ASIA/PHILIPPINES - Return to the negotiation table, revive dialogue to reach just and lasting peace: Bishops and Ulama launch joint appeal to Philippines government and Muslim separatists

Wednesday, 28 July 2004

Davao (Fides Service) - A call for the government of the Philippines and the Muslim separatist movement in Mindanao to make peace, has been launched by the Bishops Ulama Conference (BUC) whose members are Catholic and non Catholic Bishops and Muslim teachers Ulama.
At the end of a BUC meeting in Davao in the new political situation after the re-election of Gloria Arroyo as President and one year on from the signing of a cease fire agreement between army and rebels in July 2003, the religious leaders issued a statement with the title “Peace is the Only Path”, a copy of which was sent to Fides. “The parties must go back to the negotiation table. Dialogue, interrupted by inevitable circumstances must resume. Much has been achieved but much remains to be done to restore lasting peace to our country” the statement said.
The BUC statement came the day after re-elected President Arroyo delivered her first address on the state of the nation in which she purposely ‘omitted the peace process’ as several political and religious observers remarked.
In reply to a request by Archbishop Fernando Capalla president of the Philippines Bishops’ Conference to discuss the matter with the President, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales said that President Arroyo has agreed to meet the three BUC delegates, Archbishop Capalla, Protestant Bishop Hilario Gonzales and Ulama Mahid Mutilan soon.
BUC called on Christians and Muslims to pray for the success of the peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front separatists: “We must all hope and pray that dialogue will resume and that we will reach a just peace in which there are no losers only winners”.
At the BUC meeting the Christian and Muslim delegates identified initiatives to promote peace: respect agreement signed by government and MILF; involve BUC in the peace process, engaging Christian and Muslim monitors; start peace talks at the local, provincial and regional levels; form teams to monitor the cease fire agreement.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 28/7/2004 lines 26 words 288)