PEACETALK: Winning the Peace in Mindanao

(Welcome Address delivered by Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ, President of the Ateneo de Davao University during the “Winning the Peace, Multistakeholders’ Dialogue on the Philippine Peace Process” at the Calungsod-San Vitores Hall,  Ateneo de Davao University on 24 April 2019)

In the name of the Ateneo de Davao University and of the Initiatives for International Dialogue (IID), it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Calungsod-San Vitores Hall of the Ateneo de Davao for this Multistakeholders’ Dialogue on the Philippine Peace Process, entitled Winning the Peace.

I welcome all the stakeholders in peace here from academe, civil society, government, international organizations, the religious sector and media in Mindanao.  I welcome especially Sec. Carlito Galvez, the Presidential Peace Adviser and head of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU). I welcome Asec. Dickson Hermoso, Co-Chair, Joint Normalization Committee;  Prof.. Rufa Guiam, Transitional Justice and Reconcilation Committee; Hon Irene Santiago, Peace Adviser to the Davao City Mayor.  I welcome the Most Rev. Fernando Capalla, the Archbishop Emeritus of Davao. I welcome all of you who have come here in peace.

Three days ago, the Christian world celebrated its most solemn Feast, the Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the celebration of Life that conquers death, Light that conquers darkness, Peace that conquers conflict and war.  As Christians rejoiced throughout the world, lethal bombs were exploded in churches, hotels and public places in Sri Lanka killing 321 and wounding at least 500, most of whom were youths and children, a grim reminder that even as we celebrate Life over death and Peace over war in sacred spaces, the realty on the ground is that peace, lasting peace, has yet to be won.

But how is peace to be won?  How is peace to be won particularly here in Mindanao?  That is what we have come here to deliberate on.

Last February 5, Pope Francis representing Christians of the East and West and the Grand Imam of Al Azhar, Ahmed Al Tayyeb, representing Muslims of East and West, in a Document on Fraternity for World Peace and Living Together, declared—

In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity…In the name of innocent life that God has forbidden to kill…
In the name of the poor, the destitute, the marginalized and those most in need…
In the name of orphans, widows, refugees and those exiled from their homes and their countries…
In the name of peoples who have lost their security peace and the possibility of living together becoming victims of calamity and war,
In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders
them equal…
In the name of all persons of good will present in every part of the world…

“the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path;
mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; [and]
reciprocal understandingthe method and standard.”

In this context the Document upholds:

      The firm conviction that authentic teachings of religions invite us to remain rooted in the values of peace. . . human fraternity and harmonious co-existence…

      Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action.  The pluralism and diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which he created human beings.

      Justice based on mercy is the path to follow…

      Dialogue, understanding and the widespread promotion of a culture of tolerance, acceptance of others and of living together peacefully could contribute significantly to reducing many economic, social, political and environmental problems that weigh so heavily on a large part of humanity.

      Dialogue among believers means coming together in the vast space of spiritual, human and shared social values and, from here transmitting the higher moral virtues that religions aim for.

      The protection of places of worship … is a duty guaranteed by religions, human values, laws and international agreements.

      Terrorism is deplorable and threatens the security of people, be they in the East or the West, the North or the South, but this is not due to religions, even when terrorists instrumentalize it.  It is due rather to an accumulation of incorrect interpretations of religious texts and to policies linked to hunger, poverty, injustice, oppression and price…

Perhaps, as we celebrate the resurrection of hope and peace in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao through the ratification and incipient implementation of its Organic Law, and consider the challenges of normalization, transitional justice, and the building up a functioning democracy founded in the values and traditions of Islam yet bringing peoples of diverse faiths, differing receptions of faith and multiple ethnicities to live together in a political entity that treasures, pursues and achieves the common good, winning the peace may mean accepting the culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.  

Perhaps, as we continue to search for a solution to a longstanding conflict with Community Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, winning the peace may mean not more revolutionary and counter-revolutionary violence and killing but accepting the culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.

Through dialogue, mutual cooperation, and reciprocal understanding may we win the peace through reconciliation that we work at and unity that we achieve.

Once again, welcome to all!