Pope BENEDICT XVI
From the Office of Amina Rasul, Lead Convenor,
Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy
The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.
Thus starts A Common Word, an enlightened document that honors mutual understanding and respect between the two religious traditions, and which has brought us here today.
It is with regards to peace and justice for Muslims and Christians that we from Mindanao, are writing you today. Justice has long been denied the minorities of the Philippines – both our Muslim brethren and our indigenous peoples' communities. Their oppression has led to armed ethnic conflict between the Muslim minorities and government. Peace processes and interfaith collaboration had successfully negotiated our differences which helped increase mutual understanding, re-establish trust, calm the situation for the sake of peace and preserve human dignity.
The war between the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) ended when government and the MNLF signed a peace accord in 1996. The war between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) was on ceasefire, underway to a peaceful resolution when the MILF and government undertook a peace process immediately upon the signing of the peace agreement with the MNLF. Unfortunately, war has resumed after government withdrew from signing the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain in August.
Over the last two months, more than 100 have been killed and 600,000 have become refugees. While we believe that the MILF units that targeted the villages have engaged in serious violations of international law and should be held accountable, we are also seriously concerned about the formation of armed militia units with support from the Department of Interior and Local Government. The setting up of armed groups will not protect civilians as some local government officials believe. Rather, it will lead to more chaos, insecurity and division among local communities. The protection of civilians is the responsibility of the State and its security sector such as the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police.
We hope that Your Holiness could help us bring peace and justice to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao by expressing concern about the unfolding humanitarian crisis and appeal for restraint for the protection of all civilians, as well as for the opening of access for the provision of speedy humanitarian assistance to the affected population.
As a concrete manifestation of how our faiths move us to help restore the dignity of our people in Mindanao by granting them their most cherished life in peace, we are making this appeal to Your Holiness to help us convince the government of the Republic of the Philippines and MILF to go back to the peace negotiation table as soon as possible. We believe that it is imperative that both government and the MILF share the responsibility for moving the peace process towards a sincere dialogue that reflects heavily the hearts and minds of all people who are affected by the escalating war in Mindanao.
Submitted in all respect and love to Your Holiness and in the name of the One Almighty God.