Pope’s message on peace a “clarion call” to work harder; memorable for MILF, Muslims

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 January) – Pope Francis’ message on the Bangsamoro peace process is “a clarion call” to everyone to work even harder, “collectively harnessing the power of hope and perseverance,  to overcome all obstacles and push national consensus towards a just and peaceful settlement of the armed conflict that has divided our people for too long,” Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles said.

Deles said the Bangsamoro peace process is “again newly-blessed” with the words of Pope Francis. She declined to answer MindaNews’ query why President Aquino said nothing about the peace process at the reception for Pope Francis in Malacanang on Friday morning.

Pope Francis, on the other hand, 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.”

Deles said the Pope’s words of encouragement and blessing, which came just a few days after 14 of 18 surviving members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission (ConCom) that drafted the 1987 Constitution issued a statement of support for the Bangsamoro, came “at a critical time as Congress enters the final, difficult stages of deliberation of the proposed Bangsamoro basic law.”

The framers of the Constitution declared in a statement dated January 9 but released on January 12 that “Bangsamoro is about the development of people, not about the constitutionality of words,” and that “reason tells us that a Bangsamoro Autonomous Region can close the centuries- old gap between law and justice and that we are on the cusp of a historic opportunity to make it happen.”

“We ask for continuing papal prayer, blessing, and hope as we continue to strengthen dialogue and forge partnerships towards a peace where no one will be left behind,” Deles said.

MILF chair Al Haj Murad Ebrahim said the Pope’s message on the peace process “would be long remembered by the MILF in particular and the Bangsamoro people in general.”

For MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal, the Pope’s visit “is a journey with many good meanings.”

“We Muslims also greet him with all sincerity and hope that his blessing of the peace process reverberates in the hears and minds of everyone, paving the way for the resolution of the Moro Question in Mindanao,” Iqbal said.

Patricia Sarenas, chair of the Mindanao Coalition of Development NGOs (Mincode) and the nationwide Coalition of Development NGOs (CODE-NGOs) said of the Pope’s message: “We should see Pope Francis’ words as a challenge to stand up unafraid to speak for truth, justice and peace, to raise our voices and demand an end to all the conflicts in Mindanao that have resulted in senseless loss of lives and properties and have created a world of anger and violence for us and our children.  This is a challenge for every one concerned to fast track the work for the establishment of the Bangsamoro.  And as well, for us to do something about the many issues that confront us today – pernicious and dehumanizing poverty, rampant corruption, weak and irresponsive and irresponsible governance, degraded environment, violence of all forms.”

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., OMI former President of the Notre Dame University and head of the Independent Fact-Finding Mission in the early days of the GPH-MILF peace negotiations until the Estrada administration’s “all-out war” against the MILF in 2000, said of the Pope’s message; “I fully agree.. and we really work for just solutions that include ALL .. particularly the IPs (Indigenous Peoples) and religious minorities…..!”

Lawyer Benedicto Bacani, founding director of the Cotabato City-based Institute for Autonomy and Governance said the Pope’s message is a “big boost to the Mindanoa peace process but we must note that the Pope envisions a peace process that is inclusive and with due regard to the inalienable rights of IPs and the Christian minority (in the Bangsamoro area).

Mary Ann Arnado of the Mindanao Peoples Caucus is disappointed with the President’s silence on the peace process.

“It’s disappointing that PNoy did not mention anything on peace and the Bagnsamoro in his speech. That could have been the opportunity for government to rally the support of the highly influential Catholic Church,” she said, adding she is grateful Pope Francis talked about the peace process.

Aveen Acuna-Gulo of the IPDev, a group that works with indigenous peoples in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the core territory of the future Bangsamoro, said she is “happy to hear (Pope Francis) mention IPs in the context of the peace process.”

Sister Maria Arnold Noel, SPPS of the Mindanao Solidarity Network in Manila, said she was happy that at least the Pope mentioned Peace in Mindanao.”

“Let’s listen to the interfaith on January 18,” she said. The Pope is scheduled to meet with leaders from other faiths on January 18 at the University of Sto. Tomas, prior to the Pope’s meeting with the youth. (Carolyn O. Arguillas / MindaNews)

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