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by Professor Henry Francis B. Espiritu.

Tonight, I offer my supplications during my evening prayer for peace in Maguindanao, Zamboanga City and the whole of Mindanao. I am one with the whole Filipino nation in praying for the repose of all those who died in the armed encounters at Mamasapano, Maguindanao. The grim news of the armed encounters at Mamasapano brought to our attention the grave challenges of peacemaking and harmony that is before us. The challenges are great but we must never waver of our hope that peace and harmony will eventually come to Mindanao. Even as I condole and weep with the family of all those who died in the Mamasapano clashes, I continually pray that the peace process between MILF and the Philippine government will still be upheld and respected by both camps. We have already come a long way in our staggered yet steady efforts for peace and trust building. Much goodwill has already been expended by both sides (Muslims and Christians/ GRP and MILF) in their search for a peaceful resolution to this age-old Mindanao conflict; that I feel much pain, being an advocate of peace and interfaith relations over this sad turn of events in the Mamasapano clashes and in the recent bombing of Zamboanga City bus terminal. I hope and pray that these events will not discourage us from treading the path of peace. We have come this far already in our search for a peaceful resolution to our fratricidal and internecine war in Mindanao, I hope that we will still be level-headed and open-hearted to pursue the path of peace and will never allow pessimism, pain, discouragement and anger over these events to derail our steady efforts towards peace and amity in Mindanao.

Pray tell me this! Does the bridge-building which was carefully and steadily crafted by both Philippine government and the leadership of our Muslim brethren in the MILF do not anymore matter to us? How about the various development programs that are being initiated and maintained to boost friendship and amity between Muslims and Christians in Mindanao—do these have to go into oblivion? I HOPE NOT! The peace process in Mindanao has already come a long way; and just when everyone is hopeful that eventual peace is within reach, this unfortunate armed encounters had to happen—and I cannot help but feel really saddened over this unfortunate turn of events. Despite our shock, pain and mourning over the deaths of our brothers in the recent clashes at Mamasapano, I firmly hope and pray that government and non-governmental institutions, the religious and private sectors as well as all peace-loving Filipinos will once again affirm their commitment for peace in Southern Philippines. Let us continue to enlarge our goodwill initiatives and bridge-building efforts to once again proactively affirm and assiduously work for genuine peace and reconciliation among Muslim, Christian and Lumad communities in Mindanao.

With these sad and depressing turn of events in the arduous path of peace in Mindanao, I believe that there are so many pressing issues that leaders of goodwill and people of goodwill from both sides (from the GRP and MILF/ Muslims-Christians) must seriously address and work on for us to preserve the gains we have attained thus far in the peace process. We ought to maintain our lines of dialogue open, and we must not allow divisive elements and these sad events to sway us away from our right course of action—peace and harmony for the tripartite peoples of Mindanao. May each Christian, Muslim, Indigenous People of Mindanao and the Filipino nation remain steadfast and constant in our fidelity and commitment to the peace process. We ought to uphold this urgent intention in all our prayers and petitions… Oh Lord, make us instruments of Your peace… Let us all pray for peace and work for peace in behalf of the tripartite peoples of Mindanao (Muslim-Christian-Lumad): and more especially, let us pray for peace in Maguindanao and Zamboanga City.
(Written by Prof. Henry Francis B. Espiritu on January 27, 2015 at 5:54 PM.)

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