(Statement of the Catholic Bishops of Mindanao, 13 September 2013)

Zamboanga is virtually paralyzed and in a state of fear ever since armed groups said to be elements of the MNLF entered the city. The ensuing military skirmishes have displaced thousands of families. A great number of people, including an assistant parish priest, are held as hostages and even serve as human shields. A number of dead and wounded have been reported. Five city barangays have been sealed off. Several fires have destroyed homes and properties. Normal life has been violently disrupted. And today, hostilities have broken out again.

We, Catholic Bishops of Mindanao, are deeply saddened and disturbed by this terrible tragedy to human life and property. We express our solidarity with all those affected, Muslims and Christians alike.

We condemn the terror that has been inflicted on an entire city. We condemn the inhumane act of using hostages as human shields.

We appeal to the government, NGO’s, religious groups, and civil society to provide assistance to evacuees.

We appeal to the MNLF and the government to negotiate for the release of hostages. We also appeal to them to discuss the deeper issues regarding the ongoing MILF-GPH peace negotiations that the armed groups wanted to raise by their action.

We are assured by the statements of government officials that the MILF and MNLF peace issues are “complementary,” that the 1996 Peace Agreement has not been terminated, and that “the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro (FAB) and its Annexes will build on the Final Peace Agreement (FPA) with the MNLF.”

As leaders of our Catholic communities, we join hands with other religious leaders — Muslims, Christians, and Lumad — in praying and working for peace. Peace, yes; war, never. Last Sept. 7, we joined Pope Francis in a Day of Prayer and Penance for World Peace, particularly in the war-torn country of Syria. Now we also offer our prayers for peace in Mindanao. The theme of the coming Mindanao Week of Peace best sums up our aspirations: “Dialogue and Hope are the Key to Peace.”

Bp. Guillermo Afable (Digos)
Bp. Jose Colin Bagaforo (Cotabato)
Bp. Emmanuel Cabajar (Pagadian)
Bp. Antonieto Cabajog (Surigao)
Bp. Jose Cabantan (Malaybalay)
Abp. Fernando Capalla (Davao)
Bp. Romulo de la Cruz (Kidapawan)
Abp. Jesus Dosado (Ozamis)
Bp. Elenito Galido (Iligan)
Bp. Dinualdo Gutierrez (Marbel)
Bp. Martin Jumoad (Isabela)
Abp. Antonio Ledesma (Cagayan de Oro)
Msgr. Crisologo Manongas (Zamboanga)
Bp. Nereo Odchimar (Tandag)
Abp. Orlando Quevedo (Cotabato)
Bp. George Rimando (Davao)
Bp. Julius Tonel (Ipil)
Abp. Romulo Valles (Davao)

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