Government authorities should continue to hold out hopes for a peace settlement, but our government should not negotiate from a position of weakness. The message of the government to these criminal groups and to the MILF should be: “We can crush you, but we would rather settle matters with you according to prescribed legal processes.”
Those of us, however, who are not fighting the war, whether we are Christians or Muslims, should continue to strive to live in harmony with each other. There is a real danger that the fighting in Mindanao will alienate Christians from Muslims also in Luzon and the Visayas. That would be truly tragic. We should not allow the actions of some criminal Muslim elements in Mindanao to make us prejudge and regard even peaceful Muslims living in our midst as threats to our well-being. If that should happen, we will be preparing our erstwhile peaceful territories for a repeat of the Mindanao situation.
The Muslims living in Metro Manila, for example, are not aggressors. Though they belong to the same Islamic faith as the perpetrators of atrocities in Mindanao, they are not necessarily allies of those criminals. We have seen on TV how, time and again, Muslims in different parts of the world have disowned the criminal acts of Muslim extremists. I believe that Muslims living here in Luzon do not approve of the killings and pillage done by their fellow Muslims. Let us continue to demonstrate that Christians and Muslims can live together in peace, as we have been doing here in Metro Manila. That too is a big help towards settling the Mindanao war.