by Rev. Dr. Mariano C. Apilado
There can be no development without peace; there can be no peace without justice; there can be no justice without forgiveness. Development must be founded upon respect of the religious and spiritual heritage of people.
Peace continues to be a dream, sometimes looking like an elusive dream for many, especially for those deeply concerned to convert the promise of Mindanao into an opportunity for development. A refreshing note was expressed by Samira A. Gutoc in a hearing on September 16, 2009 in the Senate to create the Mindanao Economic Development Authority as a viable and strategic alternative for accelerating peace and development in Mindanao.
Ms. Samira A. Gutoc, a member of the board of the Islamic Bank, and convenor of the First Mindanao Young Leaders Parliament, represents the vigor of the youth who continue not only to dream, but to work their best to make their dreams for peace and development in Mindanao come true — not in the future, but now.
Others who spoke at the hearing were Vicente Lao for the Chamber of Commerce, Fr. Albert Alejo for the academic community, Dr. Ungria for the University of the Philippines-Mindanao and USEC Virgilio E. Leyretana, Sr., MEDCO chairperson. The speakers all stressed that the economic development of Mindanao is of paramount importance and should be pursued with determination, consistency through a structure that is both permanent and responsive to the needs of the island and the region that includes Palawan.
Development of Mindanao must take into serious consideration the religious and spiritual background and history of the people of Mindanao . The products of development must be plowed back to the people who are the main stakeholders of Mindanao . Whatever their religious and cultural backgrounds, whether lumad, Muslim, Catholic or Protestant, the people should have equal access to the benefits of development. No religious or political group or economic group or cultural group should be allowed to be so dominant as to deprive the rest.
There must be time and space for healing. Movements like the A’imah-Priests-Pastors Forum with Co-Convenors Mahmod Alim Adilao, Fr. Pete Lamata and this writer, Rev. Mariano C. Apilado, have been conducting forums, meetings and joint programs for understanding towards peace.
To attain peace in Mindanao, economic development is important in order to overcome poverty. Equally important, however, are the emotional needs of people, especially the victims of war and violence. The religious and spiritual backgrounds of people must be respected, protected and harnessed to create a culture of understanding towards peace.
The spiritual and religious dimensions are important foundations for the attainment and maintenance of lasting peace and development.