the military, Christian and Muslim leaders, involved in Silsilah, came together to restore respect and mutual understanding between groups divided by the guerrillas.
Fr. D'Ambra told AsiaNews, "that in recent years our work has become increasingly challenging and has taken on an international importance". He stresses that personalities from around the world come to Zamboanga to observe the actions of the movement. "Our next steps – adds Fr. D'Ambra - will be a training course in dialogue for the military and a program of psychological care for people traumatized by war. "