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Bishops-Ulama Calls For Ceasefire in Central Mindanao
[The Bishops-Ulama Forum is a dialogue forum organized in 1996 in the spirit of interreligious dialogue and commitment to the peace process. The BUF focuses on the spiritual bases for peace from their respective religious traditions, grounded on the belief in one God, a common origin, and a common destiny for all.]
13th Bishops-Ulama Forum
"But if they incline to peace, you also incline to it, and put your trust in Allah. Verily, He is all-hearing, all-knowing." (The Glorious Qur'an 8:61)
"Blessed are those who work for peace; they shall be called the children of God." (Mt. 5:9)
The current armed confrontation in Mindanao between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has displaced thousands of civilians, Muslims, Christians and Lumads alike, and put at stake the economic development of the region. It is also placing into peril the peace that we, as religious leaders of both Islam and Christianity, have been helping to build among the different religious and cultural communities of Mindanao.
The displacement and evacuation of our people are putting to risk the healing of wounds and the culture of peace we have been trying to work on since the conception of the Bishops-Ulama Forum. We believe that if Islam and Christianity were once utilized in the past to create a deep chasm among the peoples of Mindanao, these two world religions of peace can now serve as the proper means of creating an atmosphere of mutual understanding among them.
We recognize that peace is the key to development. We recognize that without peace in Mindanao, sustainable development for the Philippines cannot be attained. We recognize the multi-religious, multi-cultural composition of the peoples of Mindanao.
We recognize that from the history of Mindanao an all-out war will not bring peace to Mindanao but will only aggravate the situation. We put into question the moral justification for the insistence on a military solution for Mindanao despite offers of a ceasefire. We question the use of force of armed groups in holding hostage innocent civilian populations for their own ends. The creation of vigilante groups, either Christian or Muslim, will also only heighten the polarization among cultural communities.
We recognize that the excesses of the Abu Sayyaf group cannot be attributed to the Muslim community nor to the MILF as both condemn such excesses as alien to Islam. Finally, we recognize that there is a need to rebuild peace in Mindanao that transcends the limited goals of a military agenda or the political ambitions of individual leaders.
Thus, we urge the government and the MILF to heed the overwhelming cry for a cessation of hostilities, particularly from the people of Mindanao. We urge them to return to the negotiating table and begin traversing the road to lasting peace in Mindanao. We recommend that the peace panels of both sides be given sufficient authority so that agreements like the April 27th accord be honored, and not contravened by military officers.
Towards this end, we suggest that a neutral but concerned third party should be invited to sit with the negotiating parties. We welcome gestures of concern for peace, justice and freedom from the international community, including leaders of Islamic countries, fellow religious leaders, and peace advocates. We also invite everyone to heed the United Nations' call for observing this Year 2000 as the Year for a Culture of Peace.
We also urge the government to give Mindanaoans a bigger share of responsibility to work for peace in our land. We are the stakeholders and have better knowledge of what is going on in this land we call the "Land of Promise". In particular, we endorse the call of our Senators from Mindanao and other sectors for an immediate cessation of hostilities. We also ask for an equitable share from the national budget for the economic development, not the militarization, of Mindanao.
On our part, we religious leaders in Mindanao, resolve to intensify our efforts at peace-building among our local Christian and Muslim communities. We can start the healing process through prayer rallies, inter-cultural dialogues, and the creation of zones of peace. We are ready to work along with women leaders representing half the population of Mindanao and other members of Civil Society, who have all raised their voices for the peace process to be restored.
We also invite people in media to correct its ambivalent role by presenting more accurately the sufferings of the people of Mindanao and their widespread aspirations for an end to hostilities and lasting peace.
We shall redouble our efforts at peace education and peace-building through our schools and local communities. Total peace, not total war, is the answer to Mindanao's problems.
DR. MAHID M. MUTILAN,
The statement below was signed by Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla of Davao, Bishop Generoso C. Camia of Digos, Bishop Wilfredo D. Manlapaz of Tagum, Bishop Patricio H. Alo of Mati, Bishop Romulo G. Valles of Kidapawan, Bishop Antonio J. Ledesma of Ipil, Dr. Mahid M. Mutilan, president of the Ulama League of the Philippines, Aleem Mahmod Mala Adilao of the ULP-Davao, Aleem Edris Abdulsamad of the ULP-Cotabato, and Aleem Abu Ali Cadhie of the ULP-Marawi.
April 26, 2000
On behalf of our brothers in the Bishops-Ulama Forum, we make these statements on the Mindanao situation:
1. We ask for an immediate ceasefire to hostilities in Central Mindanao.
Many evacuees are suffering from the present hostilities. We ask for assistance for all displaced communities Muslim, Christian and Lumad. We appreciate the assistance of the DSWD and other public and private agencies which are attending to the basic needs of 60,000 displaced evacuees.
We also appeal to our Christian and Muslim communities to extend whatever help they can give to our displaced brothers and sisters.
2. We make a clear distinction between the hostage issue in Basilan and the conflict in Central Mindanao.
The conflict in Basilan involves the Abu Sayyaf, a group whose tactics are condemned even by Islam and concerned Muslim leaders.
The situation in Central Mindanao, particularly in Lanao del Sur, involves the MILF which represents the aspirations of the Muslim community for a genuine participation in the running of their own political and economic affairs.
3. This is not a religious war between Christian and Muslim communities. It is an armed confrontation between the Philippine military and the MILF. Both Christian and Muslim religious leaders recognize and respect the values for justice, peace and compassion in each others' religious traditions. We condemn the formation of any extremist vigilante groups, which will only polarize cultural communities.
4. We ask for the peace process to continue. Peace talks should be resumed and given more time. No deadlines should be set. We support the initiative of women leaders who have recently talked to the leadership of both the MILF and the Philippine government.
We have just met Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and highly appreciate her concerns over the Mindanao situation.
As religious leaders of Muslim and Christian communities, we, bishops and ulama, offer to take a pro-active role in pushing forward the peace process through consultations with our grassroots communities and attending to the root causes of conflict.
There is a need for the service of a neutral but concerned third party, acceptable to both sides in the conflict, for accelerating the peace process through sustained peace talks.
"...In the tender compassion of our God. The dawn from on high shall break upon us, to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death, and to guide our feet into the way of peace." (Lk 1:78-79).
"O, you who believe! Come, all of you, into peace; and follow not the footsteps of the devil. Lo! he is an open enemy for you." (Al-Baqarah v. 208).
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