Friday, July 10, 2009

Members of the Young Moro Professional Network speak to journalists in Zamboanga City in the southern Philippines where they held Peacebuilding Agenda-Making Forum with fellow Muslims. (Mindanao Examiner Photo / Jung Francisco)

ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / July 10, 2009) - The recent bombings in Jolo town in Sulu province; Cotabato City and Lanao del Norte in Mindanao drew chills among young Moro professionals like Drieza Lininding, of Marawi City, who took a 15-hour bus ride to Zamboanga City for a Peacebuilding Agenda-Making Forum with fellow Muslims.

It felt like dejavu when in mid-December 2008, bombings in Iligan City nearby Drieza's hometown would have prevented him from attending the same peace building assembly of Young Moro Professional Network in Zamboanga City.

The YMPN, a nongovernmental organization, is composed of people advocating peaceful means to improve the socio-economic well-being of the Bangsamoro people.

While a majority of members live in the Philippines, particularly in Metro Manila and Mindanao, there are several members who are based in other countries. YMPN members are largely employed, both in government and private sector jobs.

The YMPN was founded in 2000 during the administration of former Philippine president Joseph Estrada. A group of young Moro professionals initially organized themselves as part of the popular protest at EDSA against the alleged corruptions of Estrada. As a result of these protests, Estrada was ousted from the presidency.

The founding Moros were further motivated by dismay with the Philippine government total war policy against the Moro communities in Mindanao, despite an outstanding peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front and ongoing negotiation with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Many NGOs concerned with the cultivation of lasting peace and harmony in Mindanao perceived the unilateral declaration of war by the government of the Philippines as a diversion from investigations and protests against the alleged corruptions and unfitness of president of the country.

The war displaced hundred of thousands Moros and threatened to poison Muslim-Christian relations, as in the early 1970s.

The success of EDSA 2 in ousting Estrada motivated the YMPN founders to continue peacefully advocating and working for the socio-economic well-being of the Moro masses.

The founders envisioned a network of young Muslim professionals that promote volunteerism; using their own resources, talents, education and training, and working collectively or individually to help other Muslims in unfortunate circumstances.

This peaceful means is in stark contrast to the armed liberation struggle by MNLF and MILF against the government from the early 1970s to present.

Since its founding, the YMPN has been active in encouraging young Moros to adopt peaceful means to uplift themselves. The YMPN has stressed the practice of Islam as a peaceful and modest way of life.

The core members have designed and implemented leadership training program, using an Islamic framework, aimed at the next generation of YMPN members. In most engagements, these core members are the lecturers and readily provide a role model to their audience for their advocacy for peaceful means.

YMPs like Drieza, benefited from education where their parents had not, because of the conflict.

Now, Drieza and the YMP Network, is waging war of their own using their resources, talents and skills, to expose injustice.

"The bombings will not go away if the rages against structural injustices are not addressed," said Aleem Matabalao Guiapal, an Asian Institute of Management alumna, who recently presented a paper on Social Networking as a Peacebuilding Instrument at the Harvard University with actor Diether Ocampo.

Engineer Don Loong said that the important issue that must be addressed urgently is the Human Development situation in the Muslim autonomous region, especially, the problem of debilitating education.

However, he cautioned that a purely development approach coupled with disarmament will not work. The political solution through the peace process must be given priority as it will address the root causes of the Moro grievance.

A stalled political resolution directly affects peace and order and halts, if not impairs, all other community development initiatives. Without a clear political resolution on sight, it is difficult to make all other intervention in Southern Mindanao sustainable.

Journalist Samira Gutoc explained that the YMPN came up with the project MYSpeak, Mindanao Youth Speak Out on the Peace Process as part of Peacebuilding by Moro professionals to seek space in the peace process.

Gutoc said they facilitate peace discussion and are hopeful that they can bring the discourse to the national level. Gutoc said the spirit of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain remains across ethnicity as it embodies the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people.

Humanitarian worker Jodel Isahac, of Jolo, said Moro professionals must participate in the uplift of the marginalized situation of Moro homeland to gain real freedom.

The Young Moro Professionals Network is the second and third generation product of BM struggle; the YMPN represents a significant portion of the Bangsamoro in the its quest to find lasting peace.

The YMPN understand the culture, customs and traditions more than any other; and the YMPN is in a position to put forward the aspirations of the BM in the light of the changing times and technological advancement.

In their fora, among the comments in the discussion were the reform of the electoral process where the YMPN would promote a righteous and transformed process and would represent the views of the populace. The YMPN also intends to look to the needs of the common people while promoting Islam. (Amilbahar Mawallil)

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