Update from Mindanao
In a continuation of military action in Mindanao, this latest story outlines the everyday presence of the conflict in the lives of those who reside in this part of the country. Ordinary citizens who wish to be able to go about their work, or attend school or meet up with friends and family in public places, have to be vigilant of the threat of violence. In many ways, the conflict in Mindanao parallels the years of entrenched violence in the Middle-East, the major difference being the level of awareness given to the Philippines by the West (and the rest of the world) pales in comparison to the well publicized Arab-Israeli conflict. This infograph illustrates the human and economic toll taken by the 43 year-long conflict in Mindanao:
Dr. Anayatin, in her frequent updates to us, makes clear the personal toll of the longstanding conflict to herself and her community at large:
[quote]Besides the ever-increasing displaced people as a result of the all-out war, children cannot go to school. Parents can not perform livelihood activities and are endangered just going to or pursuing work. Too many people depend on food and basic services from the government … some men (fight on the) rebel side while the government (and opposition to the rebel cause) take care of their families in evacuation centers. These are the sad realities of war in Mindanao. The cycle of violence is the longest running armed-conflict in the world, which continues to be the biggest obstacle to our region being able to develop and progress.”[/quote]
Just last week, Dr. Anayatin informed us that a fellow peace advocate and student of hers in the graduate peace studies program at MSU, was gunned down at a supermarket. Although the circumstances of this case are sill being investigated, Susana too often relates similar stories of friends or colleagues associated with the peace movement falling victim to the conflict. And yet, she continues to make progress with projects in place and show leadership to her students, volunteers and communities she actively works with. Pictured below are photos of relief operations to displaced people in Maguindanao that Susana took part in over this past weekend. Susana reports that about 7,000 students have been impacted due to a suspension of classes. In this latest flare up of the war, classrooms have become makeshift ‘evacuation centers’.
Part of our role in uplifting the voices of those we partner with in community development, is to also shine a light on the issues and obstacles to their work. The relief effort shown in the above photos was hastily organized after the latest offensive lauched by the Armed Forces of the Philippines in Maguindanao against the Bangamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF), a splinter group of the MILF (see above infograph for more).
Susana continues to fight for peace and take a strong position against the war. But in recent days she has been saddened by the new violence that has errupted and the impossibility of dialogue or negotiation during military ground and air attacks. As a known peace advocate with credibility in her community, she is able to represent at meetings between police, military and government officials.
We will continue to stand with Dr. Anayatin and her colleagues and her own ‘army of volunteers’ trying to ensure an eventual end to the violence. We remind followers of our work at the Institute to view the success stories here of what Susana has been able to accomplish – with limited resources. We welcome you to view our issues page on the cooperative project work with Susana to find out how you can become more involved. And no matter where you are or the relative peace that you may be fortunate to find yourself in, we should remember the words that Susana expresses to us in every conversation: “Peace must prevail in the end – it’s the only option.”
[img path=”images/phil_update.jpg”]All photos courtesy of Goldin Institute: Philippines[/img]
[img path=”images/flood0.jpg”]All photos courtesy of Goldin Institute: Philippines[/img]
[img path=”images/kids_in_Mag_being_helped.jpg”]All photos courtesy of Goldin Institute: Philippines[/img]
[img path=”images/susana_wmilitary.jpg”]All photos courtesy of Goldin Institute: Philippines[/img]