Mohagher Iqbal of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front assures recognition for Christian groups in the proposed autonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines during a recent media briefing in Cagayan de Oro City. (Photo by Jigger Jerusalem)
The rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has accepted a "Christian policy agenda" submitted by a group of Catholic and Protestant church leaders in the southern Philippines.
The agenda — drafted by non-Muslim groups in areas covered by a proposed new autonomous Muslim region — aims to give a voice and roles to religious minorities.
The MILF's Mohagher Iqbal, one of the leaders of a transitory body that will implement a law creating the new region, said he received the document from Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato.
The agenda was drafted at the end of a series of consultations organized by the group Christians for Peace, a coalition of various church leaders in areas that will be part of the Muslim region.
The proposed Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao will replace the current autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao with the MILF taking up a leadership role.
Among the points raised in the Christian policy agenda were the "security of tenure" of Christian workers in the regional government, the participation of Christians in the political process, and the status of the Christian educational system in the Muslim-dominated territory, among others.
Iqbal said Cardinal Quevedo wanted to know how injustices committed against Christians would be resolved under the new set-up.
"When you’re talking about historical injustices, you are not selective," said the rebel leader, adding that it should be an inclusive process.
Iqbal said the Christian policy agenda would be discussed in a meeting with all stakeholders in the region because "the MILF will not answer [Christian concerns] alone."
In consultations conducted last month by Christian groups in several areas of Mindanao, people pressed for what they described as "policies that will be inclusive for all" once a new autonomous political entity for Muslims is in place.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed a law in July that provides for the establishment of the new entity. The law is part of a peace agreement signed by the government and Moro rebels in 2014.
Non-Muslim groups in the region, however, said that while they support the creation of a new autonomous Muslim region, they also want to have a voice in the entity they will belong to.
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