Peace talks, mining among issues raised on Mindanao Week of Peace

Nov. 27, 2020

CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Church leaders from various denominations in this city celebrate the Mindanao Week of Peace with a joint statement calling for an end of hostilities between government and armed revolutionary groups amid the ongoing pandemic and natural calamities.

This year’s commemoration from November 26 to December 2 highlights those calls in a statement from the Inter-Faith Forum for Peace, Harmony, and Solidarity.

The signatories include leaders from the Roman Catholic Church headed by Archbishop Jose Cabantan and his predecessor, retired Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, both from the archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro; Bishops Rudy Julinda and Felixberto Calang, of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente; Bishop Ligaya San Francisco of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines; and Bishop Genesis Udang, of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; and Bishops Arthur Colot and Abner Dalupu, of the Metro Cagayan de Oro Ministers Fellowship Inc.

The Christian leaders call for continuing assistance to communities affected by the COVID-19 pandemic and typhoons Rolly and Ulysses that left nearly 85,000 families homeless in Luzon.

But the prelates focused on two issues, namely “a comprehensive ceasefire from all sides and the resumption of peace talks” and “environmental restrictions on mining and logging operations” to protect communities in Mindanao.

“We have come to realize our interconnectedness and common humanity – encompassing Christian, Muslim, and Lumad communities alike,” their statement said.

Interfaith solidarity has been a unique feature of religious leaders that go back to the Marcos’ dictatorship years in response to social justice and human rights issues. It continues now amid a pandemic and issues of peace affecting Moro and Lumad communities.

The Duterte government called off peace talks with the National Democratic Front late in 2017 and has red-tagged Lumad schools and activists. While the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region has been established, nearly 100,000 Meranaws remain displaced in Marawi since the siege in 2017.

The church leaders also said environment-destructive activities “still hangs over many parts of our island of Mindanao due to irresponsible logging and mining operations — now aggravated by the extension of the Tampakan mega-mining permit in South Cotabato that would affect lumad, Muslim and Christian communities.”

The church leaders echoed the joined statement on Human Fraternity by Pope Francis and Ahmed Al-Tayyeh, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, that called for “the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path, mutual cooperation as the code of conduct, and reciprocal understanding as the method and standard.”

The statement also cites the call of United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres about ‘the severity of the crisis we face in the COVID-19 pandemic highlights the tragedy and folly of the ongoing suffering caused by armed conflict.”.

“Our inter-faith traditions impel us to protect and conserve the environment as a gift from the Creator and to take care of our common home, our island of Mindanao,” the leaders said. (

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