DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Days before the plebiscite for the ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), several Catholic church leaders from Mindanao express support for its passage as they say this may be “the last concrete chance for peace in Mindanao.”
The Mindanao Catholic Church Leaders of Peace (MCCLP), which included 15 bishops and heads of Catholic universities, circulated a statement over social media explaining their support to the BOL.
“It addresses three historical injustices: the diminution of their ancestral territory; the threat to their cultural identity; and the loss of their political governance.
“In this light, the BOL is more than just another piece of legislation; it is more significantly a peace agreement that involves the future development of Mindanao and the rest of the country. MCCLP said in their statement.
The BOL or Republic Act 11054 was crafted after six years of peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. It carves a new autonomous region for the Moro community called Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The plebiscite on January 21 will determine if former ARMM areas will support the BOL. Another plebiscite on February 6 will determine provinces North Cotabato and Lanao del Norte be included in the BARMM.
The MCCLP said there will be challenges confronting the creation of the new territory and explain these issues on the ground.
But they said the BOL addresses such issues such as the representation of indigenous peoples, minorities, and settlers.
They called on to their fellow Catholic leaders “to focus on the horizontal peace process on the ground” which includes, “engaging in the dialogue of life, action, and spirituality among ordinary Christians and Muslims”
They also see the need to commit to intra-faith and interfaith dialogue towards mutual respect and understanding so as to reduce or eliminate biases and prejudices.
“Religion should be viewed as a bridge towards reconciliation, not a wall that divides. As Catholic Church leaders advocating for 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,” MCCLP said.
The group also offered to help in educating the public to a “more inclusive history of Mindanao that recounts the narratives of Muslim and Lumad events and personalities”, and other means of support like sending volunteer teachers for the Madaris schools.
The signatories of the letter include Cardinal Orlando Quevedo of the Archdiocese of Cotabato, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Archbishop Romulo Valles, Bishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of Cagayan de Oro, Bishop Edwin De la Peña of the Prelature of Marawi, and Fr. Joel Tabora, President of Ateneo de Davao University and the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP).(davaotoday.com)