Members of the Akbayan partylist in Zamboanga City participate Thursday, November 26, 2009 in the opening ceremony of the Mindanao Week of Peace. (Photo by Neil Dalena).
ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines – Civil society groups and the local city government have jointly called the public to rally behind the promotion of culture of peace and multi-cultural understanding and respect amid the hostilities and atrocities that are plaguing the island of Mindanao.
The call came as stakeholders here launched this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace celebration with a grand parade on Thursday morning.
“We hope to renew our commitment to peace as we think of all the sufferings of the world and history of Mindanao,” Fr Angel Calvo, president of Peace Advocates Zamboanga, told the more than 25,000 people who joined the grand parade and the opening ceremony at the Joaquin Enriquez Memorial Sports Complex.
“We have been suffering from the atrocities in Mindanao but we would also like to be the inspiration of our children and youth in dreaming about peace and harmony in our life,” he said.
Datu Meltino Sibulan, legal officer of the Sultanate of Sulu and United Tausug People Council of Regent, said that learning the history of Mindanao is also a way to solve the decades-old conflict in the southern Philippines.
In a short statement given during the opening program, members of the Inter-Religious Solidarity Movement for Peace said that “This occasion is a perfect venue to revisit and renew the commitment of creating better understanding and sharing task for peace building.”
“To pursue our common aspirations to seek peace and find the truth,” the evangelical group speaker said.
“The Subanon community since time immemorial has been a peace loving people. In this celebration, therefore, we renew our commitment once more to work not only for our own tribe but for the greatness of all,” the ethnic Subanon representative said.
The Muslim group relayed that “the great things can be done if we work closely with one another regardless of our faith and religious affiliation.”
People from different walks of life that included religious groups, the datus from Sulu, ethnic groups such as Badjaos, Subanens, government employees, students, and even tricycle drivers marched in the parade in an expression of solidarity.
Participants carried a placards and banners demanding justice for 57 massacre victims in Maguindanao.
College students painted their bodies and carried white doves as they danced at the city’s main thoroughfares inviting bystanders to join them in solidarity with the victims of the massacre.
This year’s Week of Peace celebration is anchored on the theme: “Think Mindanao, Feel Mindanao, and Bring Peace to Mindanao.”
The theme was made by the Bishop-Ulama Conference to “thankfully energize Mindanawons to express in many varied ways our need and aspirations for lasting peace. This variety of ways inspired by our respective faith and culture has repeatedly shown us that peace must begin with each and everyone of us.”
Among the activities included in the weeklong peace celebration is the Peace Weaver Awards on Sunday, November 29 to pay tribute to individuals and organizations who devoted efforts towards peace building in the city or region.
Raising the awareness on interfaith, religious leaders will gather in an event on Monday, November 30 entitled “A Common Word.” It will be a conference wherein leaders of different faiths will share their values and practices.
Moreover, indigenous tribe Subanon leaders will also hold BUKLOG, a ritual celebration in the West Coast village of Limpapa on December 1. The local Samabadjao community will have a convocation at Plaza Pershing on November 27.
Photographers in Mindanao have also staged a week-long exhibit called “Mioradas de Paz” starting November 25 at the Ateneo de Zamboanga University.
Other activities include a peace writing seminar, inter-school peace caravan and inter-institutional youth leaders congress.
A grand torch parade to be capped by a musical peace concert will climax the weeklong celebration at the Paseo del Mar open ground on the night of December 2. The event will be participated by prominent local bands and indigenous performers. (Cristine Taola and Albert Arcilla)