Peace negotiators mark the start of formal talks with a handshake in Oslo last February
Peace negotiators of the government and the communist-led National Democratic Front
(NDF) issued a statement yesterday calling on Church groups to support a peace process aimed at ending the almost four-decade armed conflict in the country. "The Church can provide pressures to keep (both parties) on the table for the continuation and completion of negotiations," said Jurgette Honculada, a member of the government peace panel
. She said the Church can provide "valuable inputs" through public dialogues and consultations on issues such as the use of landmines, recruitment of children for combat, revolutionary taxation, displacement and killing of indigenous peoples. Honculada suggested that the imperative of peace be integrated into Bible studies, theological curricula and pastors' convocations. Fidel Agcaoili, vice chairman of the NDF peace panel, recently stressed the role of the Church as a "keeper of the process." "Be there to protect and make sure that the peace agreement will be implemented," he told a forum of Church people on April 1. He said that as a "moral guardian of the people," the Church must also be "analytical of the issues." The government and the NDF resumed formal negotiations in Oslo, Norway, last February after six years of deadlock.