Senior leaders of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) actively participated in the Ecumenical Church Leaders Summit, held last July 19-21, 2011 at the Mary Ridge Spiritual Center in Tagaytay City.
The Summit was convened to talk about the role of the Church in the peace process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The theme was “Proclaiming the Gospel of Peace: An Ecumenical Imperative.”
Peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) have been going on and off over the past four decades. In February 2011, peace talks were resumed in Oslo with renewed hopes for a just and lasting resolution to this conflict.
It is in this context that the united voice of religious leaders representing the various religious communities in the country can play a significant role in ensuring the validity and sustainability of the peace process. As in other countries with a history of armed internal conflict (as in South Africa, Colombia, Ireland, etc.) religious leaders can play a crucial role in bringing about a just and lasting peace.
Following the See-Judge-Act approach, the objectives of this summit of religious leaders are the following:
1) To understand the context and issues of the peace negotiations by listening to spokespersons of the GRP and NDFP panels;
2) To gain information about the current state of armed conflict and military operations in different regions of the country, as well as the estimated costs in terms of loss of lives and properties, and impact on the economy;
3) To be updated with the ongoing efforts of various Civil Society Organizations in monitoring and brokering the peace negotiations – e.g., the Gaston Z. Ortigas Peace Institute (Waging Peace), Sulong CARHRIHL and Pilgrims for Peace.
4) To review and articulate Christian spiritual traditions from the Bible and social teachings for peacebuilding;
5) To form a Peace Constituency and to formulate an Ecumenical Plan of Action for religious communities at the local, regional, and national levels.
To ensure co-equal participation and a candid exchange of views, only active bishops, major church leaders, and major religious superiors were invited to the summit. No proxy representatives were allowed.
Five major federations of religious leaders were invited to send ten each participants to the summit. These are:
• Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC)
• National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)
• Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)
• Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP)
• Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF)
The heads of these federations act as co-convenors of this summit, together with the PEPP co-chairpersons and secretariat head.
Participants were chosen along these guidelines:
1. They are based in ongoing conflict areas;
2. They are major church leaders ( i.e., bishop or equivalent head of a local diocese or denomination or major religious superior)
3. They are in active service and are involved in promoting the peace process in their jurisdiction.
4. They are ecumenical in their outlook , open to dialogue, and are ready to engage in inter-faith peacebuilding activities in their own areas of responsibility as a follow-up of this summit.
The sub-regions identified with significant conflict situations are the following:
• In Luzon: Cagayan Valley, Cordillera, Central Luzon, Southern Tagalog, Bicol Region, and Metro Manila
• In the Visayas: Samar/Leyte, Negros island, Panay island
• In Mindanao: Caraga region, Northern Mindanao, South-Central Mindanao.
Please pray for the actual result of this conference in the lives of the common people who are experiencing unpeace within them and around them. Please pray that practical action towards holistic peace — that is, spiritual transformation, psycho-social transformation, socio-political transformation, economic-ecological transformation — would actually be experienced by the masses. Please pray for genuine shalom in our land.