Christians urged to stop pushing for Mindanao war

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ZAMBOANGA CITY, Feb. 10, 2015—An Italian priest in Mindanao has apologized on behalf of those lobbying for a “total war” in the conflict-laden region, mostly coming from Christian sectors, in the light of the recent clash between Muslim armed men and government forces in Mamasapano, Maguindanao.

Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME, founder of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement, urged Christians to recall the Gospel’s central message of love, especially as public opinion was stirred against Muslims because of the death of 44 Philippine National Police – Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) personnel.

Datu Antonio Kinoc (in brown jacket), of the MILF peace panel joins hundreds of Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) members for the signing of Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro at the Malacañan, March 27, 2014. (Photo:OPAPP)

Ideologies of violence

“As a Christian priest I want to ask forgiveness for the voices calling for total war in Mindanao, coming often from Christian sectors and politicians,” D’Ambra said.

“What will happen if there will be war in Mindanao again? What will happen if this war will give more space to international terrorists who justify their violence through ideologies that already are circulating in our midst?” the priest pointed out.

D’Ambra said the recent conflict in Maguindanao involving the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) had affected the celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week last Feb. 1 to 7. The occasion nevertheless became a fitting reminder for people to unite against ideologies of violence and war.

Dent in the harmony

“Wrong ideologies are the major reasons why terrorism in an atmosphere of secularism is creating so much terror and violence. A violence justified by religious ideologies also happened in the past to Christianity and now is more visible in Islam,” he said.

With the tension in Mindanao, D’Ambra described the fear among Christians and Muslims alike. While Christians are leaving places more populated by the  Muslims in Mindanao, Muslims also feel suspicious being in cities populated mostly by Christians.

“In this alarming situation that is reflected in Mindanao, we are invited to put away all the bad feelings and emotions in this delicate time of the history of Mindanao and of the world and make an examination of conscience,” the priest said.

“I appeal especially to religious leaders, both Muslims and Christians. We have a big responsibility. I advice the Muslim leaders to be more active in promoting the concept of mercy and compassion, the central message of Islam, and to the Christians to recall the central message that is love,” he appealed.

Aside from the Mamasapano clash, which claimed lives of both Muslims and Christians, military and civilians alike, Mindanao also witnessed an armed uprising in Zamboanga in September 2013.
Several families were displaced and left homeless after the attack of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on the seat of government in Zamboanga City.
Both the MNLF and BIFF are against the creation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), which in turn will lead to the creation of a Bangsamoro political entity.

The probe on the Mamasapano clash will delay the passage of the BBL at the House of Representatives, which was initially targeted by March. (CBCP News)

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