MANILA, Oct. 10, 2012— If peace building is to succeed in the troubled Southern Philippines, it must begin at the grassroots level, an official of the Catholic Church said.
After all, said Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, the impact of armed conflict is most keenly felt at the local communities – at the very much grassroots level.
“Starting at grassroots level is important because whatever agreements we have if it’s not acceptable to the local communities, it will just be a peace process on paper,” said Ledesma, a known peace advocate.
The church leader has lauded the preliminary peace deal between government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and said that it is about time to bring the peace building down to the local communities.
“We have to work now in the grassroots for peace building and reconciliation. It’s the beginning of transformation of the whole Mindanao towards a culture of peace,” said the former vice president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines.
“This is just the beginning of more consultation. The peace agreement between the government and MILF is part of the whole process to attain solidarity,” he said.
Ledesma is an active member of the Bishops-Ulama Forum and a former head of the CBCP’s Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue.
The government and the MILF, the country’s largest secessionist group, have agreed to create a new political entity called Bangsamoro to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
President Benigno Aquino III described the preliminary deal as a “framework agreement” – a roadmap for establishing a new autonomous region to address the grievances and claims of the Bangsamoro people.
Aquino also said establishing the Bangsamoro political entity will go through the full process of legislation in Congress and will be subject to ratification through a plebiscite.
Archbishop Ledesma said it is important to have “important values” that needs to be considered in drafting the final peace agreement.
These six principles, he said, derived from the series of consultations conducted by the BUC in various communities in Mindanao.
The prelate said these include sincerity, security, sensitivity, solidarity, spirituality and sustainability.
“There is a need for sincerity on both sides that they are really for peace while security calls for end to armed hostility and stop formation of these armed groups. Sensitivity to the different cultures and traditions including the indigenous peoples in Mindanao is also important,” Ledesma said.
“There’s also a need for solidarity… a sense of oneness and unity especially with the IP communities. Another thing is spirituality. We have to focus on the religions of Islam and Christianity. And the last one is the need for sustainability. We need to realign our institution for good governance and honest elections to sustain the gains of peace building process,” he added.
Ledesma said they are also planning to hold series of seminars on reconciliation and peace in the coming days.
“We need to emphasize the need for interreligious and intercultural understanding… the need for mutual forgiveness and reconciliation in Mindanao,” he said. [RL/CBCPNews]