[Statement of Catholic Bishops and Educators on Peacebuilding in Mindanao, Davao City, April 10, 2014]
Sustainable peace and the righting of historical injustices have been elusively pursued for decades in Mindanao. We, Catholic bishops and educators of Mindanao, have always joined the call for lasting peace among the diverse cultures of Mindanao and Sulu.
It is in this light that, together with the representatives of Catholic schools, seminaries, radio stations and peace centers in Mindanao, many of us have engaged in the “Conversations on Peacebuilding in Mindanao.” This was held on April 9-10, 2014, at the Ateneo de Davao University. It was jointly sponsored by the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (ECID-CBCP) and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) in Mindanao.
The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) on March 27, 2014, is certainly warrant for optimism. But it also signals a greater challenge to all in our nation to be involved in this quest for peace, which is our shared responsibility.
We call on all to inform themselves of the issues involved in this struggle. We call on negotiating parties to strengthen their dialogues by ensuring profound inclusivity, hearing all the voices who have a stake in peace – indigenous peoples, religious leaders, nongovernment organizations (NGOs), academe, the poor, even the dissidents – to ensure that the road we are taking is not motivated merely by political ambitions, but by genuine and sustainable peace for all peoples.
Pope Francis reminds us that “the message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that unity brought about by the spirit can harmonize every diversity. It overcomes every conflict by creating a new and promising synthesis.” (Evangelii Gaudium, 230)
Some recommendations that have come up in our conversations are the following:
- Strengthen the role of the Catholic Church in the promotion of lasting peace in Mindanao through its various institutions by using its positive influence in creating more avenues for peacebuilding initiatives, especially at the grassroots level.
- Develop more historical narratives in contextualizing the history of the Bangsamoro, of the Lumads, and of Mindanao in general, by creating metaphors/symbolisms that represent the common desire of the Mindanawons in the collective effort of peacebuilding.
Inter- and Intra- Religious Dialogue:
- Provide wider spaces for interfaith dialogues among universities and peace centers with the active participation of civil society organizations.
- Provide more avenues, especially in parishes and universities, that promote greater appreciation for Moro diversity and inter-faith dialogues.
- Cultivate a spirit of dialogue in churches, schools, and in other relevant institutions by reminding everyone to help in the creation of this new government.
- Strengthen intra-faith dialogue in order to narrow the gap among the “prejudiced” Christians themselves, as well as among “prejudiced” Muslims.
- Encourage the creation of various discourses on the culture of peacebuilding and peacemaking at various levels and sectors of society, underscoring a shared identity and a common future among the peoples of Mindanao.
- Integrate peace education in the academic curricula along with the values of social justice and the common good.
- Create a course which discusses the history and relationships among Christians, Muslim, and Lumads.
- Encourage the creation of an environment that promotes greater interaction for peacebuilding such as the creation of peace tables, peace parks, peace gardens, peace rally, peace camps, etc.
- Encourage more creative and expansive approaches in seeking solutions to issues on peace by tapping the active engagement of artists, poets, and singers, among others.
- Initiate a Mindanao-wide sports activity for peace.
Peace Communication on the CAB:
- Disseminate correct/factual information and combat misinformation on the new CAB. Utilize social media in promoting peacebuilding initiatives, especially in raising public consciousness concerning the CAB.
- Post results of round table discussions, such as this Conversations on Peacebuilding in Mindanao, on social media in order to reach various stakeholders and link up with a wider network of peace advocates.
- Through the CAB, examine how issues pertaining to the culture of rido, proliferation of firearms, arms trade, lawlessness, violations of basic human rights, indiscriminate killings of peace advocates, warlordism and widespread poverty could be appropriately addressed.
- Disseminate the CAB and all the primer annexes in the local dialect for greater access.
- Bring the discussions on the CAB to the parishes, the basic ecclesial communities (BECs), and seminaries.
Governance and Participation:
- Increase and facilitate community participation in local governance in the effort of peacebuilding by conducting peace-mapping exercises and developing conflict-sensitive barangay development plans.
- Lobby in the shaping of a Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) that is truly an instrument of peace, justice and the common good, and not just another hegemonic structure replacing another hegemonic structure.
- Include environmental conservation in the wider effort at peacebuilding to highlight collective community responses that address calamities, both natural and man-made.
- Increase the visibility of international organizations that advocate for peace in the region in order to promote greater collaboration and networking.
- Through the ADDU/CEAP, replicate this Conversations on Peacebuilding in Mindanao in various institutions, places, and sectors at the different levels.
We, bishops and educators, have stressed dialogue, tolerance and sensitivity in diverging issues deeply rooted in historical wrongs. We have called on all peoples to build bridges of friendship and compassion. With Pope Francis, we say: “Diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a reconciled diversity.” Let us move from diversity to reconciliation, from ignorance to insight, from conflict to peace!