SOLIDARITY MESSAGE OF PEACE ADVOCATES ZAMBOANGA TO DUYOG MINDANAO: PEOPLE’S CARAVAN FOR PEACE AND SOLIDARITY MULTI-SECTORAL FORUM AT DAVAO CITY, NOVEMBER 27, 2008 IN CELEBRATION OF THE MINDANAO WEEK OF PEACE (NOVEMBER 27 – DECEMBER 3, 2008)

Salam! Kalinaw! Kapayapaan! Peace!

We in Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) and in behalf of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP) of Zamboanga City extend our felicitations of solidarity and goodwill to “Duyog Mindanao: People’s Caravan for Peace and Solidarity” and – on the occasion of your multi-sectoral forum (on November 27), as well as the Mindanao Week of Peace celebration – to all our beloved Mindanaoan brothers and sisters.

Our “People’s Caravan” from Baguio to Mindanao is a symbolic expression of the Mindanaoans’ long, difficult yet ever hopeful journey to establish peace in our one, common homeland. We witness today how this quest for our birthright from God and from our shared universal human values has flourished on our fertile and fertilized Mindanao grassroots and civil society as a widening movement from Tawi-Tawi to Surigao, throughout the four corners of our Land of Promise. Our hard-earned history and culture of peace, bursting forth in popular expressions like the Week of Peace and Duyog Mindanao, is now bringing us unstoppably closer to our cherished goal.

In our multi-faith and multi-cultural realities in Mindanao, inter-religious dialogue and understanding has emerged as the touchstone and overarching paradigm for our struggle for peace and development. But as a globalized-world, modern-day path to communal, multi-sectoral peace, our home-grown faith-based peace-making has its fine share of cynics and critics.

Thus, our present successes in inter-religious and inter-cultural dialogue and solidarity-building inspire us to journey forward in our exodus. In the volatile situation caused by the floundering peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Bangsamoro rebels, amid the rising clamors of our indigenous communities for social justice as well as the poverty and conflict plaguing Mindanaoans, our inter-religious and people’s peace-building movement is challenged to explore higher and more innovative thresholds to address the relentless challenges and roadblocks that together we face.

Let us continue to draw moral courage and strength from our shared vision. Let us journey our way to peace, solidarity and social justice for all by our interfaith belief.

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Joint Statement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference

Joint Statement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, 35th General Assembly, Jolo, Sulu November 18-21, 2008.

We the convenors and 75 members of the Bishops-Ulama Conference wish to express our heartfelt gratitude to Almighty God/Allah for the graced opportunity of holding our 35th General Assembly in the beautiful town of Jolo. For holding this historic gathering in the land where Islam began and where Christian-Muslim relations have been considerably improving despite negative reports of its past and present situations, we owe a great debt of gratitude to our host, the Apostolic Vicariate of Jolo under Bp. Lampon with the collaboration of the provincial, local governments and local ulama under Governor Sakur Tan, Mayor Hussin Amin and Prof. Shariff Julabbi respectively.

During our dialogue with the local communities of Christians and Muslims, certain concerns have been brought to our attention. In response we wish to state the following:

  1. We renew our call for the cessation of all hostilities in order to create a climate of peace where diverse voices can confidently be expressed and sincerely heard. And on the recent violence committed by rebel groups in some parts of Mindanao, let the force of the law be applied with justice that leads to peace. We appeal to let the peace talks between the GRP and the MILF continue, in whatever level or means possible, and let peace panels be convened as soon as the situation allows it.
  2. We urge the national and the local government to intensify efforts to stop kidnapping, especially in Mindanao. Kidnapping hurts families, wastes precious lives and so much resources, endangers peace and development advocates and humanitarian workers. Kidnapping does not serve the Bangsamoro struggle for self-determination. We speak to the families of the kidnappers—please touch the hearts of your kin to consider the pains inflicted on the families of the victims. We call on all concerned sectors of society to organize and devise more effective ways to curb this menace.
  3. We would like to make special request to various healing professionals and practitioners. Please devote extra time and expertise for the care of so many victims, witnesses, and even perpetrators of violence, past and present. Their wounds and scars, both as individuals and as communities, are still waiting for that kind of treatment that can bring back forgiveness, reconciliation and wholeness.

We affirm the initiatives of many groups in holding community consultations, study groups, and even healing sessions. We also invite all sectors of Mindanao society to join us in observing the Mindanao Week of Peace starting on November 27 until December 3 this year. Its theme, “Integrity of Mind and Heart, A Way to Reconciliation and Peace”, reminds us that peace starts with our individual selves.

On our part, as religious leaders, we shall engage more vigorously on the following:

  1. We will take an active role in promoting community and sectoral dialogues to expand the constituency of peace beyond, but not neglectful of the gains from, the formal peace talks. We are tapping the resources of our social, religious and academic institutions to help in assessing people’s perception of our situation, in drawing out a common vision of peace, in enriching peace education, and in generating new ideas on the broader peace process in our beloved Mindanao. We shall do this with utmost fairness and transparency.
  2. While we continue with interfaith activities, we shall also pursue authentic intrafaith dialogues among our own communities. We hope that through this open communication, we will find a way to face our own share in the prolonged problem in Mindanao as well discover how we could go beyond our hurts and biases. Perhaps this holds a key to more creative solutions to the impasse in our peace process.

As we make this statement, we are not blind to the many economic and social concerns of the people of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, who simply dream of farm-to-market roads, books and classrooms for their children, and other basic services. We join them in appealing to the government and civil society groups to assist them in their existing initiatives and other needs.

May God/Allah help us all in our endeavors for lasting peace for we trust in His words.

“Come now let us reason together, says the Lord, though your sins be like scarlet, they shall be white as snow, though they be red like crimson, they be white as wool.” (Isaiah1:18)

“And when they incline to peace, incline, too, to it and rely upon Allah; indeed, He is the Hearing, the Knower” (Al Qur’an, 7:61)

For the Bishops-Ulama Conference:

FERNANDO R. CAPALLA, DD
Archbishop of Davao

HILARIO M. GOMEZ, JR., PhD
UCCP Bishop Emeritus

DR. HAMID A. BARRA
Ulama League of the Philippines

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STATEMENT OF THE INTER-RELIGIOUS SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT FOR PEACE (IRSMP) CONDEMNING THE KIDNAPPING OF HUMANITARIAN WORKERS AND DEMANDING FOR THEIR IMMEDIATE RELEASE.

AS WE issue this Statement, unidentified persons are holding hostage two humanitarian workers presumably somewhere in Basilan Province. The kidnap victims, Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc. (NFI) Program Officer Esperancita Hupida and Manila-based freelance community development specialist Millet Mendoza, were abducted on Monday, September 15, in Cabangalan Barangay, Tipo-Tipo Municiapality, Basilan.

We, the members of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRMSP) based in Zamboanga City, condemn this unwarranted and violent abduction of the defenseless and innocent women. The fact that they were forcibly taken while doing their personal vocation and official duties and mission to help underprivileged and neglected residents of Tipo-Tipo Municipality, as they have been doing for others in the other towns of Basilan for the past many years, makes their abduction a very regrettable act of disservice not only to them and their organizations but more so to the poor residents of Basilan that they serve.

Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza are compassionate and morally courageous persons who have braved, as we know they continue to brave, the dangers of working in conflicted, violence-prone areas, particularly Basilan. They deserve to be treated with the same compassion and moral decency by those who come into contact with them, but especially those who they serve whether directly and indirectly.

We urge, nay demand, any and all authorities in Basilan to take all measures to effect the safe and speedy freedom of Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza. By your office you have a sacred duty to enforce the rule of law and ensure the security of the law-abiding and peace-loving constituents of Basilan.

The present Holy Month of Ramadan is a time when the believers of Islam are called upon to exert and practice special effort to achieve personal spiritual purity and generosity towards others. By this sacred, religious spirit and model of personal and social conduct demanded by the Most Merciful and Compassionate Allah specially during the Holy Month of Ramadan, we implore and ask the kidnappers to immediately release Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza.

We appeal to all God-fearing and peace-loving people to pray for Mesdames Hupida and Mendoza, and for their kidnappers, too. May God bless us all.

Zamboanga City, September 17, 2008.

REV. FR. ANGEL A. CALVO, CMF
R. Catholic Convenor

PROF. ALI T. YACUB
Muslim Convenor

REV. RONALD BILANG
Evangelicals Convenor

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