At Religion Dispatches, Bruce B. Lawrence explores the ongoing conflict in Mindanao and argues that to understand the conflict as a purely religious one would oversimplify the situation:

Ironically, we religionists often find ourselves in the unusual position of arguing against religion’s importance. All too often religion becomes a media-imposed veneer to cover a far more complicated ethno-tribal reality, with deep colonial roots and a lingering post-colonial sequence.

Consider the Philippines, a creation of colonial Spain, occupied by the United States for the first part of the 20th century, and an independent nation-state only since World War II. The Philippines only attracts the attention of mainstream Anglo-American media when violence occurs—especially if that violence involves Muslims in the Southern region.

Such was the case this past Monday, the 23rd of November. On that fateful day, fifty-seven people were killed in a brutal roadside attack on a convoy of Mindanaoans. They had been joined by journalists who came to cover an unprecedented event: the effort to register minor local politician, Ismael or Toto Mangudadatu, as a candidate for governor, challenging the political dynasty of one of the region’s most powerful clans, the Ampatuans.

Read the full article here.