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World Religions in Assisi with Pope Francis


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September 8 2014 09:30 | Karel de Grote-Hogeschool, Campus Groenplaats, Swaelen room


Ebrahim Al-Hajj Murad

Chief negotiator in the peace process for Mindanao, Philippines
The Role of Dialogue in its pursuit of lasting peace
1. On behalf of the Bangsamoro people, and the Leadership of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), I would like to express our appreciation and gratitude for being invited and be part of this meaningful event.
2. Indeed we are very honored to be able to share with you our experience in our search for peace, which started not only during our generation but even during the time of our forefathers during the colonization period in the 16th Century. We sincerely believe that the long struggle we have undertaken to attain peace and justice for our people and homeland is very relevant to the team of this International Meeting for Peace sponsored by the Community of Sant’ Egidio which is “PEACE is the FUTURE”. We likewise affirm that the role of Dialogue has played very important role in sustaining our struggle for Peace and Progress in our homeland.  
3. Ladies and gentlemen, we have been witnessing conflicts after conflicts unfolding almost everywhere. We have witnessed the devastating outcomes of wars, from the petty armed conflict  to full-blown wars. But after all the destructions of enormous lives and properties, almost all these wars are settled ultimately through dialogues. And therefore, I strongly believe that if a dialogue takes its course before war overtakes it, we will always find war irrelevant and becomes illegitimate.
4. Today, we are gathered in this noble event to showcase our willingness and commitment to achieve our shared goal that is to see the world free of unwanted conflicts. The result of war is always a serious calamity that does not spare noncombatants, and therefore it should not have been and should not be happening. Any attempt for war should be defeated. A world that is war-free is within our reach, it only demands our collective efforts and common stand to reject war as a solution, and make dialogue as an ultimate alternative to war.
5. Ladies and gentlemen, allow me to bring your attention to the conflict in Mindanao in Southern Philippines which is known as the Bangsamoro Homeland as this is one of the outstanding examples to elucidate the merits of dialogue over war as an option.
6. The conflict in the Mindanao islands is one of the longest running conflicts in the world spanning 436 years to date. It started when the Spaniards, in the 16th century came to colonize the present Philippine Archipelago. Having subjugated the northern islands of what is now known as Luzon and the Visayas, our ancestors, the native inhabitants of the southern part which was at that time enjoying their independence and own system of governance under the different Sultanates, prominent of which are the Sultanate Of Sulu, Sultanate of Maguindanao and Buayan and the Confederation of Leaders in Ranao  resisted to the colonization of the Spaniards and and thus they were never colonized by Spain and where able to maintain their culture and Islamic belief., the Moros, in Sulu in 1578 and later spread to Mindanao.        
7. The coming of the Americans, however, is not a grandeur intervention to rescue our usurped territory and sovereignty. Their agenda was the same as the Spaniard’s imperialism but merely differs in policy as the former appears more pragmatic. In their moral, psychological and military warfare, the Americans have greatly disadvantaged the Moros and they are proved to be more disastrous on a national grand scale when the United States of America granted the Spanish-conquered people an independent state in 1946 and for which the never-conquered Mindanao and Sulu have been illegally and immorally annexed to the entire territory of this new born Republic of the Philippines. 
8. Under the Philippines Republic, the Bangsamoro experienced discrimination, oppression and other forms of injustices as minority until in 1935 the government in Manila passed a law implementing systematic migration from the north to the south until they were able to effectively change the balance of population in the Bangsamoro homeland turning the Bangsamoro still minority in their own homeland. 
9. The situation of the Bangsamoro worsen during the late 60’s when the Philippine government did not succeed in its program of integrating the minority Muslim to the majority Christian population started a genocidal campaign against the Bangsamoro people massacring thousands of innocent civilians, men and women and children which motivated the rise of arm-struggle initially as a defense and in the early 70’s was proclaimed and independence movement.  This give birth to the revolutionary fronts including what is now the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILIF) formed in the early 1970's.   
10.   The leadership of the MILF is governed by the principles of Islam as a peaceful religion. It never encourages war as a substitute to peace. However, in some instances, war cannot avoided as counter measures to contain the aggression of the Philippine Government and her Armed Forces. 
11.   The commitment and devotion of the MILF for peace is beyond reasonable doubt. For the past 17 years since 1997, the GPH and MILF have been locked up in negotiating table with numerous major and minor skirmishes interruption along the way. At times, the negotiation is marred with GPH’s perpetuation to renege past agreements on one hand and intimidating consequent of war on the other hand.  
12.   Perplexed on this consistent tendency to undermine the gains of past negotiations, the MILF stays firm to its guard and affirms stand on every signed agreement as binding never to be a mere paper of history. 
13.   True to its commitment to settle the conflict, the MILF has entered into a series of dialogues with the GPH for the sole purpose of resolving the conflict peacefully. Up to this very day, the two parties are still engaged in series of dialogues (negotiation) until the final aspiration of the Moros are met. 
14.   The MILF negotiation with the GPH has resulted in the signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) on the 15th of August 2012. The signed agreement (FAB) serves as the roadmap for the final comprehensive pact. On the 27th of March 2014 the final agreement Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) was signed. This agreement could not have been possible without the overwhelming conduct of dialogues.
15.   Finally, let me express our profound gratitude to the Community of Sant’ Egidio for actively serving as member of the International Contact Group (ICG) along with the United Kingdom, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Japan and other International and local non-government organizations for helping in the facilitation of the GPH-MILF Peace Process until the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was finally signed in March 27, 2014.




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