|Church groups call for the resumption of peace negotiations during a demonstration in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Silva)|
Church leaders in the Philippines called on the government and communist rebels to come up with a more positive outcome when peace negotiations between the two sides resume early next month.
"[The] negotiations should not be bogged down by accusations and counter-accusations," read a statement issued by an alliance of five Catholic and Protestant churches in the country.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform said the announcement made by government and rebel peace negotiators this week "is a testament to the power of principled dialogue.'
The government and communist rebels agreed this week to resume talks next month following calls from various groups and an escalation in armed clashes in recent weeks.
In a joint statement, both sides announced that they would reinstate their respective unilateral ceasefires before talks begin in the first week of April.
Church leaders welcomed the decision of both parties to reaffirm all past agreements.
"We look forward to more positive outcomes in the next rounds of talks," read a statement signed by Archbishop Antonio Ledesma for the Catholic bishops.
Government negotiators and leaders of the rebel National Democratic Front of the Philippines have agreed to forge an "interim bilateral ceasefire" after resolving issues in previous truces.
Organizations under the church-base peace platform expressed "hope" that unilateral ceasefires declared by both parties will be reinstated before the end of the month.
"We also pray that the proverbial swords of war that were unsheathed ... will not be drawn once more," read the group's statement.
The church leaders urged Filipinos to "pray and work for peace and guard against those who are aiming to spoil" the negotiations.
"There will be more bumps ahead towards the road to a just and enduring peace, but if we continue to be vigilant and see to it that the parties involved stay on course, a better 'future awaits those who seek peace.'" said the group.
The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform comprise the Catholic bishops' conference, the Protestant's National Council of Churches, the Association of Major Religious Superiors, the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches, and the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum.
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