Philippine Episcopate Calls for Immediate Cease-fire in Mindanao

MILF Attack Leaves 22 Dead

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MANILA, Philippines, MAY 6, 2003 ( The nation’s episcopal conference appealed to Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and a guerrilla-group leader «to order a cease-fire on all fronts» and to resume peace talks.

The Permanent Council of the conference made the appeal to Arroyo and Moro Islamic Liberation Front leader Hashim Salamat in the wake of an attack Sunday on the town of Siocon, in Zamboanga.

Twenty-two people, including eight civilians, died during the attack, the Misna missionary agency reported. The MILF also took civilians as hostages.

«Cease-fire in these circumstances is the demand of sheer logic, the demand of wisdom, the demand of compassion,» the seven archbishops and bishops of the permanent council said in a statement released today.

«War is hell for all people,» they said. «The sooner we end it, the better for combatants and civilians alike. Then a just and lasting peace could be pursued rationally and determinedly at the negotiating table.»

Church leaders regret the ongoing war in central and southern Mindanao, the second largest island of the archipelago. The war, which began in February, has resulted in thousands of innocent civilians taking refuge in evacuation camps in four provinces.

«They seethe with inner rage, their human dignity shredded to pieces by a life of total dependency,» the bishops said in their statement. «They lack food, medicines, shelter and clothes. Many of their children have died.»

Archbishop Orlando Quevedo, president of the bishops’ conference, heads the Permanent Council.

In the meantime, President Arroyo demanded that the MILF to hand over the people who attacked Siocon, before the preliminary peace talks resume Friday. «We will not compromise against terrorism. We will pursue them wherever they breed,» she said.

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