Church appeals for peace in Zamboanga and helps clash victims
The rebel group abducted dozens of civilians and have set conditions for their release, which include independence of the region from the Philippine government.
The Catholic Church in Zamboanga in southern Philippines has appealed for peace and reconciliation after violent clashes between Philippine troops and Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) on Monday which killed six rebels. Its churches in the city stayed open to shelter Christian and Muslim refugees.
Violence continued on Tuesday with less hope for any improvement in the situation. The rebel group abducted dozens of civilians and have set conditions for their release, which include independence of the region from the Philippine government.
Bishop Guillermo Afable of Digos called for prayer to help avert an escalation of the conflict. He said that “an armed conflict is not a harbinger of peace, but only serves to cause further violence. As Pope Francis said, we continue to pray for peace in the world, because all these conflicts are connected and the work of evil.”
Apostolic Administrator Crisologo Manongas of Zamboanga said that dialogue and negotiations were the only way to put an end to the conflict in Mindanao.
Schools and offices are closed and the entire province is on maximum alert. Even the cathedral risks being raided by extremist elements. "This is not a conflict of a religious nature, but a clash of a political nature and the government should not give in to blackmail, but start negotiations," the prelate said.
Condemning the violence that targets innocent people including children, the Archdiocese of Zamboanga appealed to the MNLF leadership, to "lay down their arms." The prelate recalled that “churches of the archdiocese are open, both for Christians and for Muslims affected by the attack.”
Islamist insurgents of the MNLF, an Islamic separatist group established in the late 1960s, call for independence of Mindanao from Manila. They demand the creation of a Muslim country in the southern island of Mindanao, which is rich in mineral resources.
Despite a peace treaty signed in 1996, hostilities between rebels and central authorities still break out from time to time.
The draft peace deal recently signed in Kuala Lumpur between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, one of the separatist groups, has been rendered ineffective by fresh clashes.