The Moro Struggle and the Challenge to Peace Building in Mindanao, Southern Philippines

Document Type


Publication Date



Montiel, Rodil, and Guzman describe the islands of Mindanao in the Southern Philippines and analyze the ethnic conflicts between two of the three primary groups which make up most of the population; the indigenous Muslim minority (Moro) and the Christian migrant majority. Peace movements at the individual, group, and government level are discussed along with suggestions for interventions at each level. Historical review reveals the presence of self-sustaining tribal communities with animistic beliefs, followed by the arrival of Muslim missionaries introducing monotheism. Spanish colonization is credited with the addition of Christian religion and the beginnings of deeply rooted animosity created through many years of war. Additional tensions are postulated to result from inclusion of Moro sultanates in the American takeover, which were not previously part of the Philippine state under Spain. American colonial rule is also credited with contributing to the internal conflicts through labeling of groups, changing land ownership laws, and homestead movements which displaced indigenous people. Further under American governance, the authors describe a process of marginalization through mandatory English education and increasing Filipino presence in bureaucracy. These events are presented as setting the stage for the violent conflict between the Moro and Filipino which followed.

The authors delineate several ongoing steps toward peace such as dialogues, peace seminars, training, peace education, and community peace zones. The need for elimination of poverty, injustice, underdevelopment, and corruption in conjunction with promotion of cultural sensitivity is also recognized. The authors call for peacebuilding to include psychological healing and creation of a sense of active nonviolence. The importance of a national movement with peace policies in government, economic awareness, and linkage between levels of peace movements is also noted. Montiel, Rodil, and Guzman emphasize the need to deal with land ownership issues and create some form of self-determination for the Moro people. The authors express the view that creation of a federally structured government may resolve many of these issues.