Catholic leaders call for ‘diversity’ in new Bangsamoro entity

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY — As thousands head to the polls Monday for the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) plebiscite, Roman Catholic Church leaders in Mindanao are calling for openness between Muslims and Christians living within and around the autonomous region.

“We need to focus on the horizontal peace process on the ground – [that is], by engaging in the dialogue of life, action and spirituality among ordinary Christians and Muslims,” said the Mindanao Catholic Church Leaders for Peace (MCCLP) in a statement released ahead of the plebiscite.

MCCLP is composed of Roman Catholic bishops from all over Mindanao, as well as presidents of religious schools, and officials of church-based institutions.

MCCLP also called on the faithful to “commit to intrafaith and interfaith dialogue towards mutual respect and understanding so as to reduce or eliminate biases and prejudices. Religion should be viewed as a bridge towards reconciliation, not a wall that divides.”

“As Catholic Church leaders advocating for peace, we must also know that the BOL says in order for us to make an informed and responsible choice, and vote on the merits of the BOL and not on the basis of bias and prejudice,” MCCLP said.

Residents cast their votes inside Camalig Elementary School for the ratification of Bangsamoro Organic Law in Marantao, Lanao del Sur, on Monday (January 21) (Photos by Nef Luczon)

MCCLP has also offered to help in quality education in the Bangsamoro region by creating “a more inclusive history of Mindanao that recounts the narratives of Muslim and Lumad events and personalities, and in providing other means of support such as fielding volunteer teachers for the madaris schools of Muslim school children.”

MCCLP said its support for the ratification of the BOL was based on its belief that the law will address the “historical injustices against the Muslim community.” It recognized that a new autonomous government would address the “diminution of the Bangsamoro’s ancestral territory” that posed a threat to the Moro’s “cultural identity and the loss of their political governance.”

“In this light, the BOL is more than just another piece of legislation; it is more significantly a peace agreement that involves the future development of Mindanao and the rest of the country. After many failed attempts, this may be the last concrete chance for a just and lasting peace in Mindanao,” the group said.

For his part, Usman Sarangani, the current paramount sultan of Mindanao, assured the traditional leaders like him will play a constructive role in the soon-to-be-created Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

“I believe the traditional leaders as a sector is indispensable in running the affairs of the Bangsamoro government, in so far as addressing the peace and order is concerned,” Sarangani said in a previous interview.

Sarangani hopes that traditional leaders will be called by the BARMM regional government to act as advisers on major issues such as peace and order, as they are “effective in conflict resolution.”

“Sultans are more influential than a governor or mayor today because the people pay so much respect to the traditional leaders, [as we] are so much concerned on the plight of the people,” Sarangani said.  Jigger Jerusalem / PNA –

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