Muhammadiyah’s Experience In Interfaith Peace Building And Conflict Resolution: The Case Of Mindanao



M. Din Syamsuddin,

President of Muhammadiyah●,



Since the last decade, Muhammadiyah has actively involved, participated and initiated peace building and conflict resolution processes both in the home country, Indonesia, and South east Asia region as an actualization and expression of its commitment and responsibility as a peace movement and peaceful Islamic organization. Muhammadiyah, literally, means followers of Muhammad, a man of peace. Likewise, Islam, etymologically means peace, is a religion of peace attempts and guides mankind to attain a peaceful coexistence in this worldly and the Hereafter life. Theologically, faithful Muslims are not only people with peace character but also agent of peace who, as caliphs of Allah, consistently spread peace and mercy to all creatures in the universe.

Muhammadiyah views peace not merely a situation with no violence, crime, or human rights abuses, but more substantively, a peaceful cohabitation where people live in harmony, side by side, within a pluralistic society and a fair economic prosperity. From the very beginning of its formation a century ago, Muhammadiyah serves society through education and promotes a modern-moderate religious belief to create a peaceful mind generation as well as provides social, health services, and economic empowerment. A couple years after the 1998 Political Reform, communal ethnics and religious conflicts happened elsewhere in Indonesia, especially that of Ambon and Poso. I, personally – at that time was vice president of Muhammadiyah and secretary general of Indonesia Ulama Council (MUI)-, actively participated in peace negotiation and conflict resolution processes both and the achievement of the Malino I and II peace agreement. Having this experience in conflict resolution and management, Muhammadiyah has commitment to be one of peace maker agents in home country, Indonesia, and international level. Muhammadiyah has made a contribution to post-conflict programs, since the last four years, by awarding scholarships for Southern Thailand students to study at Muhammadiyah universities.

This paper explains Muhammadiyah participation in peace processes and peace building in Mindanao, the Philippine. Southeast Asia is a home-ground for the largest moderate-Muslim adherents and that of Catholics, and Buddhists. Historically, people from different faiths have a peaceful cohabitation. It is the concern of Muhammadiyah that this region has become a concentration for religious radicalism and people were waged with religious conflicts.    



Before and during the Spanish time, the Moros were under sovereign Sultanates. The Moros land in the South was never being part of the Philippines. The grievances were started soon after the end of the Second World War, where independence was granted by the United States to the Philippines.

Right after the defeat of Japan in the Second World War, the United States officially annexed Mindanao and Sulu to the territory of the Philippines with the grant of independence on 4 July, 1946. This was the beginning of the painful story for the Moros. The Moros were all in a sudden became second class citizens, which was systematically marginalized by the Philippines authority, especially during the President Marcos regime.

Until the seventy’s, the Moros still consider the Philippines authority as “government of outsiders”, in the midst of the systematic marginalization processes. The freedom movement was sparkled by the enactment of the Martial Law in 1972, following the emergence of some freedom movements in Mindanao and Sulu.

During the initial fights for independent the MNLF and MILF leaders could closely working hand-in-hand. The breaking point came on September 1977, right after the collapse of the MILF-GRP talks in Manila, when some revolutionary officers signed a petition to Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Muslim World League (MWL) calling for the ouster of the MNLF Chairman.

In 1980 the OIC and MWL tried a bridge building process between the MNLF and MILF leaders aimed to (i) to forget and forgive all the differences, (ii) to set up a common platform and program, (iii) to establish a collective leadership among the Bangsamoro.

Upon the facilitation of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC), initial talk between the MNLF and GRP took place in Jeddah on 18-19 January 1975. The second round took place in Tripoli on 15-23 December 1976. However, the first round of the exploratory talks between GRP and MNLF was held in Tripoli on 3-5 October 1992, which was subsequently followed by the first round of the formal Negotiation which took place in Jakarta, October 25 to 7 November 1993. The second round of the negotiation again took place in Jakarta 0n 1-5 September 1994. The third round was held in Jakarta on 28 November 1995, then finally the fourth round of the formal talk was again held in Jakarta on 30 August 1996, which resulted the initialing of the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement.

The signing of the Final Agreement which was done by respectively Nur Misuari who signed for the MNLF and Ambassador Manuel T. Yan for the GRP was made on 2 September 1996 at the Malacanang Palace, Manila. The signing ceremony was witnessed by President Fidel Ramos, the OIC Secretary General, Indonesian Minister for Foreign Affairs and some OIC ministerial Committee.

However, despite the establishment of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement was practically considered as a dead accord. The accord was scrutinized, and never become a real political and welfare instrument and reality for the Bangsamoro.

Meanwhile, right after the signing of the GRP-MNLF Final Agreement, top-level initiatives for peace negotiation between GRP and MILF got underway. On 7 January 1997, the GRP and MILF technical committees met at Darapanan, Cotabato. Both parties agreed to establish two Technical Committee on the Cessation and Hostilities and Technical Committee for Agenda Setting, with single agenda on “How to resolve the Bangsamoro problems.”

The GPH-MILF negotiation which was in domestic stage so far, was internationalized in 2001 with the involvement of the Prime Minister Office of the Government of Malaysia as facilitator of further talks, especially in pursuing the Tripoli agreement which was signed in 22 June 2001. The negotiation was about to come up to its end with the initialing the draft of the “Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain” (MOA AD) by both parties on 27 July 2008.

However, the draft of the MOA AD was suspended by the Supreme Court of the Philippines with the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order on 4 August 2008, which stated that the MOA AD was “contrary to law and Constitution”. The suspension of the MOA AD had created an open war which caused hundred of dead and 600 000 displaced persons, one of the largest IDP in the modern world. This entailed the agreement of GPH and MILF to establish the International Contact Group (ICG) on September 2009.

In its 32nd of the exploratory talks between GPH and MILF negotiating Panel, Kuala Lumpur , 3 – 6 October 2012, both Parties came up to a final agreement. The Framework Agreement (FA) was duly signed between both Chair of the GPH and MILF negotiating Panel at the Malacanang Presidential Palace on 15 October 2012, witnessed by the President of the Philippines and the Prime Minister of Malaysia.

The Framework Agreement (FA) contains the agreeable principles on (i) the establishment of the Bangsamoro new political entity, (ii) the development of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, (iii) power sharing, (iv) wealth sharing, (v) territory, (vi) transitional mechanism, (vii) normalization. The signing of the Framework Agreement (FA) was than followed by the 33rd up to the 37th Exploratory Talks in Kuala Lumpur, where three Technical Working Groups (TWG)on Power Sharing, Wealth Sharing and Normalization have been trying hard to finalize the details of the three major issues. As predicted by President Aquino III in his remarks on the signing of the Framework Agreement (FA) on 15 October 2012, that the “the devil is in the detail”, it is apparent that it was not easy to finalize the Annexes.



The establishment of the Bangsamoro new political entity will never come up to a success unless could be duly supported by all “factions” of the Bangsamoro. Therefore every effort has to be made in order to unite the Bangsamoro. A Bangsamoro Leadership Congress was conducted at Darapanan, Cotabato on 7-8 July 2012 which come up to an agreement on the role of all leaders of the Bangsamoro to stand up firmly together in support to the establishment of the new political entity. This political entity has to be supported by inclusive and solid leaderships.

The building up of inclusive and solid leadership of the Bangsamoro, especially between the MILF and MNLF could be only realized if both Parties come up with their commonalities or similarities rather than exploiting the dissimilarities, especially on the common vision, in the pursuant of a just livelihood for the Bangsamoro. Both parties have to recall and rebuild up similar underlining spirit, to end all their centuries of grievances. Therefore what is required now is the need to solidify MILF and MNLF common vision for a permanent peace, just and welfare Bangsamoro.

It is quite apparent that what are stipulated in the Framework Agreement which was recently signed by the GPH and MILF, are but of the same spirit and substances which have been so far pursued and stipulated in the GPH-MNLF negotiation, but for one and other reasons have not been properly materialized. The spirit and substances of the GPH-MNLF agreement, starting from the (i) 1976 Tripoli Agreement, (ii) the 1987 Jeddah Accord, and (iii) the 1996 Final Agreement. What are stipulated in the GPH-MILF Framework Agreement which was signed on 15 October 2012, including the Annexes on (i) Power sharing, (ii) wealth sharing, and (iii) normalization, are undoubtedly addressing and paving its ways on the three remaining issues of the GPH-MNLF agreement on (i) provisional government / transitional mechanism, (ii) territory, and (iii) revenue sharing or strategic mineral.

The FA stipulates a road map on the phases of the establishment of the Bangsamoro new political entity. First, right upon the signing of the FA, the President of the Philippines has issued an Executive Order on the establishment of a Transitional Committee whose role is to develop the Bangsamoro Basic Law, and a recommendation for the amendment of the Philippines Constitution. Second, upon the approval of the Basic Law by the Philippines Congress, a Transitional Authority will be than established in 2015, whereby within one year, will prepare the Ministerial Level Bangsamoro Government.

Accordingly, the Transitional Committee now embarks to a very critical and sensitive period, for putting down all basic principles of the Bangsamoro “sub-state” government, covering the political, economic, wealth, security, education, cultures and the likes required for the pursuant of the Bangsamoro people’s welfare.

In view of the above, Muhammadiyah along with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Government of Indonesia (GOI), under the common spirit of humanitarian solidarity and ASEAN Accord, organize an informal multi-stake holders dialogues, which aims to find out and define all possible measures that the Government and the peoples of Indonesia could provide every possible support to the critical and sensitive processes currently undertaken by the Bangsamoro Transitional Committee as well as the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority.



In addition to its function as member to the International Contact Group (ICG) for providing support to the Exploratory Talks under the facilitation of the Prime Minister Office of Malaysia, Muhammadiyah also engage in providing the following two different back stopping agenda. First, a bridge building process for the purpose of uniting the different factions within the Moro people, especially, between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Second, to promote humanitarian works on the ground in order to improve the Bangsamoro livelihoods, in the field of education, health, socio-economic.

In the bridge building efforts, Muhammadiyah, in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has organized an Informal Talks between the core leaders of the MILF and MNLF. The Informal Talks was held as part of the 4th World Peace Forum, organized by Muhammadiyah, Center for Dialogue and Cooperation among Civilizations (CDCC) and Cheng Ho Multi Cultural and Education Trust, Bogor, West Java, Indonesia, 25-27 November 2013, has been able to minimize the gap between the wto factions. The Bogor meeting come up with an Agreement to develop a MILF-MNLF Joint Road Map for the pursuant of the two Agreement which had been respectively signed separately by MNLF and MILF with the Government of the Philippines.

To enable the promotion of humanitarian works on the ground, Muhammadiyah has made a scoping mission to Mindanao on 12 – 21 June 2011, and a Muhammadiyah Road Map 2020 for Bangsamoro has been developed. However, considerable efforts have to be made to implement the road map, among others the establishment of Muhammadiyah field office in Mindanao and the budgetary supports.

While in order to define every support required by the Transitional Committee of the Bangsamoro, especially in the development of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, proposal for amendments of the Philippines Constitutions and socio-economic development, Muhammadiyah in partnership with the Surakarta Muhammadiyah University and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, has organized a “Multi Stakeholders Dialogue on Bangsamoro, 5-6 April 2013. The Dialogue discussed thoroughly three consecutive issues namely (i) The impact of the South Philippines Conflict to the Establishment of the ASEAN Community 2015, (ii) Towards a Permanent Peace and Unity in South Philippines, Problems Encountered, and (iii) Post Conflict, Reconstruction and Development.



Considering the multiple problems encountered by the Transitional Committee as well as the future new political entity of the Bangsamoro, Muhammadiyah will continue to consolidate its involvement in supporting the continued pursuant of the peace agreement in the following measures:

  1. Networks consolidation; In addition to consolidating its engagement with the ICG members, Muhammadiyah also expand its networking with international as well domestic NGOs who may have the same mission.  Muhammadiyah has engaged a partnership with the Italian-based  Community Sant Egidio, the largest layman Catholic Association, in addition to domestic humanitarian NGOs.
  2. From Road Map into Action Plan; The Muhammadiyah Road Map for the Bangsamoro is being  developed into specific action plan covering specific program in  education, health, women, and social economic.
  3. Joint MILF-MNLF Road Map; Once the Annexes of the Framework Agreement completed by the  Negotiating Panel, than Muhammadiyah will embark to the  development of a Joint MILF-MNLF Road Map, as a bridge building as well as operational guidelines instruments for both parties.
  4. Promotion of Partnership with donor and humanitarian agencies; The entire action plan will not work without sufficient financial budgetary support. Therefore Muhammadiyah is currently seeking every possible budgetary supports from the bilateral as well as multilateral agencies.
  5. ASEAN Community 2015; The entire efforts in promoting unity and peace in South Philippines are but part of Muhammadiyah efforts in promoting a stronger Muslim solidarity as well as in support to the establishment of the ASEAN Community by 2015.
  6. Establishment of local Muhammadiyah mechanism in South Philippines; Considering that the Muhammadiyah humanitarian works will be done in two different localities, in Indonesia as well as in South Philippines, therefore there is an urgent need to set up a Muhammadiyah operating unit or local chapter in South Philippines, in order to implement the programs and the pursuant of the humanitarian mission in South Philippines.





Based on Muhammadiyah experience working and engagement with national conflict resolution and peace-building process, it could be concluded that religions whether is Islam, Christian, Catholic, Hindu, Buddha, etc. are not the main motives and sources of conflicts. Religious nuances of the conflicts are observable mainly because conflict actors are religious people. Conflicts in the Philippine are not a battle between Islam and Catholicism, it is a political conflict aiming at gaining a full respect, recognition and authority for Muslims in Southern Philippine. A similar situation happened in Southern Thailand. It was neither Islam nor Buddha religions that driven the conflicts.

Even so, because the conflicts involve people from different faiths, conflict resolution requires interfaith approaches. Here, the roles of interfaith dialogue and cooperation for peace are significant·.



· Muhammadiyah, a consultative member to the ECOSOC, is a modernist and moderate Islamic humanitarian movement. Established in 1912, aims to establish an Islamic community of excellent. Supported by about 35 million followers symphaticants, Muhammadiyah currently runs 12,000 schools, 500 small maternity clinics to big hospitals, 200 Universities / higher learning institutions, 350 orphanages, thousands mosques & community groups. In addition to its domestic humanitarian services, Muhammadiyah also engage in international humanitarian networks and partnership, among others with the Religions for Peace  (RfP), Asian Conference on Religion and Peace, Humanitarian Forum (London), International Council of Voluntary Agencies (ICVA Geneva). Through its involvement with wide arrays of partnership with the international humanitarian agencies, Muhammadiyah also engage in some international humanitarian operation and peace mediation process. As member to the International Contact Group (ICG), Muhammadiyah engage in peace process between  the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines.




Muhammadiyah’s Experience In Interfaith Peace Building And Conflict Resolution:

The Case Of Mindanao

Contact us

  • Address: Jln. Kemiri No. 24, Menteng, Jakarta 10350
  • Tel: +6221 315 4939
  • Fax: +6221 390 9656