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Despite the number of casualties that suffered from pursuing government forces, the Abu Sayaff terrorists have persisted in their kidnap-for-ransom operations. What is alarming here is that they have victimized health workers and teachers who have braved the untenable and hazardous  condition in the island provinces Sulu and Basilan to serve the Muslim communities there.

As their number dwindles, the terrorists becomes desperate and in their desperation hostage anyone whom they think can cough out money regardless of amount. Of course the go for the big fish but with the way things are going for the worse, the big fishes have avoided Sulu and Basilan where the Abu Sayyaf still manage to exist.

Anyway you look at it, the Abu Sayyaf band is a paragon of everything that is un-Islamic. It is this group and the members of  Jemaah Islamiyah that had brought untold misery and hopelessness in these group of pristine island provinces west of Mindanao that was once a vibrant region where Filipino Muslims and Christians trade and barter with our southern neighbors. Where domestic and international tourists relish the rustic and peaceful environment and the richness of diverse cultures like no other. Investors have looked southward and had partnered with the locals. No more. When the secessionist fronts planted the seeds of rebellion and terrorist organizations took advantage of the whipped up discontent fanned by radicalism and extremism  the entire vista of hope and prospects for the new generation of Filipino Muslims faded quickly into misery and endless conflict.

The land of hope and tranquility became the arena of war that gave rise to divisiveness and lawlessness. It is this specter that made it a veritable sanctuary of Al Qaeda terrorists that spawned the vicious Jemaah Islamiyah which in turn turned Abu Sayyaf into  monstrous murderers and kidnappers victimizing Muslims and Christians alike.

In the land where majority of the dwellers are Muslim Filipinos only they can best address this crisis. If it is of any consolation however, there seems to be a new awakening in them in that our peacekeeping force have engaged and neutralized dozens of terrorists and kidnap-for-ransom syndicates. If only this can be sustained there is a big possibility that the vibrant trade and commerce, unity amid diversity, hope and prospects for Muslims and Christians youths be restored as quickly as when these faded. This time they can nurture these to rebuild a shattered dream of a peaceful and contented life.

By Menardo Wenceslao




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