May we learn of war no more
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) expresses deep concern over the armed conflict in Zamboanga City. We mourn for the dead and reach out in prayer to their families. We pray for the relief and security of the more than a hundred thousand dislocated people. Above all, we pray for an end to the armed hostilities. Let all people of goodwill declare “Peace to those who are far off and to those who are near”.
We are concerned that the government may have not foreseen such developments and has not been able to handle the dynamics of the peace negotiations with groups in Mindanao in such a way that could have avoided armed conflict. The Zamboanga siege has left the general public bewildered and anxious about what they perceive to be a muddled government approach. We are appalled by violations of International Humanitarian Law reportedly committed by both the Armed Forces of the Philippines and those identified with the Moro National Liberation Front. We are horrified that civilians have been used as human shields and treated cruelly.
The NCCP upholds the prayers and calls of our churches in Mindanao for the cessation of hostilities and joins the call for a congressional hearing on the disaster in Zamboanga City. There are many loose ends that fuel unnecessary speculations and more anxiety. The NCCP especially hopes that such a hearing will shed light on how it all began, who should be made accountable not only for the siege but also for the violations of International Humanitarian Law.
The NCCP also affirms the call made in the past: that the process of seeking peace in Mindanao must begin with a deeper appreciation of the discontents of the people, which are rooted in land dispossession, economic injustice, neglect and poverty; and, that any peace process must ensure the inclusion of all stakeholders. We call on our member churches, associates and partners to contribute to the relief effort currently underway to the beleaguered peninsula.
In lamentation we ask how has the situation in Zamboanga City come to this – so many dead and wounded, homes in flames, more than a hundred thousand people dislocated, the cycle of life disrupted, a people terrorized, and a city under siege. We lament that Mindanao has been torn asunder by never-ending armed confrontations that have taken its toll on the people and has pitted Filipino against Filipino. The damage to life and property can never be recovered nor can the trauma of war amongst civilians and children be erased. We call for a time of national lament and prayer. Let us pray that in our land the cry of the poor for peace and justice will be heard and the self-interested and powerful confounded. “For the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace.” (Psalm 37:11)
THE MOST REVEREND EPHRAIM S. FAJUTAGANA
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Chairperson, NCCP
Rev. Rex R.B. Reyes, Jr.