Updated: July 13, 2015 07:01 PM GMT
Philippine Catholic bishops announce their support for a Muslim region in Mindanao during their annual meeting in Manila on July 13. (Photo by Roi Lagarde)
The Philippine Catholic bishops declared support for the establishment of an autonomous Muslim region in Mindanao "that remains part and parcel" of the Philippines.
The establishment of the Bangsamoro, an autonomous Muslim region, is part of the peace deal signed by the Philippine government and Moro rebels last year to end a five-decade old insurgency.
"We want a [Bangsamoro Basic Law] that responds concretely to the concerns, hopes and aspirations of all stakeholders," the bishops said in a statement issued at the end of their annual meeting in Manila on July 13.
They noted that "questions and varying opinions about the peace process and the draft Bangsamoro Basic Law abound at all levels of Mindanao society."
Philippine legislators are currently deliberating the passage of the basic law that will eventually create the Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.
"Like everyone else we, bishops, want a just and lasting peace," said the bishops in the statement titled "Striving for a Just Peace, the Moral Road."
"For this reason, we want a [basic law] that is rooted in social justice and promotes social justice," the bishops said.
The bishops, however, stressed that their statement "does not intend to be either for or against" the various drafts of the basic law being discussed in Congress.
"It simply presents social and moral principles and envisions, in general terms, a [basic law] that flows from the same principles," the bishops said, adding that the "moral imperative to lasting peace" is "Christians, Muslims, [indigenous peoples] and members of other faiths have to begin trusting in one another."
"Continuing mistrust is the road to continuing violence and unrest in Mindanao," the bishops added.
Various church and faith groups in the Philippines earlier called on Philippine legislators to immediately pass the proposed basic law.
Teresita Quintos Deles, presidential adviser on the peace process, earlier called on "all faiths and their leaders" to help the government and rebel groups in Mindanao to "help guide us all to become one people."
"If we are unable to mend the fault lines among our people, then our way toward the future will be most definitely difficult. We may have different religions but only one God," Deles said.
Mohagher Iqbal, chief negotiator of the rebel Moro Islamic Liberation Front, assured that "no one in the Bangsamoro will be discriminated against based on religion."
Last week, Muslim legal experts assured Christians and other minorities that religious freedom will be respected in the proposed Bangsamoro region in the southern Philippines island of Mindanao.