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Moro rebels challenge Church

Tell us where you stand on peace process issues, chief negotiator demands

Moro rebels challenge Church
Peace negotiators of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front join hand with civil society groups after a forum in Manila on Thursday
Joe Torres, Manila

May 6, 2011

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The Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has challenged the Church and other civil society groups to take a stand, especially on "controversial issues" surrounding the peace process. "We have observed in our years of dialogue and interactions with [various organizations] that some refuse to take a stand regarding the hard issues in the negotiations," said Mohagher Iqbal, chairman of the MILF peace panel. Addressing a forum in Manila yesterday, he said that while the MILF appreciates the support of various groups, "we do not really understand what makes them adopt an ambivalent attitude when the very reason for their creation and existence is to press for truth, justice and fidelity in honoring commitments." Iqbal said he attributes "ambivalence" to their inability to grasp" some of the issues in the peace talks and the benefits that these groups may derive from them. He also said that there seems to be elements who do not want the peace process to move forward. He said the "most powerful and well-entrenched ones" are in the government. The Moro leader said there are also other groups, who have reasons to fear "radical change in the status quo." "I think it is not wrong to say I include the Catholic Church and to a little extent the Protestant Church in this category, although the latter has shown greater flexibility as far as solving the conflict in Mindanao is concerned," Iqbal said. Aside from Archbishop Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, the Catholic Church has not yet come up with a definitive position on the "Moro question," he said. He is, however, optimistic that the Church will soon work for the "eradication of the unjust economic, political or social conditions" in the country. The MILF is the largest rebel group in the southern Philippines that has waged a guerrilla war for more than three decades. Reports say about 120,000 people have been killed and about two million others displaced during the conflict. Bishop hails deal to keep on talking to MILF PM14116
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