DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) – Peace is the common message of Mindanao’s revolutionary fronts to Pope Francis — from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) which signed a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) with the government last year, to the National Democratic Front (NDF) in Mindanao which is awaiting the resumption of peace talks with government.
MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim wrote Pope Francis, through Cardinal Quevedo on October 25, 2014 while NDF Mindanao spokesperson Jorge Madlos issued a statement on January 15, hours before the Pope was to land in Manila from Sri Lanka both seeking the intercession of the Pope in support of their respective peace processes.
In the six-paragraph letter of Murad, a copy of which was given to MindaNews, Murad explained that the Bangsamoro people have been “struggling for peace,” that for centuries, they have been fighting in the name of Allah “and for a homeland where we can worship him and live his light in peace;” that after “arduous negotiations” that led to the signing of the CAB and the drafting of the Bangsamoro Basic law, “real peace is within reach.”
Murad asked the Pope for his “kind intercession by way of sending us words of wisdom and encouragement to the Christians in this country, especially to journey with us together so that peace shall reign in this part of the globe.”
He also asked the Pope to “bless the effort of Muslims and Christian peacemakers who have struggled together for peace” and to “pray with us that those who embrace the darkness and profit from armed conflict rather than from peace not steal this peace from us.”
“Come to encourage all in the ways of peace. Share with us your joy, as we wish to share with you our peace,” Murad wrote the Pope.
In his first public statement at the reception for him in Malacanang on Friday, January 16, the Pope said the Philippines, like its Asian neighbors, “faces the challenge of building on solid foundations a modern society – a society respectful of authentic human values, protective of our God- given human dignity and rights, and ready to confront new and complex political and ethical questions.”
“As many voices in your nation have pointed out, it is now, more than ever, necessary that political leaders be outstanding for honesty, integrity and commitment to the common good” so they can help preserve the country’s rich human and natural resources and “marshall the moral resources needed to face the demands of the present, and to pass on to coming generations a society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.”
“Essential to the attainment of these national goals is the moral imperative of ensuring social justice and respect for human dignity,” he said.
The Pope ended his speech by saying “I express my trust that the progress made in bringing peace to the south of the country will result in just solutions in accord with the nation’s founding principles and respectful of the inalienable rights of all, including the indigenous peoples and religious minorities.”
While the MILF has signed a peace agreement with the MILF, the National Democratic Front (NDF) which has its largest camps and number of guerrillas in Mindanao, is awaiting resumption of the peace talks with the Aquino administration which has only 17 months left to the end of its term on June 30, 2016.
Renewed interest for peace
In a statement on January 15, Jorge Madlos, NDF-Mindanao spokesperson, expressed hope that the Pope’s presence could encourage Filipinos to imbibe a “renewed interest in pursuing a peaceful resolution to the current armed conflict, particularly in pushing for the resumption of the peace talks” between GPH and the NDF.
He expressed hope the Pope would listen to the cry of millions of survivors of typhoon Yolanda “who continue to wait for the immediate delivery of social services and rehabilitation” allegedly due to government neglect.
Madlos envisions the Papal visit would inspire Filipinos “to take the fight against human rights violations further.”
The struggle for a free, scientific and mass-oriented education, he said, should gain greater support during the Papal visit and at the same time, that “the clamor for the defense of the genuine right to self-determination of the Lumad and Moro peoples to find greater voice and reverberate throughout the archipelago against national oppression and social chauvinism.
He urged the public to bring before the Pope’s attention the “sorry state of the environment in the country, particularly in Mindanao, which is currently ravaged by the wanton and unhampered plunder of natural resources by large-scale mining, rapidly depleting non-renewable resources and aggravating global warming, which contributes to climate change.”
The Pope is expected to issue an Encyclical on Climate Change soon.
Madlos said the NDFP in Mindanao “enjoins the Filipino masses to unite and stand before Pope Francis to affirm his pro-people and pro-poor stance to further the cause of the people’s democratic revolution against the fetters of feudalism, bureaucrat-capitalism and imperialism.” (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)