ucanews.com reporter, ManilaUpdated: April 09, 2015 07:40 PM GMT
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo (right). (File photo by Vincent Go)
Cardinal Orlando Quevedo, archbishop of Cotabato in the southern Philippines, announced the creation of a group on Monday that aims to lobby for the passage of a law that would create an autonomous region for the Moro people in Mindanao.
The "Friends for Peace," a group of Christians, Muslims, tribal people and religious leaders, has called for dialogue and consultation to support the implementation of the peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) brokered last year.
Quevedo said the group's vision includes the "formation of a human ecology of harmony and peace" among various ethnic groups and religious traditions, especially in the southern Philippines.
On Sunday, the prelate further called on the faithful to support the Citizens’ Peace Summit that President Benigno Aquino called last week.
The president created a five-person council tasked to convene a national peace summit that would scrutinize the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
If passed by Congress, the BBL would create a new Moro autonomous entity to replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
Council members include Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, former ambassador Howard Dee, businessman Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala and Muslim youth leader Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman.
"The work of the peace council initiated by the president is most laudable," said Quevedo during his Easter message.
"Such effort needs our prayers and support, and may the Lord bless their work for peace.”
The proposed creation of the Bangsamoro region has drawn mixed reactions after the bungled police operation that resulted in the death of 67 people in Maguindanao province in January. The incident led some sectors to question the sincerity of the MILF to pursue peace.
Quevedo, however, said the public needed to understand the peace process in Mindanao through the conduct of "a sober and objective analysis" of the proposed BBL.
The prelate said the "self-determination long aspired for by Moros [should] not become an empty word".
In a statement issued last week, the conveners of the summit said they have already agreed to expand the composition of the group to include other "pro-peace and pro-dialogue" people.
The group said it aims "to provide an avenue for dialogue between independent-minded citizens who believe in the importance of understanding the BBL and to discuss its implications for peace and development in our country at a fair and reasonable manner."
In his own Easter message, Tagle urged the faithful "not to allow worries and cynicism to blind us to the needs of the poor among us".
"Let us go to all the corners of our country as missionaries of peace," Tagle said, adding that the faithful should "behold the Risen Jesus in every needy person".
Last year, the Philippine government and the MILF agreed to end decades of rebellion in exchange for self-rule in several southern provinces that would be called the Bangsamoro region.