WASHINGTON, DC—The conflict in Southern Philippines is among the primary issues that the US government wants to take up with the 57-member Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), White House officials said on Thursday.
Rashad Hassan, US special envoy to the OIC, did not disclose the extent of the planned dialogue with the pan-Islamic body on the Mindanao conflict beyond saying that “it would not be anything close to political intervention, to cross borders of national policies with other countries.”
Hassan said the armed conflict in Southern Philippines, which to some extent had enlisted young people into combat training and militia work, was a cause for concern for the government of US President Barack Obama and elsewhere.
He said a peaceful settlement of the age-old Moro conflict in Mindanao, which the Obama government was hoping for, could deliver many Filipino youth from the hardship of displacement and war trauma into a more secure space for human development.
Hassan also said the US government was “very much concerned” about the future of young people being adversely affected by armed conflicts elsewhere.
Connected to the future
Farah Anwar Pandith, the US State Department’s special representative to Muslim communities, said the United States was more concerned about “how the youth of Mindanao would be connected to the future, live in their own time, and become more productive in their own chosen fields of learning.”
“Youth issues are invested in foreign policies, as we are keenly being aware of the tipping points in the demographics,” said Pandith, an American Muslim.
In a recent report, the Australian Aid for International Development (AusAid) said thousands of children in Muslim Mindanao needed stress debriefing after going through traumatic experiences in armed conflict.
“They include those who experienced evacuation or family displacement due to war or as actual combatants,” said Tess Felipe, AusAid education specialist working in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Editor’s Note: Nash Maulana is on a weeklong reporting tour of the United States sponsored by the US State Department for journalists from Kazakhstan, Pakistan, Afghanistan, India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Thailand.