Freedom and Dialog in the Philippines
Text excerpts from:
Religious Freedom Report
Constitution provides for freedom of religion, and the Government
generally respects this right in practice, although there were a few exceptions.
|Adherents of all
faiths are free to exercise their religious beliefs in all parts of the country without
government interference or restriction; however, socioeconomic disparity between the
Christian majority and the Muslim minority has contributed to persistent conflict in
certain provinces. The principal remaining armed insurgent Muslim group continued to seek
greater autonomy or an independent Islamic state.
Peace talks between
the Government and this group stalled during June 2000 as violent clashes claimed many
lives on both sides. Negotiations began again after Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo became
President in January 2001. In June 2001, the Government reached agreement with this group
to implement a cease-fire agreement, cooperate in efforts to resettle displaced persons,
and undertake development projects in areas of conflict. Militant Muslim splinter groups
have engaged in terrorism. Moderate Muslim leaders strongly criticized these tactics.
There is some ethnic and cultural discrimination against
Muslims by Christians. This has led some Muslims to seek successfully a degree of
political autonomy for Muslims in the southwestern part of the country.
Christian missionaries work in most parts of western
Mindanao, often within Muslim communities.
The Constitution provides for
freedom of religion, and the Government generally respects this right in practice,
although there were a few exceptions. Although Christianity, particularly Roman
Catholicism, is the dominant religion, there is no state religion. The Government
generally does not restrict adherents of other religions from practicing their faith.
Organized religions must register with the
Securities and Exchange Commission as nonstock, nonprofit organizations and with the
Bureau of Internal Revenue to establish their tax-exempt status.
The Government provides no direct subsidies to
institutions for religious purposes, including aid to the extensive school systems
maintained by religious orders and church groups. The Office of Muslim affairs, funded
through the Office of the President, generally limits its activities to fostering Islamic
religious practices, although it also has the authority to coordinate projects for
economic growth in predominantly Muslim areas. The office's Philippine Pilgrimage
Authority helps coordinate the travel of religious pilgrimage groups to Mecca, in Saudi
Arabia, by providing bus service to and from airports, hotel reservations, and guides. The
Presidential Assistant for Muslim Affairs helps coordinate relations with countries that
have large Islamic populations that have contributed to Mindanao's economic development
and to the peace process with insurgent groups.
||The four-province Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) was established in 1990 to respond to the demand of
Muslims for local autonomy in areas where they are a majority or a substantial minority.
The provinces comprising the ARMM are: Maguindanao; Lanao del Sur; Sulu; and Tawi-Tawi.
of Muslim Personal Laws, enacted in 1977,
recognizes the Shari'a (Islamic law) civil law system as part of national law; however, it
applies only to Muslims, and applies regardless of their place of residence in the
As part of their strategy for a moral and religious
revival in western Mindanao, some Muslim religious leaders (ulamas) argue that the
Government should allow Islamic courts to extend their jurisdiction to criminal law cases,
a step beyond the many civil law cases that they already can settle as part of the
judicial system in western Mindanao. Some ulamas also support the MILF's goal of forming
an autonomous region governed in accordance with Islamic law.
Based on a traditional policy of promoting moral
education, local public schools make available to church groups the opportunity to teach
moral values during school hours. Attendance is not mandatory, and various churches rotate
in sharing classroom space. In many parts of Mindanao, Muslim students routinely attend
Catholic schools from elementary to university level. These students are not required to
undertake Catholic religious instruction.
There were no reports of forced religious
conversion, including of minor U.S. citizens who had been abducted or illegally removed
from the United States, or of the Government's refusal to allow such citizens to be
returned to the United States.
Religious affiliation is customarily a function of a person's family, ethnic group,
or tribal membership. Historically, Muslims have been alienated socially from the dominant
Christian and Muslim communities live in close
proximity throughout central and western Mindanao and, in many areas, their relationship
is harmonious. However, efforts by the dominant Christian population to resettle in
traditionally Muslim areas, particularly over the past 60 years, have brought resentment
from some Muslim residents. Muslims view Christian proselytizing as an extension of an
historical effort by the Christian majority to deprive them of their homeland and cultural
identity as well as their religion. Christian missionaries work in most parts of western
Mindanao, often within Muslim communities.
The national culture, with its emphasis on familial,
tribal, and regional loyalties, creates informal barriers whereby access to jobs or
resources is provided first to those of one's own family or group. Some employers have a
biased expectation that Muslims have a lower educational level. Predominantly Muslim
provinces in Mindanao continue to lag behind the rest of the island of Mindanao in almost
all aspects of socioeconomic development.
Religious dialog and cooperation among the country's various religious communities generally
are amicable. Many religious leaders are involved in ecumenical activities and also in
interdenominational efforts to alleviate poverty. The Interfaith Group,
which is registered as a nongovernmental organization, includes Roman Catholic, Islamic,
and Protestant church representatives who have joined together in an effort to support the
Mindanao peace process through work with communities of former combatants. Besides social
and economic support, the Interfaith Group seeks to encourage Mindanao communities to
instill their faiths in their children.
Amicable ties among religious groups are reflected
in many nonofficial organizations. The leadership of human rights groups, trade union
confederations, and industry associations represent many religious persuasions.
|The Bishops-Ulamas Conference, which meets monthly to deepen mutual doctrinal
understanding between Roman Catholic and Muslim leaders in Mindanao, helps further the
Mindanao peace process. The co-chairs of the conference are the Archbishop of Davao,
Ferdinand Capalla, and the president of the Ulama Association, Majid Mutilan, the outgoing
governor of Lanao del Sur province. The conference seeks to foster exchanges at the local
level between parish priests and local Islamic teachers. Paralleling the dialog fostered
by religious leaders, the Silsila Foundation in Zamboanga City hosts a regional exchange
among Muslim and Christian academics and local leaders meant to reduce bias and promote
Had it been God's ill,
he could have made them all of one religion. But God brings whom He will into His mercy;
the wrongdoers have none to befriend or help them.
Have they set up other guardians
besides Him? Surely God alone is the Guardian. He resurrects the dead and has power over
- The Quran 42:8-9
Anthology of World Scriptures
R. Van Voorst (2000:304)
The Government's National Ecumenical Commission (NEC) fosters interfaith dialog among the major religious groups--the
Roman Catholic Church, Islam, Iglesia ni Cristo, the Philippine Independent Church
(Aglipayan), and Protestant denominations. The Protestant churches are represented in the
NEC by the National Council of Churches of the Philippines and the Council of Evangelical
Churches of the Philippines. Members of the NEC met periodically with the President to
discuss social and political questions.
Source: Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
United States Department of State
October 26, 2001
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