“If Peace is Missing we Can’t Do Anything but Hide.” Peace a Priority in Mindanao.

A few weeks ago a colleague and friend (in the southern Philippines) organized a petition to the Philippine government. His petition was to hasten the transition to the new Bangsamoro government. The Mindanao conflict has seen over 120,000 people die in the last 40 years. Bangsamoro is a new political entity. The hope is it will create peace and increased development for Mindanao.

Individuals, people’s organizations, non-for profit organizations, and government employees from Basilan signed the petition. My friend organized the petition for two reason. The first was to reinforce the importance of creating Bangsamoro. The second was hasten the creation of Bangsamoro. This friend is Yakan from Basilan Island. The below statistics show one reason he (and others who signed the petition) feel this is an imminent need. A study by the Asia Foundation also reflects a positive attitude towards peace negotiations. The results of research I conducted in partnership with a local NGO show some of the social effects of conflict.

Conflict affects all parts of people’s lives. Many people living in Basilan feel trapped between the military and the various rebel groups. Although Basilan is beautiful and Yakans are hospitable sadly it often makes headlines because of conflict. A local farmer shared with me that from his experience conflict effects all parts of his life. The farmer stated, “If peace is missing, we can’t do anything but to hide.Another stated, “Though we have our stable job, if there’s no peace within the community, we will never have our peace of mind.” Finally, another powerfully stated, “if there is no peace and order, we can’t sleep well, we can’t eat well, we can’t study, we can’t work, we can’t go anywhere, because we are afraid.” People want peace. They want to live in freedom from fear. Conflict affects all parts of people’s lives.

Four statistics reflect the social impact of living in an environment of ebb and flow conflict. The survey was done in Basilan, Mindanao, Philippines. It was done in three areas. The first was an area known as having high levels of conflict (Al-Barka). The second has moderate levels of conflict as compared to the first (Lamitan). The third has minimal levels of conflict as compared to the first (Isabela City).

Social impact 1: Have you ever been afraid because of war? Of the respondents surveyed, 79% reported being afraid because of war (see Figure 1); 21% said they had not been afraid.

Social Impact 2: Age, fear, and war. Of those 79% of respondents reporting that they had been afraid because of war, 18% said they remembered first being afraid around age 9 years or younger (see Figure 2); 45%, between ages 10 and 17 years; and 37%, age 18 years or older.

Social Impact 3: Choice of location to live and war. 90% of people surveyed indicated they would live elsewhere if it were not for war (see Figure 3); 10% said they would not.

Social Impact 4: Have you ever evacuated due to conflict? Of respondents surveyed, 74% said they had evacuated due to conflict (see Figure 4); 26% reported that they had not evacuated.

I would love to hear your comments. Further, there is limited primary data on the effects of the Mindanao conflict on people that live in there. If you found this helpful please feel free to share it.

Note: The above data is not generalizable. Light random sampling was used (compared to random sampling) because of various concerns during the time of the data collection. Although not generalizable the data is usable to show the urgent need to make peace a reality. The larger project included rich qualitative data (grounded theory). The Model Flourishing was used to develop the larger project.

Dr. Matthew S. Will has over a decade of experience living and working in South-East Asia and the Pacific. Other articles include on Mindanao include Mistaken Identity and the Discourse of Terror, A Tipping Point in Terror: “Those Who Tell Stories Rule Society”, and The Respect Principle – Fertile or Corrosive – Key to Peace in Mindanao.

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