Religious Leaders Call for Peace and Sobriety in South

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Christian and Muslim religious leaders have urged detained former Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) chairman Nur Misuari to prevail upon his followers to stop further acts of violence and lay down their arms.

In a call for unity and sobriety, religious leaders from the Interfaith Conference for Peace said the recent conflict in Mindanao has already displaced thousands of people and called on all parties concerned to resolve the conflict with sobriety.

At the same time, the Interfaith leaders and members condemned the recent bombings in Makati, General Santos and Davao cities, saying these are acts of terrorism and those responsible should answer to the fullest extent of the law.

Haj Ansari Alonto, president of the Muslim Association of the Philippines and chairman of the Mindanao Islamic Center, said the age-old conflict in Mindanao has to be resolved now, but should be addressed in a broader perspective, not just through a military solution.

"Hand in hand with the military solution is the institutional response of rehabilitating the victims of war by creating an atmosphere of non-violence," he said.

"Children in refugee camps play with toy guns and are exposed to acts of violence. So when they grow up, they will do the same thing all over again. This becomes a vicious cycle and these are things that must be addressed seriously," he added.

Imam Pendatun Bagel said those responsible for the bombings must answer for their deeds. "They should be arrested and punished as they have committed acts against humanity," he said.

Father Leonardo Mercado, executive secretary of the Episcopal Commission for Inter-religious Dialogue, Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines(CBCP), affirmed the Catholic Churchs position on non-violence. "We are opposed to all forms of violence and we would still pursue reconciliation as a method of achieving peace in Mindanao," he said.

Reacting to questions on the use of emergency powers in Mindanao, Connie Alaras, representing various indigenous religions, said this is time for great discernment on the part of President Arroyo. "The President, as mother of the country, must address the issue with great discernment as many lives are at stake here," she said.

The Interfaith Conference for Peace is an interdenominational organization that promotes lasting peace and the cessation of hostilities and violence in the Philippines. …