MARBEL CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Oct. 24, 2007) - Panditas, or Muslim Indigenous priests in Mindanao, gathered in Marbel City for the 2nd Pandita Mindanao Assembly to call on the government to carry the preservation and promotion of their practice.
The Panditas perform religious rituals and ceremonies for the Muslim communities in the southern Philippines such as the proper slaughtering of animals for food, administering weddings and cleaning the dead before burial.
In a manifesto signed Sunday by the Panditas, they sought recognition from Manila, claiming their vital role in encouraging sobriety and religious solidarity among theMuslims and other peoples of Mindanao for centuries.
But, the Panditas claimed, this did not prevent extremists from subjecting them to harassment and repression.
Datu Zamzamin Ampatuan, Agriculture Undersecretary and convener of the Pandita congregation, exhort the Panditas' role as antidote to religious extremism expressed in terror acts.
"In the settlement of family disputes, causing most of the fighting in Central Mindanao, the Panditas are also instrumental", Ampatuan told the Mindanao Examiner.
Ampatuan, who is an advocate of Moro culture and traditions preservation, said the assembly in Marbel was an opportunity for the Panditas to again shine as icons of peace and unity among peoples in Southern Philippines.
"Panditas strongly proposes resolving injustices in society by peaceful; and non-violent means," Ampatuan said. (Candido Aparece Jr.)