Like all peace loving Filipinos, we rejoice with our countrymen as we mark a milestone in the peace process with the signing of the peace agreement between the Philippine Government and the MILF. The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. We pray that this first courageous breakthrough will be followed by more steps leading to true and lasting peace in Mindanao.

I appeal to the Philippine government panel to continue the process of wide spread consultation and an honest, open and trusting dialogue with other communities in Mindanao especially those who feel marginalized and ignored like the MNLF. It is so important for peace to be sustainable that it be inclusive and all embracing. The strength of the signing agreement lies in its willingness to reach out to everyone including those who are antagonistic to it. A continuing dialogue will strengthen our peace even more.

It is very urgent that economic activity in Mindanao be enhanced immediately. There can be no peace without human development. Development and the promotion of human progress is another name for peace. The promotion of total human development is long delayed. It cannot wait further for the people of Mindanao who have been suffering for decades.

May we all be ready to become channels of peace! Peacemakers are children of God.

+ Socrates B. Villegas
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan
President, CBCP
March 27, 2014