In the Philippines, there's been a dangerous outbreak of religious strife on the island of Mindanao.
In the Philippines, there's been a dangerous outbreak of religious strife on the island of Mindanao. So far the problem has been restricted to the province of Cotabato, the largest in the Philippines. For a year, Moslems and Christians have warred against each other in a conflict that has already brought more than 800 deaths.
Visnews cameraman Mohammad Kechik and reporter Richard Hunn have been investigating the situation in Cotabato - where the sight of a television camera is still liable to provoke reprisals, Among the places they filmed was the stronghold of Buldon, last month held by Moslems against encircling Filipino army troops.
The country's Secretary for National Defence, Juan Ponce Enrile was filmed during a visit to Buldon, bringing promises of official aid to improve welfare and communications.
The team also filmed in Pigcawayan which is predominantly Christian. Just as Buldon was protected by its own "blackshirt" militia. Pigcawayan is defended by its Christian counterparts.
Inevitably, as the two religious factions struggle for political and territorial supremacy, a new refugee problem has been created. The film concludes with footage shot at a temporary village called Barrio Kamasi, accommodating Moslems who have fled from surrounding Christian areas.
SYNOPSIS: In the Philippines, there's been a dangerous outbreak of religious strife on the island of Mindanao. It's restricted here -- to the town and province of Cotabato. The Christian community is on one side of the conflict.
On the other side, there is the Moslem community. Religious differences have been cited as the main cause of the strife, which claimed eight-hundred victims during the last year. But much more is involved, including politics, land ownership and smuggling. Moslems have lived here for centuries. Christianity was introduced in the sixteenth century, but the influx of Christian settlers really increased after World War Two. The settlers leased land from Moslem princes, but complained of being subjected to unreasonable demands for money and produce. So Moslems and Christians tended to band together for mutual defence.
We're flying in to Buldon town, which has become a stronghold of the Moslems. A month ago, the town was under seige. Fifteen-hundred armed townspeople, backed by so-called "blackshirts" of the Moslem militia, held off encircling Filipino army troops. It happened when Moslems fled into the town after rouble in a nearby Christian area. Most of the Christians in turn had to flee from Buldon before the town finally surrendered.
The terms of capitulation included a weapons amnesty. A mere sixty-six weapons were handed in, many made from water piping. Army men wondered what happened to machine-guns used in the seige.
Still, when the country's Secretary for National Defence Juan Ponce Enrile flew in things were sufficiently peaceful. Another of the conditions of surrender was that there should be a peace rally. The Defence Secretary addressed it. He promised government aid for improved welfare and communications.
Just as Buldon is a Moslem stronghold, Pigcawayan is predominantly Christian. It's a prosperous town of eight-thousand people lying in a belt of intensive farming. Here, the Christians have their own militia, too.
The fighting has created its own refugee problem. Here at Barrio Kamasi, Moslems fleeing from nearby Christian areas are building temporary shelters on Moslem-owned land. Probably, there's no military solution to this troubled area. Increased social aid seems to be the key.