In the past, priests, religious sisters and prelates have been kidnapped by terrorists or extremists in Mindanao. More numerous are the lay people who had been kidnapped
by similar groups. We are all deeply saddened and righteously angered by these criminal cases. Lay victims are even more vulnerable than priests and religious. They suffer even more pain because of
their families. No amount of protest against such a terrible crime that plays games with people's lives has been sufficient to stop the rash of cases. But to protest is necessary. And we do so
strongly protest once again.
Priests, Religious Sisters and Brothers working in certain difficult areas in the Philippines are only too well aware of their vulnerability. But they are deeply convinced that their
missionary witness, presence, and social development work in the context of inter-religious dialogue are necessary for the sake of the Kingdom of God despite all the difficulties, pains, and risks.
Therefore, we, the
Bishops of the Philippines, openly profess admiration for their work and sacrifices to uplift the poor and needy, no matter of what faith or tribe. We also greatly respect the discernment and decisions taken by
those who have opted to stay in their mission assignments and have declared their opposition to the payment of any form of ransom, as well as the decision of some to leave in order to work in places of better security.
Many extremists, terrorists, and religious fanatics claim to be Muslims while others claim to be Christians. Knowing this, we as Bishops do not hesitate to say that genuine Islam and genuine Christianity both
reject any violation of human rights and other immoral actions such as kidnapping, murder, graft and corruption.
We believe that true progress and sustainable development must always serve the demands of justice,
reconciliation and peace. We strongly denounce the criminal action of terrorists in kidnapping church personnel and lay people.
We vehemently urge the law enforcement agencies of government especially those of
the ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim in Mindanao), to provide reasonable protection for everyone not only for religious and Church personnel. We likewise urge the national government to fastrack the release
of the legitimate claims of the rebel returnees.
We warmly commend and encourage the dialogues being undertaken by Muslim religious leaders, Bishops of the National Council of Churches and Catholic Bishops' in
Mindanao. Such dialogues provide what is sorely missing in the peace process now being worked out in Mindanao, namely, fraternal dialogue between peoples of different faiths towards mutual respect, solidarity,
peace and harmony.
Finally, as we have stated in a previous statement in July 8, 1996 on the Mindanao Peace Process:
The journey to peace is the journey of people of different faiths, people who pray to the same Almighty God, who for the sake of peace creates in our hearts the attitude of mutual respect and trust and love for
justice, truth and freedom, which are the pillars of a house of peace. To Him we pray so that... efforts for peace will be truly fruitful for all the people of Southern Philippines.
We pray that the Blessed Virgin Mary, Queen of Peace, and highly venerated in the Holy Qur'an, intercede for all of us and "guide us into the way of peace" (Luke 1:79b).
For the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines:
+OSCAR V. CRUZ, D.D.
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
31 January 1998