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Philippines

Peace in Mindanao remains elusive despite hard work

Fight for harmony will continue, interfaith groups say at peace-building gathering

Albert Arcilla, Zamboanga City

Albert Arcilla, Zamboanga City

Updated: April 08, 2016 04:35 PM GMT
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Peace in Mindanao remains elusive despite hard work
Spanish Father Angel Calvo speaks before a gathering of peace activists in Zamboanga City on April 4. (Photo by Albert Arcilla)
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Peace in in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao remains elusive despite the continuous hard work of advocates on the ground, according to an interreligious peace group.

"We have forgotten the basic things," said Yusuf Roque Morales, a National Commission on Muslim Filipinos official at the start of a four-day peace-building course in Zamboanga City.
 
Morales noted that almost 10 years after Muslim religious leaders issued an open letter to Christians in 2007 "peace remains elusive."
 
Muslim religious leaders from around the world released the document, "A Common Word between Us and You" in 2007 to call for peace between Muslims and Christians.
 
The document started an interfaith dialogue that earned in 2008 the "Eugen Biser Award" and the "Building Bridges Award" from the Association of Muslim Social Scientists in the United Kingdom.
 
Morales, however, said the basic challenge remains, especially in Mindanao, on "how to connect the common word, which is love of God and love of neighbors."
 
He said understanding the concept of love is "a way to confront extremism."
 
"Building peace from our religious traditions, not finding differences in religions is the aim of peace building," said Spanish Father Angel Calvo, lead convener of Interreligious Solidarity for Peace, a group that works to promote harmony between Mindanao Muslims and Christians.
 
The priest, who has been working in Mindanao for more than four decades, noted challenges in promoting peace in Zamboanga City and the nearby province of Basilan, places that Father Calvo described as "prone to religious conflict and discrimination."
 
Father Calvo said his group has been trying to promote peace by engaging in activities, such as celebrating "Iftar," or the breaking of the fast during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, and the celebration of Christmas together "as a way of promoting a community of peace."
 
In recent weeks, the Philippine government and the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front vowed to uphold the gains of a peace process that has seen the failure by the government to implement a 2014 peace deal in Mindanao.
 
"Together, we kept moving ever onward, determined to give this tired, tired land the fresh start it so sorely needs, and keeping faith that in the end, peace will always win," said Teresita Quintos Deles, the government's peace adviser.
 
The Philippine Congress failed to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law, a result of 18 years of peace negotiations between the Philippine government and the Moro rebels.
 
The law would have established a new autonomous political entity known as the Bangsamoro in Mindanao that would replace the current Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. 
 
 
 

 

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