PEACETALK: Let us therefore make peace our goal for peace is possible

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(Acceptance speech of Prof. Abhoud Syed Mansur M. Lingga, a Moro leader who was conferred a Doctor of Humanities in Peace and Development degree, Honoris Causa, at the Catholic-run Notre Dame University in Cotabato City on 25 March 2017, where he was also graduation speaker)

President Charlie M. Inzon, OMI, Director Maximo C. Aljibe, members of the Board of Trustees, members of the faculty, the administrators, staff, parents and candidates for graduation, friends, ladies and gentlemen:As-salamu’alaykumwarahmatullahiwabarakatuh, and good morning.

My family and I wish to thank the Notre Dame University, and in particular Fr. Inzon, the members of the Board of Trustees and the faculty for the honor of conferring on me the honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities in Peace and Development (honoris causa). I am humbled by your gesture, and my wife and I keep on asking ourselves what have I done to be worthy of this honor.

Without finding answers, we decided that I accept this honorary degree which you confer on me now, not for myself and my family but for the Bangsamoro youth with the hope that this will strengthen their faith in peaceful means of resolving conflicts and will give them the inspiration to serve more in the struggle to achieve peace through means which are peaceful.

This is not a theoretical formulation but our experiences here in Mindanao bear us out.  The contemporary conflict between the Philippine Government and the Bangsamoro people spans several decades and more than 50,000 lives were lost, more than a million of the population experienced displacement not only once, but twice, and some thrice, and the economic costs of the conflict runs to billions.

Many thought that the possibility for peace is nil but with the strong commitment of some people in government and in the leadership of the Bangsamoro liberation fronts to pursue peace, agreements were reached.

Although the implementation of the agreements is equally difficult as we are experiencing, we are still hopeful that the whole process from negotiating the terms of the agreements to the implementation of the agreements will be completed sooner or later. Hopefully, by that time not only the people of the Bangsamoro will experience peace but the people of Mindanao and the whole Philippines.

The agreements are significant milestone in the pursuit for peace in Mindanao. These agreements lay the foundation of establishing a new political entity for the Bangsamoro and defining new relationship between the Bangsamoro and the Central Government. We want to see the implementation of the terms of the agreements soonest possible because we do not want to lose the confidence of people on the peace process. The implementation of the agreements will strengthen our discourse that the best approach to resolve conflicts is through negotiation and dialogue.

Negotiating peace is not that easy. The negotiations between the Government and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) took 21 years and 17 years were spent before an agreement was reached between the GPH and the MILF. Within that span of time several major wars were fought between the government forces and that of the MNLF and MILF. And this experience tells us that a year of talking is far better than a day of fighting.

The way of peace is not only true in resolving political, ideological, religious conflicts but also an effective way as we seek social transformation of our communities.

Let us therefore make peace our goal for peace is possible; and follow the way of peace to achieve peace – the way of negotiations; the way of conversations; the way of dialogue.

Thank you.

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