As the fierce fighting in Marawi enters its second week, we count more than a hundred casualties, scores of hostages, and over 17,000 internally displaced families who have left the city for safer grounds. In the strongest terms, we condemn these atrocities and dread their escalation to more bloodshed, leading to a higher fatality count, and spreading to other areas.
Violence is not new to Mindanao which has been gripped by a long history of poverty, neglect, and internecine strife. In Zamboanga City, we recall the trauma of the 2013 standoff between rouge rebel elements and our security forces. Now the war in Marawi shows that the threats remain. Buttressed by corruption and narco-politics, religious extremism and anti-government ideologies, multiple groups from various areas, including foreign terrorist elements, have joined forces and continue to wreck havoc.
Amidst all these challenges, we note that the government actions – whether in terms of the recent proclamation of a 60-day martial law in Mindanao, emergency relief operations, social development interventions, and governance measures – are so far broadly supported and recognized as part of the series of responses for dealing with our problems. It is true that questions continue to be asked and doubts expressed. The experiences of Martial Law 1972 haunt the nation, making us fear the return of past abuses. Yet we take the cue from the bishops of Mindanao, most of our legislators, and many more constituents across the length and breadth of Mindanao, whose approving voices denote the hope for an end to the myriad forms of violence in our homeland. As decisive steps are taken, we take heart in the safety nets provided by the 1987 Philippine Constitution and trust in our leaders’ wisdom, commitment to the rule of law, compassion, and love of country.
While these events have manifested the worst of the self-styled oppressors and threat groups that have hostaged the residents of Marawi, they have brought out the courage and peace-loving character of our people. Indeed we are made of these. Muslims protecting Christians in ways that show that we are One Mindanao, even as the spirit of Ramadan inspires our Muslim brothers and sisters towards special protective actions to shield terrified Christians against the dangers of detection and possible annihilation.
In the face of the mounting hostilities, and in solidarity with the affected families and communities of Marawi City, we – the members of civil society in Zamboanga City – call upon all protagonists of this war for:
1. An end to the violence and the vigilant enforcement of the International Humanitarian Law especially, among others, the protection of civilians against the taking of hostages, enforced disappearance, using protected persons as human shields, reprisals against civilians and civilian objects; the pillage of places of worship, schools, hospitals, and homes; the arbitrary deprivation of liberty.
2. Responsibility and accountability for violations of the above cited law and of human rights, especially in terms of more solidarity actions for our internally displaced brothers and sisters, i.e., the sending of emergency relief items, the provision of psycho-social support, the mobilization of all efforts to immediately stabilize their situation – including a return to their homes – and to restore the peace.
3. Finally, observing that these events have raised issues that have polarized the nation, let us strengthen our interreligious bonds by…
– Helping quell the fires of hatred, divisive labeling, and counter-productive blaming;
– Understanding and analyzing the complications of the conflict and the dynamics of societies sharing different identities and ways of life; and
– Appreciating the life-giving factors of peace in all our religious and cultural traditions.
MAY OUR GOD IN HIS MERCY GUIDE US ALL INTO THE WAY OF PEACE!
THE INTERRELIGIOUS SOLIDARITY FOR PEACE AND
THE ZAMBOANGA PEACE AND SECURITY FORUM