|Religious leaders call for cease-fire in Philippines|
United Methodist Bishops Solito K. Toquero (left)
and Leo A. Soriano sign a covenant at the conclusion of a
Muslim-Christian peace-building dialogue in July 2007 in Davao City,
Philippines. A UMNS file photo by Kathy L. Gilbert.
A UMNS Report
By Kathy L. Gilbert*
Aug. 28, 2008
United Methodist Bishop Leo A. Soriano has joined other religious
leaders in calling for a cease-fire in the southern Philippines between
the government and Muslim rebels known as the Moro Islamic Liberation
The violence erupted in early August on the island of Mindanao after
the Philippine Supreme Court blocked a deal that would expand an
existing Muslim autonomous zone, according to news reports. The deal had
been opposed by Christian communities.
The clashes have displaced more than 300,000 people, mostly from
Muslim areas, according to relief workers in Mindanao, the
second-largest island in the Philippines.
"Moro issues in Mindanao are legitimate issues of justice and peace
that require honest scrutiny historically, politically, economically and
culturally," said Soriano, who leads the church's Davoa Area in the
"The Philippine government should take this seriously, and
negotiations towards this goal should be done in utmost transparency.
While there is an exigency for resolution, let us be careful in crafting
our options. Military action is not the correct option," he wrote in an
Aug. 20 pastoral letter.
Soriano emphasized that differences in religious beliefs are not to
blame for the fighting. The conflict, he said, is due to "economic,
political and cultural injustices."
At a United Methodist-sponsored peace-building gathering last summer
for Muslims and Christians in the Philippines, Soriano said conflict in
Mindanao is not due to religious issues, though "religion can be an
"It is our hope our churches will be one of the pieces that leads to
peace," the bishop said at the July 2007 dialogue in Davao City.
"Moro issues in Mindanao are legitimate
issues of justice and peace that require honest scrutiny historically,
politically, economically and culturally."
– Bishop Leo A. Soriano
Dialogue participants created and signed a covenant pledging to act
together to bring a peaceful end to human rights violations; continue to
hold peace dialogues; educate members of local churches and masjids,
especially children, about each other's faith; and understand and
respect each other's religious practices.
Recently, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines issued a
call for peace following reports that violence had escalated in Mindanao
and that its victims include civilians and children.
"We counsel all UCCP members to exercise Christ’s message of love for
our Muslim brothers and sisters," wrote the Revs. Juliet Solia-Aguilar
and Raymundo P. Gelloagan, national program coordinators of the UCCP. "…
We must resist any temptation to foster prejudice and ill will on the
basis of faith."
InPeace Mindanao, a grassroots movement linking Muslims, indigenous
peoples and Christians, called for the "roots of the armed conflict" to
"We believe that peace in Moroland can only be achieved when the
roots of armed conflict—economic inequality, political marginalization,
national oppression, and imperialist globalization—are addressed.
"We are saddened, however, that the political machinations of the
Arroyo regime lead to the further minoritization of the Moro people
instead of upholding their right to self-determination."
In a recent speech, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,
declared that "there is no all-out war. What we are doing," she said,
"we are doing to have all-out peace in Mindanao."
The New York Times reported Arroyo is exerting pressure on the
11,000-strong rebel front that has been fighting for Muslim self-rule
since the 1970s.
Soriano cited the United Methodist law book which states "war is incompatible with the teachings and example of Christ."
"As a church, we denounce this war because its consequences are
deplorable," he said. "It is lamentable to see innocent civilians, both
Moro and other inhabitants, to flee from their homes with tremendous
fear and anxiety. It is also disheartening to note that when they return
to their homes, their houses and properties are turned into ashes and
*Gilbert is a United Methodist News Service writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Muslims, United Methodists pledge to work for peace
United Methodists, Muslims partner to ease suffering
Civilian deaths in Mindanao rising
Philippines Episcopal Area
Board of Global Ministries
Philippines: Faith and Justice
Philippines: Mercy and Mission