(A Statement of Catholic Bishops in Mindanao on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro)
We view with vigilant optimism the announcement of a coming peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as the first steps towards forging “a just and lasting peace in Mindanao.” We believe that continuing consultations with all stakeholders are necessary to bring the peace process forward.
We recall the rejection in August 2008 of the Memo of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) due to its lack of transparency and certain provisions that were deemed unconstitutional. In the aftermath of that rejection, we recall the efforts of the Bishops-Ulama Conference to sponsor a year-long series of multi-sectoral consultations to uncover the underlying factors for promoting a culture of peace in Mindanao.
Konsult Mindanaw thus outlined six values that constitute a “people’s platform for Peace in Mindanao.” We reiterate these visions and voices for peace coming from Muslim, Lumad, Catholic and Protestant participants in these consultations.
The first value is Sincerity – to dispel the atmosphere of mistrust and confusion in many communities. There is need for policy cohesion among the various agencies of the Philippine Government as well as transparency through public consultation and communication. Previous agreements should be honored and a consistent mandate should be given for the credibility of the peace panels. The Bangsamoro groups should also strive to act with one voice while good governance practices in the present Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao could be highlighted as a prelude to the creation of a new political entity.
A second value is Security. Mindanao has been depicted for a long time as a theatre for war and intermittent local conflicts. People’s fears and insecurity have to be addressed. The proliferation of armed groups has to be checked. To enhance security, authorities should intensify humanitarian work and the reintegration program, radically reduce arms and war profiteers, strengthen localized security strategies, and align economic and environmental projects with peacebuilding efforts.
A third value is Sensitivity. Many communities in Mindanao are suffering under layers of hurts and biases as a result of a long history of colonization and conflict. For some, this has resulted in losing their ancestral domain and in being looked down upon. Many indigenous people (Lumad) communities feel left out of the peace process. To counter these adverse factors, there is need for respecting the people’s right to self-determination, multi-cultural sensitivity in education, and healing of trauma for internally-displaced persons and communities.
A fourth value is Solidarity. A sense of oneness among the tri-people population of Mindanao can only come about when ordinary people can meaningfully participate in the building of peace. It is in this sense that information and communication channels could provide a venue for people’s participation. Mass media, schools for peace, and Civil Society peace movements can all contribute towards forging solidarity. We need to build social infrastructure that connects communities rather than divides them. We should pay special attention to the needs of IDPs in conflict-affected areas.
Spirituality is a fifth value. Konsult Mindanaw participants envision a peaceful Mindanao where Muslims, Lumads, Christians and members of other faith traditions live together in harmony and religious freedom. The religious traditions of both Islam and Christianity as well as of indigenous people can bring about both internal and external peace. Peace as spirituality and as religious tolerance can flow into society. Some concrete measures would be: to integrate peace and religious instruction in schools; to apply Islamic teachings in Muslim society; to promote interreligious and intercultural understanding; and to promote intrafaith dialogue leading to forgiveness and reconciliation. There is also a call for more active participation of religious leaders on peace and good governance. Ritual healings can provide definitive closure of conflict situations.
A final value is Sustainability. For the long-term viability of the peace process, government and social institutions have to be harnessed to work for the people. Among the initiatives that need to be institutionalized are the following: Legislate new structures as needed for the peace accord to bear fruit. Mainstream the peace lens in local governance. Professionalize peace efforts. Strengthen the NCIP and the Indigenous People’s Movement. Correct discriminatory practices in the Justice System. Strengthen peace education. Make knowledge and imagination work for human development and social cohesion.
A formal peace agreement is not the end of peacebuilding; rather it is just the beginning of much hard work in concretizing the meaning of Sincerity, Security, Sensitivity, Solidarity, Spirituality, and Sustainability in our various communities in Mindanao. May the two highest values in all our religious traditions—love of God and love of neighbor—be our constant guide in working for reconciliation and building a Culture of Peace in Mindanao.
(14 October 2012)
Bp. Guillermo Afable (Digos)
Bp. Jose Colin Bagaforo (Cotabato)
Bp. Jose Cabantan (Malaybalay)
Bp. Edwin de la Peña (Marawi)
Abp. Jesus Dosado (Ozamis)
Bp. Elenito Galido (Iligan)
Bp. Dinualdo Gutierrez (Marbel)
Bp. Martin Jumoad (Isabela)
Abp. Antonio Ledesma (Cagayan de Oro)
Abp. Orlando Quevedo (Cotabato)