ICC Note: Christians living in Muslim areas of the Southern Philippines are hopeful that a new deal signed Thursday between the primary Muslim rebel group and the Philippine government will end decades of warfare. The conflict in Mindanao has left an estimate 120,000 dead and Christians, including foreign missionaries, were frequently targets of kidnappings and other attacks by radical Islamic groups. Serious concern however remains for the rights of Christians living in Mindanao, who fear that with the peace deal Sharia law may be increasingly applied in the south, ultimately eroding civil rights and promoting discrimination against Christians in the area.
3/27/2014 Philippines (VOA) – The Philippine government and the country’s largest Muslim Rebel group have signed a peace accord to end decades of violence that has left more than 120,000 dead.
More than 1,000 people gathered at Manila’s presidential palace Thursday to witness the signing of what is being called a “comprehensive agreement” between lead government negotiators and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
Under the deal, MILF will give up its weapons in exchange for greater political autonomy in the mainly Muslim areas of the southern Mindanao region.
Speaking at the signing ceremony in Manila, President Benigno Aquino hailed the agreement as a “path that can lead to a permanent change in Muslim Mindanao.”
MILF rebels celebrate the signing of the peace agreement during a rally at Camp Darapanan, Sultan Kudarat town, in southern island of Mindanao, March 27, 2014.
“This agreement stands as a testament to how far trust and earnestness can move humanity forward,” he said. “It shows how righteousness, reason and goodwill are the mightiest of instruments in ending conflict. It proves that the search for common ground is infinitely more productive than hegemonic ambition.”
Aquino also said Mindanao still needs a “significant boost up” in order to catch up with the rest of the country, before issuing stern words to opponents of the deal.
“[To] those who wish to sow divisiveness for self-interest and those who continue to wield arms to pursue their own agendas, so many people have suffered for so long, so many of our stakeholders have worked so hard to arrive at this point: I will not let peace be snatched from my people.”