MANILA, March 18, 2013—An advocate of peace and human rights, and interfaith dialogue has urged the Sultanate of Sulu and the Philippine government to talk peacefully across the table for the sake of helpless civilians caught in the crossfire.
Sister Arnold Maria of the Missionary Sisters Servants (SSpS) visited Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III and his family on Wednesday and asked them to ‘stop the fighting and begin the dialogue’.
“We take care of internally-displaced people especially in Mindanao so we are concerned now, it’s our people who were affected and we are hoping that this will settle soon. We are also asking for humanitarian protection for our people because most of those affected are the civilians,” the nun, a recipient of several peace awards, said.
Sister Arnold said their main concern is to put a halt on the ongoing crisis. She said they went to the Malaysian embassy to talk the matter with the Ambassador but failed to see him for some reasons.
Jamalul Kiram assured the nun that they share the same concern. But they lamented that the Aquino government, instead of helping reduce the tension even added to it by urging them to surrender and come back and face prosecution.
They added they asked the Aquino government eighteen times to sit with them for a constructive dialogue but the government answered “you come here first before we talk to you”.
Kiram camp claimed they were supposed to talk already with the Malaysian government, with both parties agreeing to hold the talks at Darussalam in Brunei, but it did not happen.
“… and when the United Nations issued the order to stop and discuss peacefully, we did not even wait for one hour, we had a press conference and we declared a unilateral ceasefire. So the ceasefire happened immediately on our side, but the Malaysians refused it,” Kiram’s camp added.
Sr. Arnold urged for dialogue, reiterating the importance of saving innocent lives in the process.
“Human life is at stake. Let’s talk peacefully across the table. We’re not taking sides; we’re not saying who is wrong and who is right; both Malaysians and Filipinos are affected. We will do what we can,” Sister Arnold said.
An advocate of peace and human rights, the nun is involved in interfaith dialogue and has immersed herself in peace missions in Mindanao, interacting with Muslims, Christians, MILF, MNLF, the NPA, and indigenous people. She is also a member of the board of directors of Balay Rehabilitation Center, Inc., a Philippine Human Rights NGO providing Psychosocial Services and Rehabilitation to Internally Displaced Persons and Survivors of Torture and Organized Violence, located in UP Diliman.
Kiram praises Mindanao bishops
Meanwhile, the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo Spokesman Abraham Idjiran expressed gratitude on the appeal of the Mindanao bishops to the Aquino government to save the lives of Filipinos caught in the ongoing violence in Sabah.
“Religion is not a barrier for the Filipinos to unite. First and foremost, thank you to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, especially to the Bishops in Mindanao. Iyan ang mga tunay na Pilipino walang tinitingnan na relihiyon because religion will not make a big difference kung spirit of Filipinism ang pinag-uusapan. So kami po ay nagpapasalamat,” said Idjiran.
Idjiran claimed they are fighting for the truth anchored on the justice of the Almighty God, not anchored on the justice of ownership.
According to him, the struggle in Sabah is not only the struggle of the Sultanate of Sulu, but of the Muslim brothers, of the CBCP or even pastors of other faith, and above all of the Filipino people.
“Ang sultanate ay wala ng kakayahan (The Sultanate has no power) to tell the people about this but through the CBCP and Muslim brothers and all Pastors in the country that religion is not a barrier and let’s help one another,” Idjiran furthere said.
Kiram’s camp is hoping the Aquino government would hear their grievances. (SocialActionNews)