Forty days after the Mamasapano tragedy claimed the lives of more than 60 Filipinos, violence continues to rage in Central Mindanao causing 82,070 people to run for their lives after the military launched an operation against the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF).
“Tens of thousands of people are currently suffering in evacuation centers, living in fear and indignity. This woeful chain of events should compel every Filipino to stand for those affected by the conflict and call for an all-out peace,” said Noraida Abo of Unyphil Women, a Moslem women’s rights organization that is currently providing humanitarian assistance to displaced civilians.
“We are deeply concerned about the calls for another all-out war. It was already proven that war is not the solution to the Mindanao problem. Women and children continue to be the worst victims of war. War should never be an option,” said Abo.
International humanitarian group Oxfam, together with Unyphil Women and other civil society groups, peace movements, and communities across the country, launched on Friday the All Out Peace (AOP) campaign, a national platform supported by a broad spectrum of civil society groups, that calls for truth, justice and durable peace.
AOP is a series of peace events across the country in commemoration of the 40th day of the Mamasapano tragedy, a day recently declared as “National Day of Healing” through a resolution passed by Congress.
Abo said that this is a day to “embrace tolerance, solidarity, and community.” From different cities across the country, from the Davao Islamic Trading Center Mosque to the Quezon City Memorial Circle, gongs and church bells resounded to “signify the quest for a fresh start for conflict-affected communities.”
“The Mamasapano tragedy dredged up prejudices and anti-Muslim sentiments, surfacing the shallow level of awareness and superficial understanding of a lot of Filipinos about the Bangsamoro people, and their long history of struggle for recognition, autonomy and self-determination,” said Abo. “It is time we learn to embrace our unique identity and diversity as a people, as we foster respect, tolerance, non-discrimination and equality,” Abo said.
Meanwhile, Oxfam country director Justin Morgan said that “the unnecessary loss of life in Mamasapano emphasizes the need to move forward and get the peace process back into momentum, with Mindanao and the Bangsamoro issue on top of the national agenda. We must seize this opportunity to inform, clarify and learn more about the peace agreement and the Bangsamoro Basic Law, including the long history that brought us to this critical political juncture.”
Oxfam is working with Mindanao-based and national civil society organizations to support the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro, and the overall peace process. Its history of programming in Central Mindanao dates back to 1999 when it started a preparedness project, which eventually shifted to a massive humanitarian response during the all-out war in 2000.
Morgan added that “women and children are most often the ones who bear the brunt of the impact of displacement. Families suffer the loss of livelihoods and income. Children suffer psychosocial impacts and lose out on its impact on their education. All of these are preventable”
“The Bangsamoro Basic Law continues to be a foundational pillar of the peace process and must progress,” said Morgan. “The BBL passage resonates with the people of the Bangsamoro and provides hope for the people living in Mindanao to finally have a future that is free from bloodshed and poverty that is primarily driven by conflict and violence. Achieving this must be the priority of all Filipinos.”