ASIA-OCEANIACardinal Quevedo: “I am for peace…”
On Sunday, 25 January 2015, a police operation took place at Tukanalipao, Mamasapano, Maguindanao, between the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Originally a mission to serve arrest warrants for high-ranking terrorists, the ensuing battle led to the deaths of 44 members of SAF, 18 from MILF and 5 from the BIFF, and several civilians. As a result of this tragic battle, the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) presently being deliberated in Congress is in jeopardy. The BBL is meant to finally bring peace after many years of violence, kidnapping and killing. In March 2015, the Oblate Archbishop of Cotabato, Cardinal Orlando QUEVEDO, wrote a letter calling for understanding, reconciliation and peace. He entitled his letter: “Grieving, Doing Justice, Working for Peace (A Letter to all Christians)”. The following is an excerpt from that letter:
Fellow Disciples of Christ:
Greetings of peace in the Lord!
As a Filipino and Mindanawon, I grieve profoundly for our gallant SAF troops who sacrificed their lives in pursuit of justice in Mamasapano. I grieve deeply with their families.
As a disciple of Christ I likewise grieve for the other Filipinos, Bangsamoro civilians and combatants, who perished in the same horrible tragedy. I grieve deeply with their families.
With the families of all the victims I demand that justice be done, that answers to the many questions raised by the whole nation be forthrightly answered. Those responsible for the tragedy must be brought to justice without fear or favor. The attribution of guilt must not be one-sided. It is now coming to light from the ground that inhuman brutalities were committed by both sides. Guilt is on both sides of that fateful, clearly avoidable, combat.
Yet in the face of outrage and calls for all-out war for the manner by which our law enforcers lost their lives, I call for peace. I call for rationality rather than emotionalism. I call for justice that is not selective. I call for openness and fairness rather than bias and prejudice. …
I have been a missionary among
Muslims for the most part of my priestly life. I have been a parish priest in
Jolo. I taught Muslims and Christians in a Catholic University which now has a
predominantly Muslim student population. I have witnessed a harmonious dialogue
of life among the students. Many of our soldiers and high ranking officers
studied in our Catholic schools. So, too, did members and leaders of the MILF.
They are not terrorists. Terrorist have in fact broken away from them. The MILF
only aspires and struggles politically for a place under the sun in freedom and
dignity. The BBL was negotiated painstakingly with stops and detours for at
least five years. It is not an agreement that was hurriedly done. It fulfills
the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination. It preserves our fundamental
principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity. …
I am for peace, the peace that God grants to people of good will. I am for the peace that God gives through the collaborative work of men and women who work conscientiously for the good of the whole country. By focusing on the good of a Bangsamoro minority in the “peripheries” who have suffered social injustices for centuries, they are working for the common good of all Filipinos. They are healing historic wounds that have caused great suffering to all Filipinos.
And so must I grieve for our courageous SAF troops who have lost their lives. I must also grieve for all the other Filipinos who perished in Mamasapano. I grieve and pray for the families they left behind, their inconsolable widows and children, for their uncertain future. For their sake I seek justice and accountability.
I beg you as fellow disciples of Christ, the Prince of Peace, to pray and work together for peace so that Mamasapano will not repeat itself. Let not emotions, biases and prejudices prevail over objective reason and over our most cherished Christian values of justice and peace, truth, love and harmony.
It is the Spirit of God that gives hope and infuses love and harmony among peoples of different faiths and cultures. With God’s Spirit we can soar over tragedies, we can restore trust for one another, we can strive together for harmony and peace. Ultimately it is in the enlightened heart where love and peace begin.
May the God of Justice, Peace and Love bless us all.
+Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I.
Archbishop of Cotabato
While the secular media has reported the terrorist attempt to kill Christian congregations at two churches in Youhanabad, a suburb of Lahore, on 15 March 2015, we Oblates need to know that our brothers in Pakistan are living close to these dangerous situations. In fact, there is an Oblate house of formation (philosophy students) in Youhanabad, not far from the churches where these sad events happened. The Delegation Superior, Fr. Derrick WARNAKULASURIYA tells of this tragedy and asks for our solidarity in prayer.
Two churches in Youhanabad,
Lahore, came under a suicide attack on Sunday, killing at least 17 people and
injuring over 80, some of whom very critically.
Youhanabad is the biggest Christian settlement in Pakistan where over 40 Christian denominations are living. The total Christian population there is about one hundred and fifty thousand, of which about 35% are Catholics. There are several churches and worship centers for each denomination. The Catholic Church and the Church of Pakistan are two major churches that house respectively 2000 and 1000 people at Sunday morning services. It was estimated that last Sunday, there were about 1700 people assembled for the Sunday Mass in the Catholic Church, while several hundred were also gathered to the Christ Church of the Church of Pakistan. Both churches were provided police security, but the few police personnel who were there at the Catholic Church were watching a cricket match that Pakistan was playing against Ireland in the world cup tournament when the attacker detonated his devices. If it had not been for the 18 year old Catholic boy (Akash) who wrestled with the human bomber and sacrificed his own life, several hundred men, women and children would have been massacred in a blood bath inside the church. Shortly thereafter, the second attacker managed to shoot three policemen who were providing security for Christ Church. He detonated the bomb he was wearing, killing himself and several worshipers.
Angry Christians turned violent
and caught two suspected terrorists whom they lynched and then set their bodies
on fire. Others destroyed both private and public properties.
On 17 March, the bodies of the Christian victims were buried amidst much tension. All entries to Youhanabad were sealed and no movement was possible. I too had to stay in a nearby parish house from morning to evening. It was a sleepless night for all of us and no doubt for all the Christians living here for fear of Muslim mobs who had warned of setting fire to the whole area. We sent our philosophy students out of our house to a close by convent and now (18 March) we decided to send the boys home, for the situation is deteriorating. I also told the archbishop and the rector of the seminary that we are taking this action for the safety of the boys. The archbishop too agreed with our idea and perhaps the whole seminary will be closed till Easter.
Our situation is quite uncertain, and I have advised the other community members to be ready to leave the place at least for a few days, because there have reportedly been very unpleasant announcements over the public address systems of some of the mosques. Keep us in your prayers. God bless you all.