Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Priests, Imams & Pastors' Dialogue for Peace & Development

While the negotiators of the MILF and the Government are continuing their peace talks in Kuala Lumpur, some Catholic priests, Protestant Pastors and Muslim Imams gathered here in Davao this afternoon to discuss the People's Agenda for Peace and Development facilitated by the AFRIM. We were joined by s0me members of the Bishops-Ulama Conference: Archbishop Fernando Capalla, Bishop Delfin Callao of the Philippine Independent Church, and Ustadz Mahmoud Adilao of the Ulama League of the Philippines.
We shared our understanding of peace and development and framework which we should approach this.
We believe that achieving peace and development is not just the task of the peace negotiators from the MILF and the government. The religious leaders, civil society organizations and the grassroots communities (Muslims, Christians and Lumads) have the responsibility to participate in this process and influence the agenda.
Archbishop Capalla shared an interesting understanding of peace. He said that for the ancient Romans, peace means reaching a agreement or settlement. For the Greeks it means a "lull" from fighting or "ceasefire." But for Christians and Muslims peace means "shalom" or "salaam" - wholeness and reconciliation. The government and the MILF may reach a signed agreement and a ceasefire. But we have to go further - we - the various peoples that live in Mindanao (Muslims, Christians and Lumads) have to reach a state of "shalom." This requires a process of healing and reconciliation, of rooting out the hurts and hatred in our hearts. This is where various groups like us can come in and encourage our communities at the grassroots to get involved in the process of peace and development.
While peace requires that the guns be silenced and the bloodshed stopped, peace is not just the absence of war. Genuine peace can only be achieved when the roots of the conflict is addressed, when there is justice and reconciliation, when there is sustainable development.
It is high time that grassroots communities tell the MILF, the NPA and the Armed Forces of the Philippines - give peace a chance, top your all out war. Instead of just waiting for these groups to come up with a peace agreement and the cessation of armed hostilities, these communities should also expand the zones of peace and development.

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