Ecumenical group asks Pope’s help in peace efforts

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QUEZON City, Jan. 18, 2015—An ecumenical group wants to bring to the attention of Pope Francis the lack of peace in parts of the country, requesting for his help in inviting local warring factions to return to the negotiating table.

Pope Francis pays the Philippines an apostolic and pastoral visit from Jan. 15 to 19, 2015. (Photo: Carl Castillo)

“[In this regard,] we would like to appeal to Your Holiness if you might reinforce our calls to both parties for them to return to the negotiating table and honor previous agreements to help resolve the roots of the armed conflict and attain a just and lasting peace in the country,” shares Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana, Obispo Maximo of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, who also chairs the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), in a statement.

45 years of conflict

According to him, an armed conflict has been raging in the Philippines for 45 years and has affected thousands of lives.

“Our people’s cry for peace is deeply rooted in their daily struggle for survival. A just and lasting peace would mean for us food on the table, just wages and job security, land for the landless and a respect for God’s gift of human dignity,” he says.

NCCP, whose members include mainstream Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel call to faithfulness and justice, have been active in calling for a resolution to the armed conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP).

Fajutagana explains the formal peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP which resumed earnestly in February 2011, after more than six years of impasse, have been stalled again since June 2011.

Impunity, human rights abuse

“Over recent years, there are many human rights defenders, including clergy and lay people of our member churches who have been extrajudicially killed, disappeared, tortured, imprisoned on trumped up charges and have suffered other forms of abuse,” he notes.

According to Fajutagana, the group hopes that if the Holy Father gets to talk to “those in power in our country”, he would raise the issue of why “advocates of the poor” are subject to human rights abuses and their perpetrators enjoy impunity.

Speaking for NCCP, he also thanks God that the Holy Father has come to the Philippines “with a Gospel heart full of compassion for the poor”.

“We praise God for your humility and faith, and ask God that just as your presence has blessed our nation, that the people of the Philippines may also be God’s blessing to you. Our Council and our member churches will continue to hold Your Holiness in our prayers as you continue to speak truth to power,” he tells the Pope. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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