By Roy Lagarde, CBCP News
A GROUP Catholic leaders in Mindanao made a last-ditch effort to lend support for a new autonomy law tipped to end decades-long conflict in the country’s south.
The Mindanao Catholic Church Leaders for Peace (MCCLP) said that the Bangsamoro Organic Law is not just another piece of legislation but a peace agreement that involves the future development of the region.
“After many failed attempts, this may be the last concrete chance for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” they said.
The group, composed of bishops, educators and a humanitarian aid organization, made the statement ahead of the plebiscite on the BOL next week.
Among them are Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of Cotabato, Archbishop Romulo Valles of Davao, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, and Bishop Edwin Dela Peña of Marawi.
According to them, the new autonomy legislation addresses the “historical injustices” against Muslims and represents the “mutual acceptance” by both sides for the creation of a Muslim autonomous area.
The church leaders said there are many reasons why people should support the autonomy law, although they warned of some potential obstacles.
“We are aware that many challenges will continue to confront the Bangsamoro Transitional Authority over the next three years as well as the future elected members of the Bangsamoro Parliament,” they said.
But still, they said that it will be left to the residents to ensure the participatory and viable functioning of the autonomous region.
The church leaders said they would focus on the “horizontal” peace process such as engaging in the “dialogue of life, action and spirituality” among Christians and Muslims.
“We also need to commit to intrafaith and interfaith dialogue towards mutual respect and understanding so as to reduce or eliminate biases and prejudices,” they added.
As advocates of peace, “we must also know what the BOL says in order for us to make an informed and responsible choice, and vote on the merits of the BOL and not on the basis of bias and prejudice.”
They also offered to help in quality education and in creating a more inclusive history of Mindanao.
Other members of the MCCLP are retired Archbishop Fernando Capalla and Auxiliary Bishop George Rimando of Davao, Bishops Jose Cabantan of Malaybalay, Guillermo Afable of Digos and Cerilo Casicas of Marbel.
Bishops Abel Apigo of Mati, Emmanuel Cabajar of Pagadian, Julius Tonel of Ipil, Severo Caermare of Dipolog, Antonieto Cabajog of Surigao and Raul Dael of Tandag also signed the statement.
Below is the full statement of the Mindanao Catholic Church Leaders for Peace in support of the Bangsamoro Organic Law: