Many nations all over the world suffered torments, humiliations, oppressions, discriminations and exterminations. The people of Kosovo, Eritrea, Bosnia, Timor Lesti and just recently northern Sudan, a progressive part of greater Sudan suffered extreme sufferings, many of them lost their lives, loved ones, properties and shelters. Of these countries, only Timur Lesti is mainly populated by non-Muslims. The rest are largely inhabited by Muslims. These countries only occupy small land territories compared to the Moro homeland.
In Srebrenica, Bosnia alone, hundreds of Muslims were massacred on July 1995 by the Serbian army in a single incident. Aggregately, hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims in these countries suffered tremendously and were killed mercilessly before they gained their freedom.
During their painful and horrible struggle, these nations were practically inside a deep dark tunnel where no light was on sight. Their only weapon was the desire and aspiration to be free beyond the dictates of those in the helm of power and governance.
The people of Eritrea, formerly a province of Ethiopia located in the horn of Africa started their struggle in 1962 against harsh rulers and emperors. They gained their independence in 1993 thru armed rebellion. The United Nations’ interventions on the conflicts that raged some of the nation’s previously mentioned were major factor in the early realization of their dreams. It played a pivotal role in attaining their independence. Now they are free and proud people after paying a high price. The ordeal that they have undergone ended. The deep dark tunnel was not endless after all for them.
How about in Mindanao? Do we see military men wearing the U.N.’s signature light blue cap worn by its contingents abroad? None of course but we have the International Monitoring Team (IMT) which tirelessly oversees the implementation of the ceasefire agreement.
The Bangsamoros’ aspiration and struggle for freedom and self-determination started way back to the coming of the Spanish conquistadors in 1521, when Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese, landed at Limasawa Island in the Visayas. By that time, the Moros were already enjoying freedom, free trade and foreign relation.
Despite enjoying precious freedom, there was no formal declaration of independence, no foreign recognition and a national flag as a symbol of identity flying on the horizon because that diplomatic practice is not a requirement for being independent. Hence, there was no authority that dictates or governs them; no power that rules them. They do it themselves.
The Moro struggle is practically centuries-old, not decades although modern armed struggle commenced in 1973 spearheaded by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), few months after then President Ferdinand Marcos declared Martial Law on September 1972.
The Moro war against the Spaniards was aimed at driving them away from our sacred homeland to secure Islamic ways and religion; defend and protect the people; and preserve traditional cultures. These white people brought with them the sword and the cross to conquer and convert the people and ultimately expand their power and influence in this part of the world.
The cross was easily planted at Visayas, and the sword gained little resistance from the natives. The village chieftains and their followers were easily subdued and converted to Christianity. They vowed to the supreme power of the invaders. Ironically, the situation in the Moro land was far too different.
Armed with sharp Kris and captured weapons; and on board their vintas (sailboats), the Moros could dare to attack well-fortified Spanish garrisons as far as the Visayas and Luzon inflicting injuries, countless of fatalities and tremendous damages to facilities. The Spaniards had never imagined not even in their nightmares, that the courageous Moro warriors were capable of waging war against them. The strong and determined resistance of the Moro people made the evil desire of the Spaniards futile. They failed to conquer, subdue and govern the bastion and vanguard of Islam in this part of Asia. After all, the Moros are the legitimate inhabitants of their homeland.
History could tell that no foreign invaders ever defeated the Moros; and despite facing a new ordeal and waging a new war, the Moros until this day stand proud for being an unconquered people. After the Spanish- American war, the bearer of the sword and the cross returned to where they originated, disappointed and humiliated. The post Spanish- American war saw the dawn of peace, tranquility and prosperity for the Filipino people but not the Moros.
Today, the Bangsamoro people led by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are facing a period of uncertainty. They are inside an endless tunnel beneath mountain ranges where not even a blinking light is present. While inside that tunnel they long and cry for freedom. The dreamed peace is so evasive for them. Admittedly, the Moros are tired, restless but hopeful. They are optimistic that with the gesture of the Philippine Government in finding acceptable solutions to the Mindanao problem, peace maybe on reach.
Meanwhile, the MILF has set aside bloody and violent armed struggle. It opted to trek the thorny path to peace via a diplomatic arena and peace negotiations. However, a military option remains. That is normal in every struggle. Hopefully, we will not arrive to the point where no one can be declared as victors but only losers and victims of savage war.
In this era of the state-of-art technology, the Bangsamoro people are at war again to put an end to oppression and colonization. The era of the dreaded Kris, the symbol of gallantry and bravery of the Moros; and vintage weapons is gone; and are now replaced by modern weaponry capable of engaging enemies in a conventional warfare.
The dilly dallying tactics of the government made the Moro people impatient coupled with anger and desperation since the Mindanao problem has remained unresolved for quite a long time. The struggle for freedom must be pursued by any appropriate means. This new generation of Mujahideens will fight for it and should it fail, the succeeding generations will continue it Insha Allah.
With the ongoing peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the MILF, there exist a growing enthusiasm among the people for peace. Hopefully, they will see a brighter light at the end of the dark tunnel soon.