Members of the Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace including Peace Advocates Zamboanga president Fr. Angel Calvo and Western Mindanao State University President Dr. Grace Rebollos lead the peace march in Zamboanga City as the Week of Peace celebration begins Thursday, November 27, 2008 in Mindanao. And peace advocates light candles in Kiamba town in Sarangani province in celebration of the Week of Peace. (Photo by Ruel Ampatin / Kiamba News and Information Center and Darween Wee)
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines (Mindanao Examiner / Nov. 26, 2008) – Thousands of people on Thursday joined a march that signaled the start of the Week of Peace celebration in the southern Philippines.
“The week of peace celebration is a way to recognize the achievements, effort and commitment towards the attainment of peace not only here in Zamboanga or Mindanao but as well in the entire country,” said Rev. Fr. Angel C. Calvo, CMF, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), who initiated the peace celebration 11 years ago.
He said this year's Week of Peace centers on the theme "Integrity of Mind and Heart: A Way to Reconciliation and Peace.”
About 20,000 marchers, some carrying placards and streamers with peace messages, walked around downtown Zamboanga and later trooped to the Joaquin F. Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex where a program was held.
In his speech, Fr. Calvo urged all sectors to join the observance of peace by recognizing that “each one of us has the capability to contribute towards the attainment of peace in Mindanao.”
"People must believe that we can put together our minds and hearts to obtain the dream of peace in our land," he said, adding, the celebration is aimed at integrating advocacy and peace-making efforts of stakeholders in Mindanao.
”It is beautiful to see Muslim and Christians working together, it is a sign of hope and solidarity,” he said.
Prof. Ali T. Yacub, of the Western Mindanao University, who is also a convener of Inter-religious Solidarity Movement for Peace, read a statement of the influential Bishop-Ulama Conference (BUC) that urged citizens to work together for peace and unity in Mindanao.
Various activities are lined up as part of the celebration and these include painting and art exhibits, a musical concert, among others.
The weeklong celebration was conceptualized in Zamboanga City at the height of hostilities and Abu Sayyaf troubles in the southwestern part of Mindanao in 1997.
This was eventually adopted by the influential religious leaders' group of Bishop-Ulama Council, making the celebration not only exclusive to Zamboanga city but in the entire Mindanao, too.
At present, the celebration is recognized as the biggest peace festival in the country and is endorsed by Presidential Proclamation No. 207 issued by then President Joseph Estrada in 1999. President Gloria Arroyo later issued another presidential proclamation enjoining all sectors to take part in its observance.
The Armed Forces of the Philippines through the Western Mindanao Command said it is also jonining the celebration of the Week of Peace. “The military organization is an advocate of peace,” said Maj. Gamal S. Hayudini, group commander of the AFP’s 4th Civil Relations Group.
Sarangani and Cotabato provinces have also participated the weeklong peace celebration. (With reports from Darween Wee, Geonarri Solmerano and Mark Navales)