Dearly beloved countrymen:
Peace be with you all!
We are fully aware that as we wish you peace, there is no peace in our land. That is why we pray for this peace upon you and upon us all.
Even as we write to you, the armed conflict between the government and insurgent groups continues. Political factions and feuding families engage in their own wars of attrition. Added to this are the almost daily reports of kidnappings for ransom, and crimes of unimaginable cruelty. The words of the prophet Jeremiah ring true today: “We wait for peace, to no avail; for a time of healing, but terror comes instead” (Jer. 14:19).
But some bright rays of hope have shone on the horizon. The National Unification Commission established by the President of the Republic has succeeded in making contacts of varying degrees with different rebel groups.
We express our whole-hearted support for the work and impartiality of this commission.
We now feel there is real hope for the cessation of hostilities at least in some fronts.
We must nurture this hope. We must decide for peace, work for peace together as Filipinos.
In a way we have no other choice but this if we want to survive as a nation and progress as a people. Either peace, or we perish.
For without peace we cannot remain as one. Without peace we will continue to be left behind by our neighbors who are making giant strides on the way to economic progress. Peace is the most important element of the common good, which is the good of each one and of all.
Because of this, peace must also be the work of all. No one is exempted from making peace. Each one and all together must be peace-makers.
The peace we must work for is not only the cessation of armed conflict. The parties in the peace discussions being conducted by the National Unification Commission are convinced that even if the present protagonists were to stop fighting today, other armed conflicts would arise unless the more fundamental issues of poverty and injustice, the inequitable distribution of wealth, and the abuse of power, are addressed radically. Pope John Paul II is certainly correct when he tells us, “If you want peace, reach out to the poor” (Message on the World Day of Prayer for Peace, January 1, 1993).
Only all of us together can address these issues and the armed conflicts they spawn. Peace cannot be the work only of the conflicting parties but must be the work of all of us. In the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines we on our part directed the concrete implementation of the 10-point Agenda for Peace elaborated in our Pastoral Letter, “Seek Peace, Pursue It” (January, 1990).
But now we ask you:
- Let us singly or in assemblies make known clearly and loudly to the conflicting parties our collective desire that all armed conflicts should stop, and that negotiation s for peace be carried out at the dialogue table. Let us shout: “No more armed conflicts! No more!”
- Let all armed groups who have not done so yet come forward to the negotiating table with sole motive of doing what is good for our own people and for peace, forgetting their own vested interests.
- Let each person respect the right of every other human being be he employee or employer, worker or capitalist, tiller or landowner, poor or rich, female or male, child or adult. Let none do to another what one would not want done to oneself.
- Let everyone do his/her duty as a citizen and observe the just laws of the land from obeying traffic signal s to paying correct taxes. Let each one ask, “What can I do for my country?”
- Let everyone who is invited participate in the different provincial or regional consultations sponsored by the NUC in order to make known to the NUC and all conflicting parties the genuine mind of the people regarding the things that make for peace. We ask the convenors of these assemblies to make a special effort to obtain the participation of the voiceless and the powerless in our society. We pledge to do our share to make these assemblies real fora for knowing the people’s mind and for achieving consensus.
- Let all those who cannot participate directly in these assemblies make their opinions known either to the participants or to the NUC directly.
- We ask all persons in authority and in government to create an ambience of peace by disinterested and competent service of the people’s genuine interests, and to courageously resist those who work against the common good. Peace will go a long way if the government agencies simply carry out their duties with competence and honesty, and if government officials and personnel resist temptations to graft and corruption.
But most important, let us all pray for peace, singly in our hearts, and together in our homes, churches and public assemblies. Peace is God’s gift to us even before it is our task. He wants to give it to us. We open our hearts to this gift of peace in prayer. Let us all pray for peace. A people at prayer will be a people at peace.
We must add to prayer acts of penance for peace especially during this coming Lenten season.
This prayer and acts of penance will be both a sign and an incentive of that fundamental turning to God without which there can be no peace. All human conflicts begin with the turning away from God in the hearts of persons. Peace begins with turning to God in those same hearts. Hence, our Lord Jesus summons us, “The time has come and the Kingdom of God is close at hand. Repent, and believe the Good News!” (Mk. 1:15) Repent: “Magbalik-loob kayo sa Diyos at gawin ninyo and kalooban ng Diyos!” For in God’s will is our peace.
We have the Lord’s assurance: “… then if my people who bear my name humbled themselves, and pray and seek my presence and turn from their wicked ways, I myself will hear from heaven and forgive their sins and restore their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
May Jesus, the Prince of Peace, “give light to those who live in darkness and the shadow of death, and… guide our feet into the way of peace” (Lk. 1:79). May Mary, His Mother, Queen of Peace, obtain this most precious grace for us.
For and in the name of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines,
(Sgd.)+CARMELO D.F. MORELOS, D.D.
Bishop of Butuan
January 25, 1993
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