(Call of the Interfaith Youth to End Hostilities in Sulu and Basilan)
National Interfaith Youth Leaders Conference
Bishop La Verne Mercado Ecumenical Center, NCCP
August 24-27, 2007
Let the deafening cry for peace of our brothers and sisters in Mindanao be heard! May an end to the war be sought in the spirit of justice and lasting peace!
The war in Basilan and Sulu is but the latest chapter in the historical conflict in Mindanao. For the Moro people, bloodshed, displacement, and fear had become a familiar scenario. The vicious cycle of violence had claimed thousands of lives, further insecurity, and human rights violations. The same holds true to the Christians and Indigenous People who are also victims of the war in the affected areas.
Today, we are witnessing the all-out war under the government’s “war against terror” resulting to massive displacement, destruction of lives and livelihood. Since the eruption of the military offensives in the areas and communities which the military has claimed to be the lair of the bandit Abu Sayaff group, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) estimated that there are already 24, 000 evacuees. About 14, 455 person or 2, 723 families from Sulu sought temporary shelter in public schools. However about 2, 256 families (14, 455 persons) who fled Basilan villages have no temporary shelter and stayed with their relatives from other communities and evacuated to cramped public schools.
We believe that most of the affected victims are youth and children who have been severely affected by the impact of the war. Their studies have been suspended indefinitely, their source of livelihood disrupted, and many of them are psycho-socially traumatized in varying degrees. The continued massive deployment of soldiers already numbering 17 battalions in Sulu and Basilan had also undermined the peace process between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the government. As result of which, we are afraid that the conflict would eventually spill over other areas in Mindanao. Furthermore, there are even multiple cases of illegal arrest and detention not only in Basilan and Sulu, but also in Metro Manila.
We are worried that the United States’ announcement of continued presence of US military troops in Mindanao and US military aid to the Philippine campaign against terror, will aggravate the situation and prolong the conflict in Mindanao.
Our experiences should have taught us that blood and bullets could not pave the road for lasting peace and progress, especially in Mindanao.
We call on our fellow Filipino youth, churches and religious leaders to add their voice in support for the increasing clamor to stop the war, and make efforts in attending to the immediate needs of the affected families and communities who are in dire need of food, potable drinking water, medicines and temporary shelter or sanctuaries.
We, the newly formed Religions for Peace Philippine Interfaith Youth Network composed of Muslims, Indigenous Peoples, Christians and peace advocates, call on our government to stop the war in Mindanao and address the roots of the problem through peaceful and constructive means.