Philippines, Card. Quevedo: "Peace in Mindanao, chief commitment for local Church"
Manila ( AsiaNews / CBCP ) - He will continue to work to end the conflict in Mindanao in the southern Philippines, but from "behind the scenes", keeping faith with the nickname given to him when his appointment as Cardinal by Pope Francis was first announced: the "Cardinal of Peace". The Archbishop of Cotabato, the new Cardinal Orlando Beltran Quevedo has ensured his renewed commitment to an ongoing dialogue between Christians and Muslims, along with a durable ceasefire between the Philippine army and Islamist rebel militias. "When they say 'Cardinal Peace', I am not in front. I am behind. I am behind the curtain. [Both sides] would consult me, but my name does not appear.... I want to work for peace, yes, but not in the forefront. I want to stay in the background".
Card. Quevedo has long been one of the main architects of the silent dialogue for peace in Mindanao, a still unresolved issue, in the only Asian country with a Catholic majority but marked by a separatist war in the south of the archipelago promoted by Islamic independence movements. The ratification of a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the rebels of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) is expected by mid-March.
The process for an effective entry into force is still long, because at the end of the negotiations the parliamentary passage and Supreme Court approval of its constitutionality must follow. There are also militant groups like the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (Biff), formed by exiles of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) that threaten to scupper the plan. However, Manila expresses cautious optimism for the closing of the deal and the emergence of a Muslim autonomous entity (Bangsamoro), with a corresponding ceasefire and disarmament of Islamic rebels.
The Cardinal explained that the root of the conflict in Mindanao is "mutual mistrust that creates all the misinformation". " The fear of the Christians and the fear of the Muslims towards each other are fed by these misunderstandings and mistrust," the newly-installed cardinal explained. For this he intends to continue its role as a mediator and advocate of interfaith dialogue on three different levels: with students, in every day dialogue and at a theological level with Islam. He speaks of how Muslim and Christian students play, study and even pray together. The second level is the "sharing of religious experiences". Finally, the third, in which "we are particularly busy", recalls the cardinal, and that relates to "the plan of theological discussion" that focuses on the themes of creation and the environment involving bishops, theologians and imams.
As a former president of the
Philippine Episcopal Commission for the Basic Ecclesial Communities (BEC), the
cardinal hopes that these particular realities of the Church can be a model and
contribution to the building of the Church and of society. "My
hope - he concludes - ranging from low to high, are placed in BECs [...] and
make sure that there is no corruption in their leaders."
From the religious of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, the 75 year old Cardinal Quevedo was president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines from 1998 to 2003 and is one of the organizers of the Asian Federation Bishops 's Conference. He was first appointed bishop in 1980 during the Marcos regime, to Kidapawan (Mindanao ) where he remained until 1986. In 1986 he became bishop of Nueva Segovia and in 1998 Archbishop of Cotabato one of the dioceses most affected by guerrilla warfare between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and the army. Cardinal Quevedo was one of the most committed Catholic bishops to the peace process began in November 2012 with the creation of the autonomous region of Bangsamoro . In July 2009, the Abu Sayyaf terrorists detonated a bomb in the cathedral of Cotabato, while he was celebrating mass. Five people were killed in the attack.