CAGAYAN DE ORO City, July 17, 2011â€”A leading Jesuit peace advocate in Mindanao has urged all peace stakeholders to pool their resources together to help the government in putting an end to the so-called Mindanao conflict and bring about genuine and lasting peace in the southern Philippines.
â€œIt is a part of the challenges of the peace processâ€”that we pool our resources together,â€ said Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J., D.D., to the Bishops, Governors and Civil society organizations (CSOs), during a conference on Conflict Transformation Towards Good Governance at the International Center for Peace (IC Peace) in Mindanao of the Balay Mindanaw Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) at the weekend.
Ledesma, co-chairperson of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) that monitors and journeys together with the peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), said that stakeholders, especially Mindanawons, should begin to ask themselves where they are in the peace process.
â€œWe cannot afford to leave peace to the negotiators. It is time that we become part of the solution. We should now be proactive and have a common analysis and give solutions workable within our means,â€ he told this reporter in an earlier interview.
In his speech during the Conference, Ledesma, who also represented the Bishops-Ulamas Conference (BUC) of the Philippines, stressed that â€œstakeholders should work for peace.â€
â€œIn the situation we are in now, the government cannot win the peace process alone. Stakeholders also need to work for peace,â€ he said as he pointed out that â€œpeace is also a restoration of relationships.â€
He narrated that in the BUC, Muslims and Christians are united in bridging the relational gap apparent between the followers of Islam and Christianity.
â€œThe peace dividend should not only be in terms of political agreement but most importantly a restoration of relationship as this affects how we live our lives here in Mindanao,â€ he stressed.
Ledesma, chairperson of the Episcopal Commission on Inter- religious Dialogue (ECID) of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), also pointed out â€œthe need to explore ways of dialoguing for peace at the local and regional levels with partners and stakeholders in conflict situation.â€
Misamis Oriental in Northern Mindanao is leading the charge in localizing peace initiatives. With the help of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, civil society organizations and the media, the provincial government has successfully transformed a community that was once a bastion of Communist insurgency in Mindanao into a zone of peace.
Through the initiative of the provincial government of Misamis Oriental, its Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) recently conducted a joint meeting with the PPOC of Agusan del Norte, which was highlighted by the signing of a Peace Manifesto urging the CPP-NPA-NDF and the government to declare a ceasefire until the successful conclusion of the peace negotiations.
Ledesma said during the interview that initiatives like this should be supported by all stakeholders, especially the Church since its mission is to bring and spread Pax Christi (the peace of Christ) to the whole world.
â€œLocal government units in the Caraga and Northern Mindanao regions, churches and civil society organizations in the Cagayan, Butuan, Surigao, Tandag, and Malaybalay (CABUSTAM) areas are closely monitoring development issues including the current peace pronouncements of President Noy including the recent peace processes in the country. The incident on the MOA-AD between the MILF and the then GRP has given everyone a lesson. Never again should we gamble for peace! Peace should not be left only to the hands of the negotiators. We should now contribute solutions and be part of the process,â€ he said. (Bong D. Fabe)