“Building Solidarity and Peace Rooted in Justice and Human Security” was the theme of the 4th Ecumenical Summit on Peace held by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platfrom (PEPP) at Betania Retreat House, Nivel Hills, Lahug, Cebu City, June 29 to July 1, 2015. More than sixty (60) church Leaders and members, including International guests and other peace groups participated.
Some of the participants engaged in an exposure visit to the abandoned Carmen Copper Corp. or CCC (formerly Atlas Mining Corp.) mine site at Toledo, Cebu. Before the official summit commenced, Archbp. Jose Palma, of the Archdiocese of Cebu, and Archbp. Antonio Ledesma, SJ, Co-convenor of PEPP, presided over the opening liturgy. In their messages they stressed the intense longing and thirst for peace deep within human beings. Mr. Aron Halfen, Program Coordinator for Caritas Norway, presented greetings on behalf of Caritas Norway.
Dr. Emma Leslie, Executive Director of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies (CPCS) an International partner and a member of contact group for the peace talks between the GPH and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), stressed in her greetings the importance of not losing the emphasis on human dignity while supporting and facilitating the peace process as she cited the need for an infrastructure that serves the peace process and GPH and NDFP, a home grown mechanism that apply to both parties, and the development of Asian approaches to peace and conflict management focused on leadership intervention.
The keynote address was given by Atty. Christian Monsod (former Comelec Chair ). He stated that despite the clarity of the 1987 Constitution on the primacy of Social Justice, the Philippines continues to remain a country deeply divide between the few who are rich, and the many who live in poverty. “The challenge to government” he said “is to revisit national policies, to listen to the poor and make them the center of policies and policy-making, and to address the scourge of feudalism that is at the root of the country’s socio-economic problems.” Atty. Monsod stated that “…all of us have a dream for our country. Mine is to hear from a new president on his inauguration that his term will be totally dedicated to give a better life to the poorest of the poor – the farmers, municipal fishermen, labor, urban poor, indigenous peoples – which asks for great sacrifices from all of us and for which we will use the most powerful weapon in our arsenal to achieve it - the Constitution that mandates it.”
Dr. Cielito Habito (former NEDA Chief) gave a presentation regarding the need for social economic reforms. He said that “the country is 50 years behind in economic development in Asia in terms of price stability, jobs and income".” He also stated that “economic growth has been top-heavy and non-inclusive resulting in a widening gap between the few rich and the vast majority of the poor, with rural poverty particularly persistent.” He said that this “is not due to a lack of poverty reduction programs but to persistent weaknesses in implementation.” Poverty, he said, “need not be inevitable and can be reduced by ensuring broad-based growth and education for entrepreneurship.”
Sectoral speakers representing indigenous people (IP), farmers and health workers were also invited as reactors. According to the reactors, health workers remain overworked yet underpaid and neglected, farmers remain landless and need government support, farmlands are encroached by palm plantations and harassment of peasant leaders continues. The Lumads or the Indigenous Peoples (IP) in Mindanao are losing their ancestral land as a result of development aggression, are being displaced due to militarization, and their leaders are being continually harassed, yet still the people continue to cry for justice, especially justice for Lumad leaders who have been killed.
“It is only through a peace process that a principled peace can happen”, observed Atty. Rene V. Sarmiento( member of the government peace panel from 1996-2006) during his presentation on “The Making of Carhrihl as a Human Rights and Peace Covenant: A Spiritual Odyssey”. Atty. Sarmiento also suggested that to resume the peace process, a shadow peace panel and advisers should be created, with the involvement of eminent church leaders and others who have been supportive of the process in the past. He also suggested that to continue best practices and grassroots education on the peace process was also an important ongoing activity.
Other topics that were discussed during the summit were ‘Lessons learned from the BBL: From Solidarity to Human Security’ where Archbp. Antonio Ledesma stated that, “Solidarity is our path to achieving human security where fundamental freedoms are ensured, and peace and development are achieved”. He also added that by embracing the values of sincerity, security, sensitivity, solidarity, spirituality and sustainability, we can achieve human security. Ptr. Cobbie Palm also discussed about the history and updates about the Peace process from the PEPP perspective. At the later part of the summit, Rev. Fr. King Gaza, CM shared the fragmented stories of violence and the oppression of the poor is, and must be, our story of peace during the Biblio-Theological Reflection.
The summit participants’ came up with a statement expressing their continuing commitment to building peace. (You can read the statement here).