MANILA, Philippines–Give peace a chance.
The head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Philippines on Tuesday urged Filipinos to pray for peace in Sabah after Malaysian security forces launched an offensive to clear out armed followers of Sulu Sultan Jamalul Kiram III holed up there for over three weeks now.
Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, CBCP president, pointed out that more than two dozen lives have been lost since skirmishes erupted Friday between Kiram’s so-called “royal army” and Malaysian security forces, and Filipinos should not “add bloodshed to bloodshed.”
“What we’re saying is, we’re hoping (that) with our prayers, eventually peace will come in the land. It’s different when people are dying. It would be saddening if if there’s no end in sight to this,” Palma said as the CBCP permanent council met in Manila on Tuesday.
“We should not add violence to violence … (and dwell instead) on prayer and tolerance (and not on those) that could further spread bloodshed,” he added.
Palma declined to comment further on the technicalities of the Sabah issue or about President Benigno Aquino III’s claim that there was a “conspiracy” behind the decision of Kiram to send reportedly more than 200 armed men to Sabah.
“Well we feel that this is something very complex and the bishops don’t have the expertise to interpret these legal complications. What we’re saying is that we leave it to the diplomats, but rest assured that we are praying for peace in Sabah,” Palma said.
Palma said it was unfortunate that lives had been lost in the standoff and ensuing clashes but added that the Sabah issue was very complex.
“For now, we encourage prayer … a prayer for peace and end to all of this,” he said.