Religious groups united for peace in Mindanao

Davao, Philippines - Asian religious groups want an end to the decades-old conflict that is destroying the southern peninsula of Mindanao, and will do whatever it takes to assure peace and stability in the region. This is the result of the meeting among representatives of the World Conference of Religions for Peace, held in Davao last March 29.

Ebrahim Al-Hajj Murad, leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (who for years has led the pro-independence guerrilla group against Manila) met with leaders of the Bishops-Ulama Conference of Mindanao, led by the Catholic bishop of Davao, Fernando Capalla. During the meeting, the Muslim leader expressed the hope of seeing "a greater common commitment" to peaceful mediation in the area.

The prelate responded in a positive manner, and said that he supports the Front's desire to reopen negotiations with the government, "the only path for resolving the problems of Mindanao". Talks between Manila and the rebels have been interrupted for a few months: the government drew back in the face of some of the territorial requests of the Islamic separatists, and issued an anti-terrorism law that gives the armed forces "extraordinary powers against all threats to peace".

According to Fr Amado Picardal, a Redemptorist peace activist, "bilateral talks do not concern only the parties in question, but the entire population of this country. Anyone who gives the proper recognition to the sanctity of life is interested in seeing them concluded in the best way possible".