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Religious leaders renew call for peace education amid Marawi crisis

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Filipino Religious leaders who attended the annual peace gathering in Rome, have vowed to advance the spread of peace education in all educational institutions to reach a common understanding and address violent extremism in Mindanao.

In a statement forwarded to Zamboanga Today on Wednesday, Muslim scholars and Catholic archbishops called for “peace” amid the ongoing-armed conflict in Marawi.

“Our hearts cry for peace. We felt the sufferings of the displaced people of Marawi and the whole region, particularly the ongoing ordeal of innocent hostages inside the city. We experienced helplessness as well as righteous indignation while the weapons of destruction daily increase the death toll of combatants and civilians,” the group said in a statement signed on September 15 in Rome.

Among the signatories of the statement are Msgr. Anthony Ledesma, archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Msgr. Edwin de la Pena, bishop of Marawi, Dr. Said Zamahsari Salendad, secretary general of the Hayatul Ulama, and Ustadz Abdulmuhmin Mujahid, executive director of the regional Darul Ifta of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Sant’Egidio community, a Rome-based Catholic lay organization, sponsored the gathering. This year conference’s theme is “Paths for Peace.”

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo and Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s (MILF) chairman Al Hajj Murad Ebrahim also attended the gathering.

The group said the conflict in Marawi, which is running for almost four months, “dramatizes…three interconnected challenges to peace in Mindanao: violent extremism and terrorism; the uncertainties of the political peace process; the crucial role of religious leaders and communities in the re-building and development of Marawi.”

The signatories clarified that the crisis in Marawi is not about “religious war,” saying it is “a war against terrorism and violent extremism.”

Proof, they said, are the “many stories of mutual assistance between Muslims and Christians attest the rejection of this evil. These stories of solidarity likewise witness the Filipinos’ sense of sharing a common humanity with anyone in need, regardless of creed or community.”

The group went on to call for the “inclusion of peace education at levels in our school, madaris (Islamic schools), and communities.”

“We need to build a culture of peace based on personal integrity, respect for human rights, and inter-cultural dialogue, care for environment, peaceful coexistence and eradication of poverty. Islam and Christianity are religions of peace. We recall the words of Andrea Riccardi, founder of Sant’Egidio, that ‘war is the mother of all poverty.’”

The group vowed to work with the youth, saying as the “future leader…they have so much to contribute towards building our communities with renewed vision of Mindanao as our shared homeleand.”

The signatories have called on Philippine legislators to “prioritize and expedite the passage of the proposed Bangsamoro   Basic Law (BBL).”

The enactment of the BBL is part of the implementation of the historic peace agreement signed by the government and the MILF in March 2014 – ending the decades-long armed conflict in Mindanao.

However, the bill has suffered delays, due to questions about its constitutionality.

President Rodrigo Duterte has recently certified the bill as urgent. This signals for the legislators in both houses to expedite the passage of the BBL.

“An approved BBL shall provide a positive alternative to violent extremism,” the group said. (Darwin Wally Wee)




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