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Threats of war prompt national prayer for peace

MANILA (Mabuhay) : “If there is an escalation of tension and we are faced with a problem of peace, how can the Church not be involved?” the president of the Philippine bishops’ conference, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, said in announcing that the Church is introducing a compulsory prayer to be offered for peace at all Masses across the country.

With the build-up of tension in the South China Sea in the struggle for control among The Philippines, Vietnam and China, the archbishop said that there is a grave need to ease the fears of the people and pray that leaders will proceed with prudence and cool heads.

He added that he hopes that the prayer of the people will help to ease the tension so that justice, equality, prosperity and brotherhood may be served.

He pointed out that as a simple Philippine Church it is impossible to negotiate with superpowers.

“We cannot represent The Philippines in the international court, but we can certainly represent The Philippines before God and ask God, who is the sure source of peace, to take care of The Philippines,” CBCP News quoted him as saying.

“If the dispute escalates and it becomes a problem of peace, how can the Church not be involved? Peace is the mission of the Church,” Archbishop Villegas said in launching the prayer.

The United Nations Arbitration Tribunal has already began the court proceedings in the territorial dispute at The Hague.

“Not all of us can go to The Hague, not all of us can patrol the West Philippine Sea, but all of us can kneel and pray for our prayers reach God and benefit people,” Archbishop Villegas concluded.

AsiaNews reported that The Philippines, which is seeking a non-binding international ruling at the United Nations, together with Vietnam, is increasingly worried about Beijing’s creeping possessivism in the South China and East China Seas.

The Chinese government claims almost 85 per cent of the seabed, including sovereignty over the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands, in opposition to Vietnam, Taiwan, The Philippines, Brunei and Malaysia.

In recent months, China has used various political, economic and diplomatic means to hamper non-Chinese vessels from fishing or moving through the disputed waters.

The Philippines is claiming that the much quoted Nine Dash Line is both illegal and irrational. But observers believe that the basis of the dispute is over access to oil and gas, as well as control of sea routes, because two thirds of the world’s maritime trade traffic passes through it.

The prayer calls on God to look kindly on The Philippines.

“We pray to you for peace over that part of our islands and waters. We pray that questions over it may be resolved through justice and respect for people’s rights. We pray that no harm will be done to our marine creatures and habitat,” the prayer reads.

It remembers the leaders of the Philippine government and asks that they may resolve this crisis with courage and in the spirit of dialogue.