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Don’t snub the Communists

MANILA (UCAN): Pilgrims for Peace, a faith-based group working to bring peace into troubled Mindanao, is urging people to actively participate in the peace process between the government and armed wing of the Communist Party, the New Peoples’ Army.

With disastrous consequences for the people and the economy of the lush province of Mindanao, the two have been at loggerheads for almost 50 years resulting in the death and displacement of tens of thousands of people.

On June 17, Pilgrims for Peace launched a nationwide campaign aimed at updating the public on the prospects of peace.

Father Benjamin Alforque said that the current imperative is to talk and that refusing to dialogue with the Communist Party is a recipe for a another 50 years of continued unrest.

Pilgrims for Peace will conduct what it has dubbed talking tours to provide an impetus for organisations, schools, institutions and communities to be involved in the peace process.

“These activities will offer a basis and framework for equipping the public for participation,” Father Alforque said.

He said that there is a need to educate people about the nature of the peace talks, especially some Church leaders, as they are in bad need of information about what is going on.

He described the head-in-the-sand attitude of some bishops, priests and sisters, who are against talking with rebels of any kind, as a block to the whole process of peace-making.

“Church people have different views about the peace talks and the Communists,” Father Alforque explained, saying, “We need to explain to the public that supporting the peace talks doesn’t mean supporting Communist ideology.”

The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, the largest ecumenical formation of Church leaders, expressed delight that bridges are being built by both parties to have a just and enduring peace.

In a statement on June 18, it described the initiative as a bridge of hope that principled negotiations may bear fruit and address the roots of the armed conflict.

Pastor Irma Balaba, from the Promotion of Church People’s Response, said Church groups “cannot over-emphasise the importance of addressing injustice in our society and uprooting the oppressive conditions and structures that move the marginalised to take up arms.”

Pastor Balaba added, “We urge all Filipinos, attune your ears to the melodies of justice. Let us be part of this peace process and show the government that we want a long and lasting peace.”

In a joint statement released on June 16, the peace panel and the rebel leaders agreed to include an amnesty proclamation for all political prisoners on the agenda of formal talks that are scheduled to start in July.

Previous talks between the government and the Communist Party broke down in 2011, with both sides insisting on preconditions before starting another round of formal negotiations.

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