Working Towards a Reconciled Diversity

Working Towards a Reconciled Diversity
Statement of Catholic Bishops and Educators on Peacebuilding in Mindanao

Davao City

April 10, 2014

Sustainable peace and the righting of historical injustices have been elusively pursued for decades in Mindanao. We, the Catholic bishops and educators of Mindanao have always joined the call for lasting peace among the diverse cultures of Mindanao and Sulu.

It is in this light that together with the representatives of Catholic seminaries, radio stations and peace centers in Mindanao, some of us engaged in the “Conversations on Peacebuilding in Mindanao”. This was held on April 9-10, 2014, at the Ateneo de Davao University, it was jointly sponsored by the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines in Mindanao.

The signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro on March 27, 2014, is certainly warrant for optimism. But it also signals a greater challenge to all in our nation to be involved in this quest for peace, which is our shared responsibility.

We call on all to inform themselves of the issues involved in this struggle. We call on negotiating parties to strengthen their dialogues by ensuring profound inclusivity, hearing all the voices who have a stake in peace – indigenous peoples, religious leaders, NGOs, academe, the poor, even the dissidents – to ensure that the road we are taking is not motivated merely by political ambitions, but by genuine and sustainable peace for all peoples.

Pope Francis reminds us that the “message of peace is not about a negotiated settlement but rather the conviction that unity brought by the spirit can harmonize every diversity. It overcomes every conflict by creating a new and promising synthesis” (Evangelii Gaudium, 230).

Some recommendations that have come up in our conversations are the following:

  • Strengthen the role of the Catholic Church in the promotion of lasting peace in Mindanao through its various institutions such as schools and universities, seminaries, peace centers, radio stations, etc. The church, as an important institution permeating various layers of society, must use its positive influence in creating more avenues for peacebuilding initiatives, especially at the grassroots level.
  • Develop creative historical narratives in contextualizing the history of the Bangsamoro and of Mindanao. Along this line, we need to come up with creative metaphors/symbolisms that represent the common desire of Mindanawons in the effort of peacebuilding.
  • Explore a more comprehensive, exploratory, holistic an inclusive understanding of the history of Mindanao using the paradigm of nonlinearity, embracing the simple, the complex and the reflexive nuances of historical narratives.
  • Expand the consciousness beyond the Bangsamoro into a consciousness that embraces a more universal conception of the “Malay” identity.
  • Encourage the creation of various discourses on the culture of peacebuilding and peacemaking in various levels, in various sectors of society, that underscores a shared identity and a common future among the peoples of Mindanao.
  • Through the Bangsamoro Agreement, explore and examine how issues pertaining to the culture of rido, possession and proliferation of firearms, lawlessness, violations of basic human rights, indiscriminate killings of peace advocates and innocent civilians, warlordism, and widespread poverty could be appropriately addressed.
  • Underscore the importance of building trust in cultivating relationships with communities in pushing for greater understanding of the new Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro.
  • Strengthen intrafaith processing accompanying interfaith dialogue in order to narrow the gap not only between prejudiced Christians but also similarly prejudiced Muslims.
  • Make the Bangsamoro Agreement truly an instrument of peace, and not just another hegemonic structure from a similar hegemonic structure.
  • Work for peace not in isolation but in the context of the community.
  • Create programs among religious groups under the new agreement.
  • Disseminate correct and factual information and combat misinformation.
  • Propagate a spirit of dialogue in churches and in schools, to focus on the morality of people, remind everyone to help in the creation of this new government and to increase interfaith dialogues, especially those led by civil society in the universities and peace centers.
  • Start peacebuilding with the children, at the kindergarten level.
  • Bridge initiatives in an attempt to help shape the Basic Law, with the relevant institutions facilitating access to the proper authorities.
  • Learn to appreciate Moro diversity, for parishes and universities to provide space for interfaith dialogues.
  • Continue peace education in churches and schools.
  • Use the six-petal approach in developing peace education programs; teach about values on social justice.

We, bishops and educators, have stressed dialogue, tolerance, and sensitivity in diverging issues deeply-rooted in historical wrongs. We have called on all peoples to build bridges of friendship and compassion. With Pope Francis, we say: “Diversity is a beautiful thing when it can constantly enter into a process of reconciliation and seal a sort of cultural covenant resulting in a reconciled diversity.”  Let us move from diversity to reconciliation, from ignorance to insight, from conflict to peace!