Cotabato City (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Catholic bishops in Mindanao in the Philippines on Friday issued a statement addressed to President Benigno Aquino III and other government leaders asking them "to settle the Sabah crisis and save the people of Mindanao."
The bishops urged the government to support the appeal of United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon for an immediate end to the violence in Sabah; to press upon the two contending forces to heed the UN call; to resume the diplomatic work of resolving the Sabah claim, a task historically entrusted to the government by the sultanate of Sulu; and to ensure the withdrawal with honor of armed forces from the area.
"You may not agree with the methods used. You may not agree with the ultimate aim. You may say that the entire Sabah event was both foolhardy and also wrong. You might even suspect that there are unseen minds behind the event. But Filipino lives have been lost," the bishops said.
And more Filipino lives are at stake, they said.
Those who died went to Sabah "because they believed they had a right to reclaim a naturally rich territory for which they were being paid a measly sum every year," the bishops said.
"We cannot simply let them sacrifice more lives for that cause," they said.
The bishops criticised the government for asking Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III's followers to leave Sabah to end the violence there.
"Government leaders can do more than just tell them to get out," the bishops said.
They said they were praying that the Philippine and Malaysian governments would "demonstrate wisdom and statesmanship" and prevent further bloodshed by "resolving the basic issues that had resulted in tragedy."
The statement was signed by Digos Bishop Guillermo Afable, Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo, Surigao Bishop Antonieto Cabajog, Malaybalay Bishop Jose Cabantan, Iligan Bishop Elenito Galido, Marbel Bishop Dinualdo Gutierrez, Isabela Bishop Martin Jumoad, Jolo Bishop Angelito Lampon, Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, Marawi Bishop Edwin de la Pena and Cotabato Archbishop Orlando Quevedo.