A prayer for those who have died in Mindanao and a call to continue seeking peace
“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8:38-39)
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) joins the nation in mourning the massive loss of life in last Sunday’s (25 January) encounter in Manasapano, Maguindanao. We pray for the families of those who have been killed during this tragic operation by the Philippine National Police. We pray that the spirit of Jesus Christ who stands with those who weep and mourn, may be a real sustaining presence in their lives at this difficult time.
We join the many voices that have already been raised for a full and transparent inquiry into the events that unfolded in this awful armed engagement. We are not content with Secretary Mar Roxas’ description of these terrible events as merely a mis-encounter, and we want to know why the cease-fire arrangements with the MILF were not respected and why those with command responsibility were not able to ensure the security of so many of our PNP who lost their lives.
The path towards peace is difficult and fragile, yet it is a path that cannot be forsaken. Any steps forward on this difficult journey need to be defended, consolidated and institutionalized. We ask the Aquino government to act with sincerity and transparency, to fully investigate and account for what has occurred and to not allow this to undermine the confidence of the ordinary people of Mindanao whose desperate cries for peace need to be responded to with integrity.
The peace process that the Aquino government has embarked upon is very fragile and there are significant questions in regard to how effectively it can result in lasting peace. In many respects it appears to be a replay of the past where peace is being forged on the terms of the Philippine government and within the existing Constitution, in which the whole process depends on the sincerity and goodwill of the government. We have seen in the past how the transition from one administration to another can so easily trash the peace gains of the previous administration. There has also been a failure of the government and the MILF to ensure broad participation from all Moro groups and also from indigenous Lumad communities, who have largely been marginalized in the peace process.
We are also aware that there will be high expectations that foreign governments will contribute financially to the socio-economic and political reforms in Mindanao, and that this may become conditional on the furtherance of their own agenda’s in regard to mineral resource extraction, transnational agricultural exploitation, and in the case of the US, increased military basing and presence in Mindanao.
While these are legitimate concerns in regard to the GPH-MILF peace process which at this time is particularly fragile, it is our prayer that those with responsibility will do all within their power to ensure that there is no return to an all-out war in Mindanao. That whatever small lights for peace may be burning in the hearts of the people, may be nurtured with care and kept alight.
The Most Rev. Ephraim Fajutagana Fr. Rex R.B Reyes, Jr
Chairperson – NCCP General Secretary-NCCP
Obispo Maximo XII- IFI