Church, EcoWaste Coalition Plea for Peace in War-Torn Mindanao

Quezon City. A Catholic Church leader and an environmental coalition have jointly appealed for peace in Mindanao as Muslims commence on September 1 the blessed month of Ramadan and as Christians mark the “Creation Month.”

“September 1 is a propitious day to declare a ceasefire, stop the cycle of violence and resume the stalled peace process in Mindanao,” said Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez, Jr. who also chairs the Public Affairs Committee of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP).

“The first day of Ramadan, the most venerated month in the Islamic calendar falls on September 1, which is also the beginning of the Creation Month that is celebrated by Christians from various denominations to remind the faithful about our shared responsibility to care for the earth,” Bishop Iñiguez explained.

Environmentalist Roy Alvarez, EcoWaste Coalition’s Vice-President, echoed the church leader’s hope for peaceful settlement of the raging conflict in Mindanao as the group warned against the harmful impact of violence to frontline communities and their environment.

“We urge all parties involved to return to the negotiating table and reject all forms of violence that only lead to community devastation and carnage. For the benefit of the people and the environment, please agree and move to silence the guns,” Alvarez said.

The EcoWaste Coalition lamented that the country’s environment is already in a sorry state and that the military conflict is only aggravating the situation, saying that the “bullets, grenades, improvised explosive devices and other war tools destroy wildlife, disturb native habitats and poison the air, water and soil with toxic chemicals.”

Amid the spate of violence in Mindanao, Bishop Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition recalled the United Nations statement on environment and development, popularly known as the 1992 Rio Declaration, which says that “warfare is inherently destructive of sustainable development” and that “peace, development and environmental protection are interdependent and indivisible.”

Bishop Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition deplored the huge amount of resources being wasted in the escalating conflict by government and non-government forces, which could otherwise be directed to meet the basic needs of the rural and urban poor, including ensuring the people’s access to primary health care, humane housing, sustainable jobs and to a healthy and safe environment.

“It is our hope that all forces on both sides of the fence will rise to the occasion, respect the Ramadan and the Creation Month, silence their guns and resume the elusive search for just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” Bishop Iñiguez and the EcoWaste Coalition stated.

Last August 27, Archbishop Angel Lagdameo exhorted the faithful to offer a prayer for peace in the violence-rocked region “in solidarity with the Mindanao Bishops as well as the thousands of innocent people who are forced to evacuate and live in uncertainty and fear because of the current crisis and war.”

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