Billones: Naming a young radical of Marawi

THE Philippine military is alarmed by the Maranao youth being recruited and radicalized by the Maute Group in universities in Marawi and Mindanao. This phenomenon of radicalization may be of a local concern in Mindanao.

Similar movements have been observed in western countries like Canada, France, and United States. A critical listening, dialogue, and contextualization of policies are necessary to take place in different levels.

I suggest that we, as people of Mindanao, start from our personal socio-cultural consciousness, expand it to engage in influencing the policies and programs being implemented in the on-going efforts on the rehabilitation of Marawi.

When the Marawi siege took place, I found myself assisting the Maranaos at the evacuation sites. Together with other youth who volunteered from nearby universities, we found ourselves, fellow Mindanaoans engage in trauma healing work sponsored by the Region 10 Philippine Mental Health in November of 2017.

Our first meeting began in introducing each other’s names. Revealing each other’s names asserts one’s rightful place to existence, and yes to preservation of dignity. A simple ritual as naming can be transformational. No wonder in many sacred encounters in Hebrew Scriptures, names are changed when the encounter with the Divine took place. Jacob to Israel, Abram to Abraham, Saul to Paul.

When we identify ourselves by our names, we also assert our rootedness in relationships, family history and culture. There were many Maranao sounding names of young people I heard that day. Names that carry deeply personal and collectively meaningful stories they shared. One of them is Ahmad.

I will always remember Ahmad. He was not physically present at the workshop that day. But I thought of him the whole time I was facilitating the session. When I first met him on one of my trips in the island he was quiet and restless. He traveled with his uncle Ibrahim, a vice mayor in one of the municipalities of Marawi. The more Ahmad became silent, the more I could hear what he was not saying in words. The louder his anxiety reverberated on the contours of his forehead. He broke his silence when I probed him. He began to speak saying, “I don’t know where to go now. I just graduated from high school. I am preparing to go to college and want to study criminology. But I cannot stay in Marawi anymore, especially after they killed my father who was the school official because of rido. As his eldest son, I know I am the next in line they are going to kill, ‘ubusan ng lahi.’ Please don’t get me wrong. I am a good person. I just want to finish my studies, be a professional, raise a family, and seek the justice we deserve as a family, in honor of my father.”

I welcomed Ahmad in my home. For the next four years, Ahmad lived with my family until he could complete his studies. He was able to focus and not worry of being killed because of rido. Ahmad belonged to my circle of significant relationships so that no one could touch him and where he could feel safe.

I hear the struggles and dreams of young Maranaos like Ahmad that summarized their idealism. They want a good future. Radicalism is essentially this- the heart of every dream. Before these dreams are lost in “radicalized” in extremism, we need to return to being intentional in the way we listen to our Maranao youth.

Ahmad is a radical. Ahmad is not radicalized. The commitment to friendship, intentional listening, and incarnational dialogue broke radicalization.


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