Philippines: Islamic Group Urges Pope To End Conflict In South

Manila, 4 Nov. (AKI) – An Islamic group in the Philippines is urging Pope Benedict XVI to help end three decades of armed conflict in the southern province of Mindanao. In an open letter to the Pope, the Philippine Council for Islam and Democracy said the ongoing conflict in Mindanao has exacerbated poverty and hampered development in the region.

“We hope Your Holiness could help us bring peace and justice to our brothers and sisters in Mindanao by expressing concern about the unfolding humanitarian crisis and appeal for restraint for the protection of all civilians, as well as for the opening of access for the provision of speedy humanitarian assistance to the affected population,” the letter said.

PCID’s convenor, Amina Rasul, is now in Rome to participate in the landmark Catholic-Muslim Forum being held at the Vatican this week.

Rasul plans to personally hand over the open letter to Pope Benedict XVI when delegates are officially meet the pontiff on Thursday.

Without peace and justice between these Muslims and Christians, the PCID said, “there can be no meaningful peace in the world” and the future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians.

“As a concrete manifestation of how our faiths move us to help restore the dignity of our people in Mindanao by granting them their most cherished life in peace, we are making this appeal to Your Holiness to help us convince the Philippine government and the MILF go back to the negotiating table as soon as possible,” the group said.

The organisation estimates more than 100 people have been killed in the past two months during conflict between the MILF or Moro Islamic Liberation Front and government forces. The MILF is a militant organisation committed to creating a separate Muslim state in the south of the country.

“We believe that it is imperative that both (the) government and the MILF share the responsibility for moving the peace process towards a sincere dialogue that reflects heavily the hearts and minds of all people who are affected by the escalating war in Mindanao,” they urged.

Conflict escalated in the south of the Philippines after the Supreme Court blocked the government from signing the memorandum of agreement on ancestral domain with the MILF, saying that it was “unconstitutional”.

There are an estimated 4.5 million Muslims in the Philippines and the majority live in the south of the country.