From the United Church of Christ in the Philippines- February 25, 2011
Lest We Forget
A Call to Peacemaking Amidst Peace Talks
Genuine peace comes when justice is served.
For as long as peasants remain landless,
For as long as laborers do not receive just wages,
For as long as we are politically and economically dominated by foreign nations,
For as long as we channel more money to the military than to basic social services,
For as long as the causes of social unrest remain untouched,
There will be not peace.
(Council of Bishops Statement, Peacemaking: Our Ministry, 1986)
With the resumption of Peace Talks between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as well as the GPH and the National Democratic Front (NDF), the United Church of Christ in the Philippines renews a commitment to peace based on justice. Armed conflict in the Philippines is indeed a manifestation of “unpeace.” Lest we forget, our experience bears that the roots of insurgency are in the economic condition of the people and the social structures that oppress them; thus, we call for the reaffirmation n and intensification of our peacemaking efforts amidst peace talks.
Peace talks, as their name suggests, are intended to create conditions that will bring peace. As Church people whose Statement of Faith commits us “to participate in the establishment of a meaningful and just social order,” seriously engaging in the peace talks is imperative. A look at the substantive agenda of on-going talks reveals negotiations on ancestral land, self determination, human rights, socio-economic reforms, industrialization, and political reform. Our peacemaking ministry should contribute to deeper discussion of the peace talks and a deeper understanding of the meaning of a just and lasting peace.
We enjoin the entire United Church of Christ in the Philippines to revitalize our peacemaking ministry in light of the following:
Peacemaking calls us to education and advocacy
To those under the grind of hunger and poverty, the rising cost of basic commodities and utilities, the continued realities of joblessness and landlessness, and the corruption within government, as recently exposed with the Pabaon and cash conversion systems of the Armed Forces in the Philippines, have been unrelenting. Our peacemaking ministry should be a concrete and comprehensive educational response for local churches and the communities where they are based to understand the local and global realities of “unpeace” and the structures of injustice, so that they can imagine and work towards peace based on justice.
As peacemakers, we advocate for an all-encompassing meaning of peace to cover wholeness, well-being, growth, harmony, security, equality—not just the absence of violence and war. We are committed to supporting and facilitating processes that will allow for the building of a just social structure, especially as advocates for the poor, oppressed and marginalized.
Peacemaking calls us to prayerful discernment and vigilance.
Critical evaluation and prayerful discernment should guide our engagement in peacemaking. As participants in peace talks have often referred to the “elusiveness of peace,” we should be vigilant that our engagement only fosters growth toward true peace based on justice. Although we must be decisive and wise so as not to follow those who talk peace, but actually work to derail it, we must also open our minds and allow for thepossibility of the sincerity of others. As the people of God, we should identify threats to peace and human dignity in our national life. We should be vigilant and should critically evaluate national and international policies and challenge them when they do not contribute to peacemaking.
Peacemaking calls us to active obedience to God.
Obedience to God in these critical times means unwavering commitment to the all-transcending task of building peace founded on justice. We should work for under-standing, reconciliation and unity while promoting human dignity and human development. We should engage trainings to build the capability and commitment of our local churches to undertake sanctuary ministry for internal refugees and victims of human rights violations. We should actively pursue recent cases of human rights violations in the courts to overturn the prevailing culture of impunity. Prayer vigils, theological discourse, creative arts, and political analysis are but a few of the actions that can contribute to peacemaking ministry.
At this moment in history, we are at a crossroad with potentials for peacemaking. We will find our significance as the people of God through our active participation in fulfillment of God’s mission, which will ultimately lead us to Shalom. As the peace talks proceed, we must be vigilant against machinations that disguise foreign intervention, intelligence operations, or militarization as peace building. But, let us also give our fullest efforts in grasping the current openness to build roads of peace based on justice that can benefit the Filipino people who long for abundant life and a just and lasting peace.
Bishop Reuel N.O. Marigza, General Secretary
Bishop Elorde M. Sambat, North Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Roel P. Mendoza, Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Arturo R. Asi, South Luzon Juridicational Area
Bishop Jaime M. Moriles, West Visayas Juricitional Area
Bishop Dulce Pia-Rose, East Visayas Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Melzr D. Labuntog, Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
Bishop Modesto D. Villasanta, Southeast Mindanao Juriditctional Area