Friday, December 26, 2014
Ethno-religious identification and intergroup contact avoidance: An empirical study on Christian-Muslim relations in the Philippines
Her response did not make her win the Miss Universe title, but it won the hearts of many Filipinos. This was a clear indication of a strong religious identification and avoidance of religious out-group. In the Philippines, does this religious identification manifest in the social interaction with religious out-groups? Does it shape attitude and intention (i.e. contact avoidance) among university students who are often the most vocal sector of society? Despite increased interconnectedness through social media and global events, people are still being excluded not because of what they do, but mainly because of who they are, based on religion and ethnicity.
The Philippines is composed of diverse population groups. Several authors categorize it into Christian north and Muslim south. Behind this religious divide are ethnic groups, which are commonly identified as either Christians or Muslims. Thus, in-group and out-group can fairly be distinguished.
For decades, conflicts have been going on in southern Philippines. The conflict has conventionally been viewed “within the framework of historic ethno-religious conflict” because the groups involved are divided along ethno-religious lines.
This study looks at latent aspects of conflict through strained relations between ethno-religious groups in Metro Manila and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and adjacent areas.
Relations between these groups are historically characterized by majority-minority positions, hierarchy, competition and rivalry. Data collection through surveys and interviews in these areas was conducted in 2011-2012.
The aim of this study is to answer the following central questions.
1. To what extent is there a relationship between ethno-religious identification and contact avoidance? The hypothesis here is that the stronger identification, the higher level of contact avoidance.
2. To what extent can we explain the relationship between ethno-religious identification and contact avoidance by intermediate determinants? The general hypothesis here is that the relationship will be diminished because of the mediating effects of the intermediate factors.
To guide the process of finding empirical answers to these questions, this study set out to build on previously developed and well-established theoretical insights on intergroup relations.
As a dimension of ethnic exclusionism, intergroup contact avoidance could be explained by the general propositions of several theories. Realistic conflict theory posits that intergroup competition in a social conflict facilitates in-group cohesion and out-group hostility. Social identity theory involves the social processes of categorization, identification and comparison which induce in-group favoritism through social identification and out-group antagonism through social contra-identification. The complementarity of these two theories is summarized in the proposition of ethnic group conflict theory which states that intergroup competition at individual and contextual levels, mediated by perceived group threat, will reinforce in-group favoritism and out-group antagonism. The eventual outcome of which is ethnic exclusionism.
There are other theories that could well provide explanations. The inclusion of an indigenous concept called pakikiramdam (heightened awareness of self, others and situation) is a recognition of the cultural context of the research setting.
To measure intergroup contact avoidance, we ask, “To what extent would you accept or avoid having a Christian/Muslim” classmate, friend, boardmate, neighbor, civil servant, police, and mayor. In the Mokken scale analysis, both Christians and Muslims have an almost similar pattern for the seven contact roles.
They have the private domain, classmate and friend, with the most acceptance, while the public domain, police and mayor have the most avoidance. The contact role, neighbor, seems to mark the boundary between private and public. Moreover, both Christians and Muslims tend to avoid placing public contact roles, bequeathed with power, in the hands of out-groups, while they are less likely to do so with the private contact roles.
To measure ethno-religious identification, we treat identity as not merely a self-affiliation and knowledge of one’s in-group, rather, it undergoes a process in which individual actions and choices are crucial elements of the process. According to Phinney and Ong (2007, pp.272-273), the process of identification has several dimensions, such as exploration,, behaviors, commitment and attachment, relationship between ethnic identity and national identity, among others.
Who are then the people who tend to avoid contact towards out-groups? In our findings, they are those Christians and Muslims who have more religious in-group friends, greater perceived group threat, social dominance orientation, out-group religiocentrism and distrust, and fundamentalist attitudes. They are also members of religious organizations and they participate in religious practices.
Using regression analyses to test our hypotheses, the study shows the effects on contact avoidance by ethno-religious identification variables such as participation in rites of passage, number of ethnic in-group friends, and number of instances where ethnic language is used. The observed effects support the first hypothesis that the stronger the ethno-religious identification, the more contact avoidance towards the out-group. Explaining further the significant relationship between ethno-religious identification and contact avoidance, the intermediate determinants which decrease the observed effects of ethno-religious identification variables on contact avoidance are perceived group threat, out-group distrust, fundamentalism, and quantity of contact. As expected, the significant effects on contact avoidance of perceived group threat, out-group distrust, and fundamentalism, are positive, whereas the significant effect of quantity of contact is negative. Inclusion of these intermediate determinants in the model reduces most significant differences between ethno-elrigious groups. This is an evidence for the mediating function of these determinants.
The interviews provide additional data and explanations on contact avoidance. Both Christians and Muslims report incidents of everyday contact avoidance as peers and barangay-mates.
Additional expressions of religious identification are from Muslim informants who find eating halal food and wearing hijab as their expressions of being Muslims in a predominantly Christian country. One dimension which is not measured by the survey is the relationship of sub-national (ethnic) identity with national identity. While Christian ethnic groups generally identify with the national identity as Filipinos, the Muslim ethnic groups voice out some issues with being Filipinos as a legacy of oppressive colonial history.
The additional explanations are found in the three contextual factors, namely education, mass media and history of conflict. For example, the school environment has considerable impact on intergroup relations. The more mixed the composition of the student population, the more possibilities for intergroup contacts and friendships there are, and less likely there will be intergroup contact avoidance.
In closing, it is confirmed, as predicted by ethnic group conflict theory, that perceived group threat is a strong and significant predictor of exclusionary attitude, i.e. contact avoidance. Also it is confirmed that out-group distrust, a by-product of social contra-identification explained in social identity theory and ethnic group conflict theory, induces ethnic exclusionism. The finding on the quantity of contacts supports the position of intergroup contact theory, which posits that contacts reduce the likelihood of exclusionary attitudes towards out-groups.
In light of the findings and data available for further research on intergroup relations, the potency of contributing not just to the understanding of conflicts, but also to peacebuilding efforts in conflict areas, specifically in Mindanao, is very encouraging.
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
The day was supposed to be a celebration of something local in the national revolution. Unfortunately, as in any mainstream history, the national took up and consumed any local incidences.
On the 116th year of the Philippine independence, President Aquino came to Naga City in Bicol to recognize and highlight the role of Bicol in the 1898 Philippine revolution by remembering the martyrdom of 15 Bicolanos. Finally, a national event becoming a local one, I thought.
While he was at it, one student-activist interrupted and heckled him in Tagalog language. “Alis pork barrel king. Walang pagbabago sa bansa!” (Out pork barrel king! No change in the country.) Some meters away and out of sight from the president, hundreds of other activists were echoing the same sentiments.
Meanwhile, thousands of those who came to celebrate the day in Plaza Quince Martires, including me, were stunned by such boldness of one activist. I heard comments, “Ano na ‘yan pasale, dae man lang pigrespeto si ocassion asin bisita” (What kind of trick, it never considers respecting the occasion and guest). Many said in jest, “Dae man lang nagsabi, inibanan co cuta.” (He did not tell, I could have joined).
In Bikol culture, a guest is accorded habitually with over-welcoming and warm gestures. Thus disrupting an event with guests in attendance is not consistent with what is expected of Bikolano hosts.
However, the activist evidently did not act like a Bikolano host. Or probably he did not want to welcome certain guests and be a host to this event. Certainly for the police who apprehended him at that time, he was certainly not a Bicolano because he shouted in Tagalog language. It was not only the language that could be of interest to point out here. The message or content of the protest could also be examined. Essentially, the message was of national issue seeking national attention.
Had the language and message been of local, many Bicolanos and Bicolanas could have been sympathetic and supportive of the activist. Had he cried for autonomy for example, like others who said he could have joined him, I would have joined as well.
When the activist was dragged past near my location, he was still shouting, “walang pagbabago…”(no change), and obviously resisting several police officers who were dragging him away from Plaza Quince Martires heading to a another plaza called Plaza Quezon where I last saw a group of police surrounding him.
From a plaza named after local heroes to a plaza named after a national hero, it was like a local concern being brought to national attention which often suppressed any local origins. The revolution in 1898 will always be viewed as national, as if regional efforts reflected the national project. After 116 years, that project needs to be localized to embody regional aspiration for liberation. The revolution must be continued to finally free us from the hands of the guests in our homeland.
Posted by Menandro Abanes at 7:51 AM
Friday, March 21, 2014
Conflict does not necessarily end in the signing of peace agreement. It mainly addresses the political and economic issues of the conflict which are structural in nature and perceived to be the causes of the conflict. What is often overlooked is the underlying social issues of dysfunctional and asymmetric relationships of the groups involved. In the Philippine case, the groups involved are divided along ethno-religious lines.
Here, I would like point out three things: 1) as ordinary citizens of the Philippines, we can help in this peacebuilding effort; 2) signs of times are in advanced and matured stages for peacebuilding to take root; 3) importance of intergroup trust in the consummation of the peace agreement.
As ordinary citizens, whether Christians or Muslims or non-believers, as Filipinos or peace-loving people, we have a stake in this historic moment. Peace in Mindanao means peace to the whole Philippines. As our saying goes, "Ang sakit sa kalingkingan ay ramdam ng buong katawan" (The pain of the small finger is felt by the whole body). To paraphrase, if parts of Mindanao get burnt, the whole Philippines is in pain. Thus, we must take an active stance on this peace agreement.
Signs of times related to intergroup relations are favorable to this agreement to take hold. For example, in August 2012, the first Muslim newscaster appeared on a Manila-based national television wearing a hijab and traditional ethnic dress to project her ethno-religious identity. Later that year, the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed paving the way for the historic signing of CAB along with pertinent and detailed Annexes of the agreement. These incidents are indications of attempts to ease and end the conflict.
However, any attempts to end the conflict through formal peace agreement must be backed by social understanding of the situation. What is the evaluation on the integroup relations? How do Christian and Muslim ethnic groups interact and deal with each other? Are they willing to be friends or neighbors? Can they allow an out-group to hold power?
In our study, Ethno-religious groups, identification, trust and social distance in the ethno-religiously stratified Philippines (Abanes, Scheepers & Sterkens, 2014), people's unwillingness to make contact with out-groups, as measured by social distance, is low. Generally, Filipinos tend to be less socially distant from their religious out-group. We found out that what explained this low social distance between ethno-religious groups is trust. When Christians and Muslims trust each other, they are less likely to oppose religious out-groups to be their friends, neighbors, or to hold power such as police, civil servant, and mayor. With trust, they are more likely to accept their religious out-groups. Without trust, social barriers and issues may emerge to block any progress towards that elusive peace, even with the peace agreement in place.
Let this historic moment, 27 March 2014, be an opportunity for the groups involved in theconflict to build an inclusive Philippine society of which Bangsamoros and other ethno-religious groups are all part.
Monday, January 27, 2014
In social media, the buzz about the agreement is not as enthusiastic as in the mass media. Only several friends of mine in Facebook and Twitter shared the news with others.
Well understandably, most of my friends are non-Moros. To me, the news is good news not just to Moros in Mindanao but to all Filipinos anywhere in the world. This good news must be shared and advanced to achieve its goal and guide its course towards building lasting peace. As Filipinos, this is also our peace agreement.
As non-Moros, we can help advance this peace agreement. How?
I have tried to identify a number of ways:
1) The easiest way is to share the good news that the Philippine Government and MILF have signed a peace deal. Do this through Facebook, Twitter, Google plus, and other social media outlets. Below are some news related with the peace deal from local, national and international news outlets: Mindanews, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Philippine Star, Rappler, New York Times, BBC, Aljazeera.
2) Participate in any forms of discussion regarding this peace agreement. Get as much as information as possible from those who took part in this agreement. Read about the conflict and its history. Ask questions.
3) Blog, write and create something about this good news. Share your questions, your thoughts, your joys, your worries, your concerns, your optimism or skepticism. Let people know about it, discuss it, or even debate about it. The more people talk about the peace agreement, the more that the decision-makers will feel that people care about their decisions. Whether you agree or not, whether you are optimistic or not, whether you reserve your opinion or not, let your voice contribute to the discussion in the social or mass media.
4) As a citizen and voter, you can write to senators and your own Representative in Congress to support this agreement. Let them know that you have a stake and that you care about peace in the country.
5) If you have a Moro friend/s in Facebook or in person, send them a message inquiring what do they think about the peace agreement. Engage them in conversation and discussion to make them feel that this good news is also ours. Let them feel that we are interested in this agreement and we want to see it actualized in our generation.
6) If you see a Moro, smile at them. Let them feel that you are happy with this good news. Let them feel that they are part of our national community with common and shared future together. Thus, they are our partners in our pursuits of peace and development.
Before this agreement, there were two sides. With this agreement, we are all on one side. Non-Moros no more, we are all Filipinos.We want peace in Mindanao, we want peace in the whole Philippines. We want it now! [as in NOW!].
No more war, no more violence against our own peoples, no more discrimination. Let us be one to end these all. Let us start a generation of engaged citizens for peace and development.
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
This is how to popularize and inform the public about an issue! Getting the side of the government is ingenious! There is so much to learn from this video. Thank you, Greg!
Frack U. Mexico
Directed by Greg "Gringoyo" Berger
Screenplay by Al Giordano
Good news! Mexico has the fourth largest shale gas reserves in the world, and the Mexican Congress is about to change the constitution so that private companies can drill for it. That means that U.S. companies will soon be there, fracking for gas. Sure, there may be some complications from the more than 500 chemicals that will be pumped into Mexico's aquifers, but never fear: Joe T. Hodo, President of "Frack U. Mexico!" is here to show you why Mexicans should stop worrying and learn to love fracking...or else.