Armed fighting has once again erupted in Southern Philippines (parts of Mindanao island) following the issuance by the Philippine Supreme Court of a temporary restraining order against the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) in early August, 2008.
Many people, most of whom are civilians, have been killed and more than 200,000 have been displaced in the affected areas and the situation is clearly a humanitarian crisis. Animosities and prejudices between Christians and Muslims have once again been heightened because of the attacks and counterattacks that have been happening in the last weeks. In light of the situation, the members of the Peace Education Network issued the following statement:
AN APPEAL TO END THE VIOLENCE IN MINDANAO
The Peace Education Network appeals to government forces (GRP) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to cease fighting and to heed the call expressed by many civil society groups for the resumption of dialogues and peace negotiations between them.
We appeal to the GRP and MILF to respect the existing Ceasefire Agreement and for both parties to stop taking provocative and offensive actions that can only lead to more armed confrontations.
We implore the two parties to stop the fighting and to save the peace process to which both of them have already contributed much.
We appeal for the protection of civilians against harm. Hundreds of thousands of civilians have already been displaced from their homes and livelihood and have become the “collateral damage” to this resurgence of armed conflict in Mindanao.
Finally, we call upon government officials to stop arming civilians. These weapons can easily be used irresponsibly and would further create more division, animosity, and insecurity in the communities. It is a very dangerous move given the hostile climate in many communities after the aborted signing of the GRP-MILF Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) and the events that followed. Arming civilians would only encourage communal violence, a horrifying situation that our country experienced some three decades ago.
We, the members of the Peace Education Network, will try to contribute what we can towards peace in Mindanao.