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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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:
- 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.
- 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