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Bishops' help sought in peace building

Christians will not be alienated in new Bangsamoro territory, govt says

ucanews.com reporter, Davao City
Philippines

January 14, 2013

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The government is appealing to Catholic bishops for help to allay fears that a new Moro region in Mindanao will disenfranchise Christians.

"We need the Church's support to achieve this goal," said Miriam Coronel Ferrer, head of the government peace panel with Moro rebels, during a recent dialogue with Church leaders.

She acknowledged concerns expressed by Christian groups that "insecurity, land issues and political marginalization will worsen" with the establishment of a new political entity as a result of a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

At the dialogue, Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, auxiliary bishop of Cotabato, voiced growing concerns that non-Moros will not have "meaningful political participation."

Coronel-Ferrer assured the bishops that there will be "equal protection" for all in the new political entity that will be called the Bangsamoro.

She said respect for basic rights of individuals and groups will be provided for in a law that will be passed by Congress, including an allocation of seats for all sectors to ensure their role in governance.

"Transforming relationships between the parties ... from enemies to partners requires concerted efforts by all sectors," Coronel-Ferrer said.

She also assured that there are a lot of avenues open for engagement with the Catholic Church. 

"Please continue to dialogue with us, we know that you have radio stations which could help us answer issues and reach out to a bigger audience through phone patch interviews," Coronel-Ferrer said.

"If you think there are other mechanisms that need to be created as part of negotiations please tell us because we can always adapt and modify according to need," she added. 

The dialogue, which was spearheaded by the Episcopal Commission on Inter-religious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, aimed to define the role of the Catholic Church in peace-building.  

The government and the MILF reached a major breakthrough in October with a "framework peace agreement" to stop almost four decades of conflict in Mindanao that has killed more than 120,000 people.

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