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Ulama project for peace and development in Sulu launched


The Ulama empowerment project for peace and development in Jolo, Sulu Province was successfully launched by Ulangig Mindanaw Incorporated (UMI) in cooperation with the Sulu Ulama Council for Peace and Development (SUCPD).

Supported by The Asia Foundation through the USAID fund assistance, the project was jointly launched August of this year with the Transformative Peace Action Project for Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

Dr. Amildasa Annil, UMI president, said he delegated the Panglima Hawani Foundation (PHF), its CSO partner in peace building, for the implementation of the peace projects.

In his message before the multi sector assembly in Jolo late last week, Dr. Annil said: “It's very timely and relevant to put forward these exclusive projects for Ulamas (Muslim religious leaders) and MNLF in Sulu because these two are important entities of peace and development in Sulu."

Describing the projects as the Ulama Empowerment and MNLF Transformative Peace Action, the Sulu-based NGO leader said the projects are significantly designed to capacitate the Ulama group and the MNLF military formations in Sulu to compliment in the peace process by employing mechanism not only to resolve conflict on short term solutions but broadly, promote change of people in the ground for better not only towards their adversary in a particular conflict in the case of MNLF but also their thoughts on the condition of their organizations and community to be placed on tracks with the 1996 Peace Agreement.

In Muslim communities, the Ulamas (Islamic scholars) are regarded as one of the respected body guiding Islamic faith and other religious matters. At present, there are about 95 members in the Darul Iftah (Supreme Council of Ulama) inducting 41 mosques and 18 Madrasa schools all over Sulu while other densely set up madrasa and mosques are yet to be accredited in the Darul Iftah for certification.

"The UMI is challenged that despite the establishment of Darul Iftah, the Ulama has no direct and popular participation in local governance or in decision making for running the affairs of the province except only on religious and some social matters," Dr. Annil said.

For Ustadz Muhaimin Abubakar, president, SUCPD president, “The Ulama can make impact on peace and development effort if they are institutionalized and capacitated to perform multi faceted roles in the community not merely on religious matters but broadly in decision making process."

The Ulama, according to him, should work for the Islamizationm of knowledge in order to transform values and belief of their new generation and so the local leaders.

UMI believes that empowerment project necessitates harnessing of Ulama skills and knowledge though systemic approach such as exposure and access to modern technology, Educational Tours, communication skills and crash course education on language, technical concept and project study making.

Despite security risk on 1st and 2nd of September, UMI-PHFI peace facilitators conducted orientation on the status of the GRP-MNLF 1996 Agreement both in Indanan and Panamao MNLF areas.

Secretary General ustadz Mursi Ibrahim who acted focal person in the activity said, “MNLF still uphold the 1996 Final Peace Agreement although government from the previos to the present administration is seemingly disinclined to sincerely realize the peace agreement which resulted to series of armed conflicts between MNLF and government forces.”

It was learned that during the orientation with the top MNLF leaders, they voiced out sentiments about the issue on their field   commanders who were charged of criminal and rebellion cases.

"The MNLF demanded for due process and fair justice from government. It also requested for the formal and legal reinvestigation of the cases, or as an option, the government under the new administration should sum up the impending obstacles to peace process such as the charging unjustly of MNLF fighters with crimes and other undue transgressions into a peaceful resolutions, national amnesty and/or reconciliation process," Dr. Annil disclosed.

Dr. Annil also revealed that during the meeting with Wesmincom Commander, General Benjamin Dollorfno, the latter lauded UMI initiatives. "The AFP has been supportive of Civil Society Organizations activities especially on conflict resolution and peace building. It has somehow changed course in its approach to peace from 'war initiation' to all out dialogue'. This has been the common observation of the CSOs and NGOs in Sulu," he said.

Meanwhile, the Ulama under SUCPD and the top leadership of MNLF extended gratitude to UMI for the peace projects they launched and implemented saying that they have come to see that apart from government efforts they have friendly partners in the peace process.

By Hader Glang

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