A professor who just returned to Iowa from the Phillippines says the bombing that killed a Cedar Rapids missionary this week is a symptom of that country’s deep ethnic tensions. Jim McCormick, the chair of the Iowa State University Political Science Department, just returned from giving 16 lectures in three weeks as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer, and says people have lived with terrorism for decades in the Phillipines.They’re tried to “learn to live with terrorism,” and you’ll see lots of security, even being frisked at shopping malls. McCormick says at least four terrorist groups currently operate in the Phillippines, including Abu Sayyef a group linked to al-Qaida which kidnapped and killed an American terrorist last year. Mindanao is the island where the Muslim population lives and has been the site of much violence including extortion kidnappings. McCormick says Americans underestimate the size of the Phillippines, and the issues that divide it. There are 80-million people in its seven-thousand islands. There’s a great distance between rich and poor as well as religious differences, and the Muslim majority in five southern provinces around Mindanao still doesn’t lessen the resentment. McCormick says issues that most concern Filipino residents are crime, terrorism…and government corruption that prevents tackling the other problems. He says Phillippine government officials haven’t been successful dealing with crime, and corruption drove the last president out of office, a pervasive problem that “eats away” at stability in the island nation. It’s a beautiful country, McCormick says, though there’s always the background of inescapable poverty.
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