(A Pastoral Statement on Peace)

The Gospel of Peace, Jesus our Peace, impels us – the Bishops of the Philippines – to cry out once more, “Peace, not war!” With the threat of war in the world, with ongoing armed conflicts in our own land, we realize how tragically accurate the words of the psalmist are to describe our day:  “I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for fighting! (Ps. 120:7).”  But despite all odds we will not tire of crying out, “Peace, not war!”

As disciples of Christ this is what we are called to do and to be – peacemakers and ambassadors of reconciliation.

While we know that wars can be just, our prudential judgment on the present realities urges us to proclaim that the apparently imminent war against Iraq is not morally just.  A war may be swift and may be brief. But these do not morally justify war.  Its repercussions will linger destructively with the radicalizing of moderates, the heightening of animosities and hostilities exploding into terrorist attacks in various parts of the globe. Much deeper will be the chasm that divides peoples of different cultures and of different faith because of a war that could be avoided through peaceful means. This is a lesson of history repeated many times over.

Appeal to the United States and its Allies

Therefore, once again we appeal to the government of the United States and its allies not to launch any preventive war.  Consider and follow with great care and wisdom the ever-widening worldwide clamor against war.  Consider how the world order could be devastated beyond imagining by a war that is avoidable and whose objectives could be achieved by peaceful means.

Appeal to Iraq

We appeal to the government of Iraq not to provoke war but to comply with all alacrity, transparency and integrity with the resolutions of the United Nations on disarmament.  There is nothing to gain but everything to lose for the people of Iraq by delay, defiance, and dissimulation.

Appeal to the Philippine Government

We appeal to our own government not to be led by the might of super powers but by right prudential judgment based on fundamental moral principles.

Our minds go over the volatile situation in our own country. For more than 30 years we have not known absolute peace. Insurgencies have continued in all those years, hindering progress and development, creating great havoc in terms of human lives and properties.

We appeal once more to our government to resume peace negotiations with the NPA-CPP-NDF and the MILF, to agree to the cessation of hostilities as quickly as possible, and to persevere with all sincerity in the way of peace even when claims and counterclaims of ceasefire violations are made. Our government must hold the high moral ground in humility and be the first to invite contesting forces to the peace table.

Appeal to the NPA-CPP-NDF

To the NPA-CPP-NDF we also urgently appeal to sit at the peace table with all openness and join the people in the national search for peace.  Participate in the people’s striving for justice and development through the ways of peace.

Appeal to the MILF

We are more than aware of the deep aspirations of the Bangsa Moro for freedom to chart their own future in a pluralistic society. We are deeply concerned about the historical failures of successive governments and leaders to respond justly and adequately to peoples’ fundamental needs and freedoms. But we all know that killing one another does not resolve differences. Such violence on both sides only leaves to future generations a memory and legacy of mutual biases unresolved and of blood shed in vain.

As we appeal to the government, so now we appeal with all our heart to the MILF to agree to a cessation of hostilities, to resume the peace negotiations, and together with the government to search perseveringly for a just, peaceful and lasting solution to the conflict.

We are all sadly aware that from the very beginning armed conflicts have claimed thousands of lives.  They have destroyed incalculable amounts of property. They have at various times caused great suffering to hundreds of thousands of internally displaced persons.

Appeal to those who Aim at Killing the Innocent

We also dare to appeal to those who have made it their strategy to destroy public installations and private properties, and even to kill innocent civilians in order to achieve their objectives.  We appeal to you to realize that in history such methods have never achieved their objectives. Instead they have earned the name of terrorism as well as moral condemnation by religious leaders of all faiths. We appeal to you to listen with all your heart to the will of God and know that his will does not justify the killing of the innocent.  Rather, it is his will that harmony and peace exist, that justice be achieved by peaceful means rather than by conflict and terrorism.

Appeal to all Catholics

In a particular way we appeal to all Catholic faithful to pray and work for peace. The situation of constant conflict is a great challenge to us when we pray.  God has reconciled us to himself and with one another through the Paschal Mystery of Jesus, the redeeming mystery of his Passion, Death and Resurrection.  We celebrate this event of redemption and reconciliation most especially when we celebrate Holy Mass. The Eucharistic celebration is the supreme prayer of the Church since it is the sacramental memorial of the Paschal Mystery. It is at the Mass that we pre-eminently encounter Jesus our Peace. It is at the Mass that we greet one another with the Peace of Christ.  Celebrating Mass is peace-making.

But in this year of the Rosary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, October 1, 2002 to October 31, 2003, we are also challenged to pray for peace by way of the Rosary. The Popes have many times proposed the Rosary as a “prayer for peace” (Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter Rosarium Virginis Mariae [RVM], October 16, 2002, no. 6).  Pope John Paul II teaches us the significance and the relevance of the Rosary:

At the start of a millennium which began with the terrifying attacks of 11 September 2001, a millennium which witnesses every day in numerous parts of the world fresh scenes of bloodshed and violence, to rediscover the Rosary means to immerse oneself in contemplation of the mystery of Christ who “is our peace” since he made “the two of us one, and broke down the dividing wall of hostility” [Eph 2:14].  Consequently one cannot recite the Rosary without feeling caught up in a clear commitment to advancing peace… (RVM, no. 6)

For this reason we appeal to all our faithful, led by their pastors in every diocese and parish, including families, BEC’s and other faith communities, religious congregations, institutions, organizations and movements:

To set up a schedule of celebrating the Eucharist and of regularly praying the Rosary to obtain from God through the powerful intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary the grace of peace in the world and particularly in the Philippines;

To organize processions and prayer rallies of the Catholic faithful built around attentive reading of the Word of God and devout praying of the Rosary in common;

To set up prayer-reflection groups of lay people assisted by priests and religious to discern, reflect on and discuss the various issues of justice and peace that relate to the present threat of war in Iraq or to the situation of conflict between the government, rebel groups, and terrorists – for the purpose not only of developing an informed and mature conscience but also of doing concrete action for peace.

Appeal to Peoples of Other Faiths

Finally we appeal to peoples of other faiths and to all men and women of good will.  The work for peace is universal. At the end it is God’s gift to everyone. We appeal for solidarity and unity so that together we might be able to organize ecumenical and inter-religious initiatives for peace.  We need to pray together, reflect together, and act together without the divisive intrusion of ideological and political partisanship.

We place all these appeals and initiatives in the hands of Jesus our Peace at whose side stands his first disciple, the Blessed Virgin Mother, Queen of Peace as well as our sure guide to peace.

For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:

+ORLANDO B. QUEVEDO, OMI, D.D.
Archbishop of Cotabato
President, Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines

March 10, 2003

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