(Adapted from an original draft statement issued by the Mindanao Peaceweaves on August 4, 2008.)
THE extent to which the intense displeasure over the impending signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front has already reached an alarming stage. In the last few days we have seen how unarmed civilians from both sides of the conflict have lost properties and even lives due to attacks or harassments by either side. The current situation has started to re-create social disorder brought about by some hostile posturing both by supporters and opponents of the proposed Bangsamoro Juridical Entity (BJE), which is the essence of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain. With the Supreme Court’s issuance of a Temporary Restraining Order on Monday, August 4, to stop the signing of the MOA in Kuala Lumpur, the situation on the ground points to a possible outbreak of war especially in Central Mindanao.
The Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace (IRSMP), as a member of the Mindanao Peaceweavers (MPW), a network of major peace groups and coalitions in Mindanao, appeals for sobriety and urges the parties in conflict to desist from any act that will aggravate the situation. And more importantly, for both government and MILF to observe and ensure enforcement of the ceasefire agreement at all times.
With the MOA signing stalled by the TRO, now is the most opportune time for government to have an honest to goodness dialogue with its constituents in order to get their acts together and to finally speak with one voice.
The MILF, on the other hand, must all the more demonstrate its resolve and commitment to peace by reigning in all its constituents and prove that indeed it is speaking and doing peace not only in the negotiating table but also on the ground.
We call on our religious leaders to take the moral high ground and be consistent with the religious teachings by serving as bridge builders and provide space for people to discuss the issues at hand more intelligently.
We also urge the government military command in Mindanao to stop the recruitment and training of civilian volunteer organizations (CVOs) and CAFGUs at this critical time when these organizations are mobilized for war-like agenda and interests only.
We most urgently make this appeal to local government executives to refrain from actions and statements that instigate divisiveness and violence out of a fear of the unknown; but, instead bring people together, educate and provide accurate information, address the roots of and manage these conflicts in ways not harmful to people but that which respects diversity and dissenting opinion. Evidently, the appeal for and resultant TRO by the Supreme Court as well as provisions for Constitutional exercises stipulated in the proposed MOA-AD attest to the democratic and transparent process that dictate the entire negotiation and settlement efforts.
We are calling on both business and academic sectors to serve as links in de-escalating the tension in areas affected by the conflict in Mindanao. For business groups to use their influence on local politicians and be mindful of how wars and conflicts can be bad for business in Mindanao. And for the academe to provide the venues/fora for information and education among the Moro, Christians and Lumad youths for greater solidarity and understanding.
We are ESPECIALLY MAKING AN APPEAL TO THE MEDIA to ensure responsible reporting and not to fan the emotions of people affected by the conflict that may lead to further deterioration of the situation in Mindanao.
We, peace advocates from Islam and Christian communities and organizations in Zamboanga City, more than ever appeal to all peace-loving Zamboanguenos and Filipinos to give peace a chance.
BY: INTER-RELIGIOUS SOLIDARITY MOVEMENT FOR PEACE
REV. FR. ANGEL A. CALVO, CMF
R. Catholic Covenor
PROF. ALI T. YACUB
REV. RONALD BILANG