CSOs’ Solidarity Caravan- Uniting to Protect Human Rights

Three civil society organizations (CSOs) from Cotabato City have united for a Solidarity Caravan on May 22, 2012. Organized and led by Mindanao Human Rights Action Center (MinHRac), in partnership with its convener-member organizations like United Youth of the Philippines-Women, Inc. (UnYPhil-Women) and Mindanao Tulong Bakwit (MTB), this caravan is aimed at extending help and sympathy to the oppressed community at Barangay Luheb, Lake Sebu South Cotabato.

This mission was organized to help the community rebuild their small village that was burned down by the settlers. This noble effort was also an act as defender of human rights for the helpless.

With the monitoring activity conducted by MinHRac, the affected community reported that land conflict between the indigenous people and the settlers is the cause of the incident that burned one masjid (Islam’s place of worship) and five households. Accordingly, a certain person coming from influential family (an Ilonggo settler) wants to grab their land and wants them to move-out of their property.

Rebuilding Their Faith’s Place of Worship

For every religion, a place of worship is a sacred place- doing any harm on it shows disrespect and deprivation of one’s freedom of religion- a concrete case of human rights violation. To this act that the said CSOs have worked together in defending the rights of the deprived community through the reconstruction of the burned masjid at Barangay Luheb, Lake Sebu.

Working hand-in-hand, these CSOs with its contracted workers and with the cooperation of the community people, the new masjid was reconstructed. Everyone cooperatively worked from loading and unloading of construction materials, bringing them to uphill where the affected village is located.

With the reconstruction, the village is very happy that they have their masjid again, which is much better- where they can worship and do other religious acts. Having new masjid also means regaining their rights, their freedom of religion making them hopeful to standstill amidst this big challenge in their life.

Distribution of NFI to affected families

During the one-day caravan, thirty five (35) families have benefited from the non-food items (NFI) distributed from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) through UnYPhil-Women.

Said NFI is composed of (1) piece plastic mat, (1) pail, (2) blankets, (1) hoe, (2) jerry cans, (3) meters plastic roll and (5) meters rope. These NFIs will be very helpful for the families for their daily use especially for farming activities since majority in the village are farmers.

Issue over Land Conflict Way Back in the 70’s

Barangay Luheb is a known tribal sanctuary of the T’bolis. Way back in 1970s that Ilonggo settlers had started to inhabit the place including other barangays in this tagged Summer Capital of the South- Lake Sebu.

The burning of masjid last month April 19 is rooted from the long time land conflict between and among the native T’bolis and Ilonggo settlers. Accordingly, the Ilonggo settlers want to own the land properties of the natives in Brgy. Luheb which about 36 hectares.

It was on the 12 midnight of the said date when five (5) men set fire to the masjid while the other group of men burned (5) households of the natives. The natives were forced to leave their homes, moving to safer place- helpless to fight back in fear of their women and children.

Representatives from government peace panel have been sent there for investigation. Different non-government organizations (NGOs) have already been coordinating with concerned agencies with the local government units to identify preventive measures in resolving the conflict in the said barangay.

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