Fears new Muslim region in southern Philippines could spark Christian exodus

Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has called on all communities in the southern Mindanao region to support the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that is to facilitate the creation of an autonomous Muslim region.

During a ceremony on Monday, 6 August, he urged the local population “to actively participate in constructive discussions about the law”, which will create a new region named Bangsamoroafter its ethnic Muslim, or “Moro”, people.

The BOL, signed by Duterte on 26 July, replaces an earlier version called the Bangsamoro Basic Law and is seen as key to ending almost 50 years of conflict in the region which, according to Catholic news site UCAN, “has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced about two million others”.

It still needs to be approved by the local population, which includes indigenous communities and Christian settlers, in a referendum held later this year.

And one local church worker told World Watch Monitor that while Christians, a minority in Mindanao, understand the desire of their Muslim neighbours for independence, they remain apprehensive about the potential knock-on effects.

“I am in favour of the BOL because, historically, the Muslims have had Mindanao first,” the church worker, who did not wish to be named, said. “Prior to Christianity, prior to Catholicism, they had this land. The wounds have been too deep; this is why there is chaos. Maybe the approval can bring healing to them. It depends on their response.

“But when it was approved, I had mixed feelings. Of course, you don’t know what will happen. What its effect will be, what the outcome will be, and how the proponents or those in the leadership will implement this.

“If those who would implement the BOL has a clear understanding of it, and his approaches are moderate, then there would be a good outcome. But if it would be extreme, then persecution of the Church can increase – the Church would be all the more a target, since they would want Christians, especially those in [what is currently called] the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, to leave.”

‘Seize their land’

The new law reportedly includes a provision allowing for religious freedom in the majority-Muslim territory. And in March, Mindanao’s government appointed a first deputy governor for Christians to ensure their voices would be heard.

Despite this, the church worker said Christians are afraid: “They [Christians] are threatened because of the responses of the Muslims who … don’t know what the BOL stands for. Like one worker whom we met last week, from Cotabato, shared that some Muslims in the mountains already said they wanted to come down to seize their land. This is one of the effects now. Churches, especially in isolated areas, also feel threatened.

“They still don’t know the entirety of the BOL. What they have to know is what’s in the organic law.”

According to Al-Jazeera the new law provides for the demobilisation of fighters from the different rebel groups, as well as “domestic legislation, likely a parliament, and a plethora of distinct administrative systems, including the creation of Islamic law courts”.

Meanwhile Archbishop Martin Jumoad of Ozamiz, a city in northern Mindanao, told UCAN: “Respect of religious traditions must prevail … Peace and harmony will be enjoyed if this new Bangsamoro government is inclusive and does not discriminate others.”

“The dream for peace, justice and progress is at last becoming a reality,” added Aldrin Penamora of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.

 

Background

Islamist groups have been engaged in an insurgency for an independent province in the southern Philippines for decades.

Just last year, one such group, the Islamic State-affiliated Maute group, kept the southern city of Marawi under siege for five months.

In response President Duterte, the first Filipino president from Mindanao, vowed to see the legislation – part of a peace deal between government and rebels that was signed in 2014 – through to completion.

At the same time, Ghazali Jaafar, vice chairman of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the Philippines’ largest Muslim rebel group, said the Marawi siege had happened as a result of frustration with the delay in the peace process and that the proposed bill was “the best antidote to violent extremism”.

While MILF engaged with the government on implementation of the peace deal, more extreme Islamist groups have moved into the area to continue the insurgency, some of which have pledged allegiance to Islamic State.

Al-Jazeera notes that the implementation of the law and creation of a new autonomous Muslim region will not be easy, saying there are the tribal-ethnic divisions and rebel factions who “may fear a loss of power and prestige to their rivals under the new regime”.

https://www.worldwatchmonitor.org/2018/08/fears-new-muslim-region-in-southern-philippines-could-spark-christian-exodus/

Hunt for South Korea feminist sparks backlash against ‘sexist’ police

feminists only support criminal laws against men

 

Police in South Korea are seeking to arrest the operator of a feminist website, sparking a backlash and accusations of sexism in the justice system.

Police in the southern port city of Busan are seeking to arrest the unnamed operator of Womad on charges of disseminating sexually explicit material after the site posted nude photos taken surreptitiously of a male model. Womad seeks to combat sexism by using the same tactics of their opponents, including online harassment and posting footage from hidden cameras.
The police likened the case to online sexual harassment, and it is at least the second time the site has posted photos of men taken without their consent, one at an art class and another at a public bath house. The authorities have said she is currently outside the country and are seeking help from Interpol.
But the arrest warrant has sparked a backlash, with many online saying the police have done little to punish men guilty of the same crimes. South Korea is in the midst of a wave of protests against pornography taken with hidden cameras in bathrooms, with a monthly demonstration in Seoul drawing tens of thousands of participants. Those protests have highlighted what activists say is a system designed to protect men and ignore women.
In a petition on the presidential Blue House website, nearly 68,000 people derided the government for biased policing, and questioned why the men who run sites that host spycam pornography have not been arrested. Other feminist groups called the police investigation into Womad sexist, part of a pattern of lax enforcement when women are the victims.
“Your attitude is strong evidence that you do not listen to women’s voices,” the petition said. “Hate speech has always been more severe on sites operated by men, but authorities have never considered this a problem. If this is not a cause of selective justice and misogyny, then what is?”
Police denied charges of sexism, with the commissioner of the national police agency, Min Gap-ryong, saying: “The police are investigating anyone who uploads, spreads and allows the spread of illegal footage”, according to the JoongAng Daily newspaper.
This is not the first time Womad has been at the centre of controversy. After a public spat with Catholic officials last month, the group vowed to burn one church every Sunday and posted photos of sacramental wafers on fire.

 

Feminists crying Sexism as South Korean woman jailed for photo of naked man

A South Korean court has taken the rare step of jailing a woman for secretly photographing a male nude model, in a case that has sparked accusations of sexism and double standards.

The 25-year-old woman, identified only by her surname Ahn, was sentenced to 10 months in prison by the Seoul western district court and ordered to undergo 40 hours of counselling on sexual violence.
South Korea is in the midst of an epidemic of spycam pornography, where victims are secretly filmed in places such as toilet stalls and changing rooms. A series of monthly protests in Seoul have drawn tens of thousands of people.
The number of spycam crimes reported to police surged from around 1,100 in 2010 to more than 6,500 last year. It is thought many crimes go unreported.
Of the 16,201 people arrested between 2012 and 2017 for making illegal recordings, 98% were men, including school teachers, college professors, church pastors and police officers. Of the 26,000 recorded victims over that period, 84% were women.
Ahn, also a nude model at an art school in Seoul, was arrested in May days after she posted a photo of her male colleague after an argument over sharing a rest area. Her arrest was highly publicised and covered by a phalanx of television cameras.
Activists have pointed to the uncharacteristically swift police response and harsh punishment as evidence of ingrained sexism in the justice system.
Many male perpetrators have been required only to pay a modest fine. The vast majority of first-time offenders receive suspended sentences or fines, with only about 9% handed jail terms, according to government data.
Police announced last week they were seeking to arrest the operator of a feminist website for hosting spycam porn, including the photo Ahn took. The news was seen as the latest injustice in a country where men dominate the halls of power. More than 70,000 people signed an online petition accusing the police of sexism.
Police have denied accusations that they fail to take women’s complaints seriously, citing the difficulty of verifying allegations based on footage that often does not show the victim’s face.