Finding a way forward: the search for reconciliation in the Philipinnes
The crisis of the southern Philippines is best understood within a wider regional context. Alex Bellamy concluded some time ago that two challenges confront Southeast Asian regimes - legitimization and consolidation (Bellamy 2004: 176). These are being threatened by the growth of radical Islam and liberalism - contradictory forces pulling in different directions. National leaders must broaden and deepen security to include the welfare of their communities in order to assert their sovereignty more convincingly. The persistent stumbling blocks in the Philippines are ethnic conflict and the separatist impulse in the south, both of which are frequently given the mantle of religious warfare. Whatever the terminology, these issues are inherently difficult to understand; solutions to them remain elusive amidst a plethora of rival interpretations and conflicting views. Yet the stakes are high. Mindanao's simmering unrest prevents the emergence of a stable national polity. Or, and this is perhaps the most important question of all, is it more likely to be the other way around?