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February 25 1987

Bishop Fernando Capalla of Iligan says his unceasing hopes for the future are constantly renewed by the memory of Feb. 22-25, 1986 when "people power" toppled President Ferdinand Marcos.

"Friends told me Marcos will rule forever, but now he´s gone. They said it would need violence to get change started, but we had a bloodless uprising.

"They said there can never be a truce, and we continue with ours in our province.

"A constitution will never be in place, I was told, and now we have one," he said. "How can I not hope for more?"

Bishop Capalla, who heads an ad hoc committee of Mindanao bishops concerned with Muslim affairs, also told UCA News of the complexity of Christian-Muslim relations in the area.

While opinions vary on the Muslim autonomy issue, most people do not really know very much about it, he said. "Many see it as a simple matter of Muslims dominating Christians."

Many outsiders, he said, are unaware of three developments:

-- Some intelligent and articulate scholars and Church people feel they can work together on the Muslim autonomy issue. This small group has engaged in forums and other activities to build institutions for Muslim-Christian unity.

-- The communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF) has been working among Muslims, educating them about social justice without dissuading them from their Islamic faith. The NDF has been effective in uniting youth, students and professionals of different Muslim tribes.

-- Traditional calls for secession and autonomy have lost their appeal among young and educated Muslims.

"One of Nur Misuarils commanders told me once, ´Professor Misuari has become too idealistic. Maybe he´s lost touch, having lived away from us for some time,´" Bishop Capalla said.

For the immediate future, the problem of poverty remains, Bishop Capalla said, admitting he went through a painful struggle against the temptation to join the underground movement in the early 1970s.

Expressing hope in President Corazon Aquino´s leadership, he said he envisions the poor participating in government someday, but added, "Not now. They´re not yet ready; maybe in six years."

The Church´s basic ecclesial communities (BECS) will play a major role in preparing the poor for full political participation, he said.

"After February (1986), the BECs had to adjust," he said. "Some had been used by the left during Marcos´ time, but this was not so obvious then.

"Now, we are working towards strengthening BECs in the faith, so they can serve as the nucleus of people´s power."