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Philippine church groups renew call for resumption of peace talks
 

A file photo shows a priest holding a placard calling for peace during a demonstration in the Philippine capital in 2017. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

 

Mark Saludes - LiCAS.news
August 13, 2020

Church groups in the Philippines renewed calls for the resumption of the stalled peace process between the government and communist rebels following the killing of a rebel peace consultant.

The groups said it is high time for the government and the rebels to go back to the negotiating table and “give the country a chance for genuine peace.”

“In a time of great uncertainty because of the Covid-19 pandemic, peace should be the balm to heal our land,” read a statement from the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform.

The group called on all stakeholders to “tirelessly seek and pursue.”

They condemned the killing of 72-year old Randall Echanis, a consultant of the rebel peace panel during the talks. The church leaders said Echanis is a “great loss” for the peace process.

“As church leaders working for just and enduring peace, we demand an immediate impartial investigation … on the tragic killing of [Echanis] and we pray that justice be served,” read the statement.

Echanis was killed inside a rented house in Quezon City by still unidentified assailants on August 10.

Philippine Independent Church Father Dionito Cabillas, lead convener of the ecumenical group Isaiah Ministry, said the resumption of the peace talks “would allow the country to heal faster from the pandemic.”

“The continuation of the talks that could lead to the cessation of armed conflict could help the entire country focus on how to combat the pandemic,” he said.

The priest urged the government and the communist-rebels “to exhaust” all possible avenues to “create an environment” that would allow them to go back to the negotiations.

On Nov. 22, 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed Proclamation 360 declaring the termination of the peace negotiations.

Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo of Kidapawan, chairman of the Commission on Social Action, Justice, and Peace of the Catholic bishops’ conference, urged the government and the communist rebels to “allow peace negotiations at the local level.”

In a text message sent to LiCAS.news, the prelate said it is high time to “involve and empower local leaders” of both parties to address local conflict issues.

The prelate said that stakeholders at the local level “know the particular situation” and the involvement of other sectors, including the church, could be made possible.

Among those who signed the statement were Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, retired prelate of Cagayan de Oro, Anglican Bishop Rex Reyes of the Ecumenical Bishops Forum, Protestant Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Rev. Aldrin Penamora of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and Benedictine Sister Mary John Mananzan of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines. xxxx

 

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