PEACETALK: Peace in Mindanao, Now Na; Bangsamoro para sa Bayan, para sa Lahat!!

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(Speech delivered by Gus Miclat, Executive Director, Initiatives for International Dialogue; Convener of All-Out Peace Campaign; Friends of the Bangsamoro; Secretary-General; Mindanao Peaceweavers. Martsa Rally ng Bangsamoro para sa Bayan, para sa Lahat, 11 May 2015)

I am truly thrilled and honored for this opportunity to speak, together with other honored guests, before a diverse audience of peacemakers and trust-givers.

Ikinagagalak ko ang karangalan at oputurnidad na ito na makihalubilo sa inyong mga kumikilos para sa kapayapaan at ang mga nagbibigay ng tiwala sa isat isa.

I also wish to thank the organizers for this mustering of peace forces possible and thus my privilege to share my thoughts on Peace in the Bangsamoro, in Mindanao, in the Philippines.

Mga Kauban,

Inclusion is a key factor in nurturing the Bangsamoro; it justifies the existence of diversity in all its forms. Inclusion allows the peoples in the Bangsamoro, especially those who have special needs, to recognize that they have friends and helpers. Having more friends can deeply impact the self-esteem of peoples, making it easier to adjust to the difficult task of community rebuilding.

Inclusion, however, is not without its inconveniencies. Labeling is one of them. Fear of being labeled, of being tagged for one’s uniqueness, is valid. But people need to realize that labels are part of life and must be embraced to signify our collective recognition that we are all distinct.

Passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) affirms our desire for an inclusive society. Enacting the BBL confirms our nation’s recognition that the struggle of the Bangsamoro is just; passing the BBL signifies our decision to trust each other, hear the voices of the Bangsamoro and move forward from destitution to hope.

This is a unique moment in our nation’s history. Do we have the courage and fortitude not to waste the arduous and bloody path towards the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) by translating its provisions into a formula that represents not only our collective will but also celebrates the uniqueness of peoples?

Part of the reason that I believe the principle of inclusion is crucial is because the cycle of prejudice-violence-distrust has overtaken our nation. Due to centuries of false beliefs fomented by a succession of colonial potentates, we have slowly become less vigilant in upholding our belief that the value of every human life is the same; that our role in this life we share as human beings on this earth is to assist the poor, as we help our own and to protect the vulnerable as we protect ourselves.

We must move beyond our colonial past and this is where I believe we as peacemakers have a crucial role. We have a shared commitment to build peace across peoples and communities.

I say this even as we continue to grapple with the rise and ebb of hostilities in the Bangsamoro and our nation as a whole; hostility expressed in terms of intolerance and violence.

A growing number of voices in the debate over the BBL seek to place unjustified demands on the Bangsamoro. If they gain an upper hand in the debate, equal opportunities may remain a dream in our society where discrimination prevails, where religion, color and ethnicity make it hard for some to get the dignity they deserve.

Regretfully, some groups within some communities use deep-seated prejudices to foster hostility toward others. Sectarian and communal violence still threaten us all, fueling violent conflicts and destroying innocent lives.

By impugning the dignity of those who tirelessly negotiated for the draft BBL, some members of our society are all responsible for contradicting the most sacred tenets of peacemaking.

Incitement cannot be part of the peace discourse, neither is hatred or intolerance. It is our responsibility and that of our religious and political leaders to prevent any misrepresentations of our true peaceful cultures.

Intolerance and violence in all their manifestations are obstacles to peace. We have a collective responsibility to confront hostility toward the “other” as an obstacle to our shared security and a profound threat to peace.

At the same time, inclusive peace also affirms a common humanity in which peoples are recognized as human beings, endowed with inalienable dignity, and with rights and responsibilities that flow from that dignity.

Inclusion recognizes that traditions have its foundation in human dignity and common humanity.

We affirm our common humanity and also affirm our other forms of identity, such as religion, race, age, sex, ethnicity and status, as part of the wonderful diversity of human life.

I believe in an inclusive peace because I am driven by the fundamental belief that we all have a stake in each other’s lives.

We need to cross lines of divisions and we can only achieve our goals if we are able to build bridges of understanding, tolerance and peace.

It is undeniable that the identity dimension plays an important part in the conflict in the Bangsamoro.

As peacemakers, we must always be mindful of this fact and prevent its misuse by those who want to derail the peace process.

Revolution is the language of the unheard; I thus challenge us all to ensure that the narratives of the unheard in the Bangsamoro are in fact heard and heeded as we continue to move heaven and earth so that a BBL that brings genuine peace to the Bangsamoro is passed.

Mga kauban,

I am convinced that we must honor the decision of the Bangsamoro to trust the collective wisdom of the Filipino nation thru political negotiations and that their desire to restore their dignity as a nation is being heard.

A BBL that will undo the confiscatory peace of our colonial past must be passed. We can do no less.

So, friends, comrades and fellow advocates,  join us at the All Out Peace movement and campaign to resoundingly demand: “Peace in Mindanao, Now Na; Bangsamoro para sa Bayan, para sa Lahat”!!

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