DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 18 Jan) – Ecumenical leaders have appealed to Pope Francis to “add his voice” in calling the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front to return to the negotiating table.
In a statement dated January 18, Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana, chair of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), said “injustices and social inequality are the roots of the armed conflict that the people wish to be resolved” through the peace talks.”
He appealed to the Pope to “add his voice in calling both parties to return to the negotiating table and honor previous agreements in attaining a just and lasting peace in our country.”
“We are a country of a few rich and many poor and those who seek to defend the human rights of the vulnerable are now defending themselves from various forms of abuses and perpetrators remain at large with impunity” Fajutagana said.
The statement cited the “unprecedented gathering of religious leaders in the Philippines” with Pope Francis at the University of Santo Tomas in Manila on Sunday, January 18, before the Pope’s encounter with the youth, as a “significant milestone in the ecumenical movement that aims, among others, to foster inter-religious cooperation and unity committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel call to faithfulness and justice”
The meeting of religious leaders “paves the way for more opportunities of dialogue and cooperation in the various concerns afflicting the poor and an inspiration to make a pulsating reality the Church of and for the Poor,” the statement said.
The meeting with religious leaders, however, was brief – around ten to 15 minutes only.
Fajutanga also praised Pope Francis “for his generous heart and immeasurable compassion despite the odds of traveling under a bad weather in Leyte last January 17.”
The statement said the NCCP “has also found a co-servant in rebuilding the lives, shelter and livelihood of those affected by Typhoon Yolanda majority of whom are the poorest.”
“With a country extremely vulnerable to natural disasters exacerbated by government neglect and intrusion of political and vested interests into the relief and rehabilitation response, the cycle of violence and victimization continue unabated,” the statement read.
The statement also said Fajutagana and Obispo Maximo XII of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente appreciate the Pope’s “public emphasis to the importance of the least ones and the Gospel imperative to seek justice and peace in the world.” (MindaNews)