We invite all Lasallians to reflect on the encounter in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that resulted to the violent and senseless loss of human life. We share with you this statement of concern and commitment in the hope that it will deepen our conviction as educators to be in solidarity with our fellow Filipinos. May we make our own their anguish and their hopes for a lasting and sustainable peace.
THE CONTINUING PURSUIT OF PEACE IN MINDANAO:
IN SOLIDARITY WITH YOUNG PEOPLE RENDERED VULNERABLE BY SITUATIONS OF CONFLICT
De La Salle Philippines (DLSP) grieves with the nation over the loss of lives in a bloody encounter last January 25, 2015 in Mamasapano, Mindanao. We mourn with the families of all those who were killed -- the forty-four members of the Special Action Force (SAF) of the Philippine National Police (PNP), the eighteen combatants from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and the four civilian casualties, among whom was an eight-year old child.
As Lasallians, we support the calls for an impartial investigation so that we may know the facts behind the Mamasapano incident and set aright our relationship with those wounded and aggrieved by selfishness, mistrust or fear.
The Mamasapano incident aggravates a situation of fear and poverty. Decades of armed-conflict have heavily affected the well-being of the people of Mindanao, with children being the most vulnerable to suffering. Whenever there are military or police encounters with rebel groups, communities are forced to evacuate to ‘safer’ places. Such displacement takes a heavy toll on our children and those who are physically weak.
After the clash at Mamasapano, some 6,620 people were displaced and classes in thirteen nearby public elementary schools were suspended (UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs). This adds to the thousands of people, who until now, have not been re-settled after the so-called Zamboanga siege in October 2013. An unseen collateral damage in all these is the healthy growth of our children and young who cannot develop fully in an environment of fear and instability.
Educating children, particularly of the poor -- instilling appropriate values and equipping them with relevant tools and skills so that they can be responsive and responsible citizens -- is primary in our mission as a network of Lasallian schools. We thus pray for a more conducive environment where Mindanao’s children can attend school, learn, and play without tension or fear.
Amidst fears that the Mamasapano incident could derail the peace process, the Lasallian community stands firm that the peace process should in fact continue. We are in solidartiy with our countrymen who are committed to the vigorous pursuit of lasting peace in Southern Philippines. Even as investigations on the Mamasapano clash proceed, we ask both government and the MILF leadership to continue with the peace process; and for Congress to pass the needed legislation to enable the diverse groups in Mindanao to be heard, have their rights to develop acknowledged within the framework of our Constitution and live in peace.
As Lasallians, we will continue with our vigil and prayers for the families of the casualties and all the people who were affected. We shall also educate ourselves further on the peace process and on the complexities of the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
Lastly, we ask our people to act with sobriety and discernment as we grieve the lives that were lost and as we hurdle the challenge of restoring to wholeness the lives of those who have been displaced. In these times we believe that what is asked of us as citizens is to reflect on the needs of our nation and to give shape to our collective aspiration in the name of the young and vulnerable people who can only discover their better selves in an atmosphere of peace and mutual acceptance.
February 10, 2015
Br. Jose Mari Jimenez FSC
President, De La Salle Philippines (DLSP)