Wednesday, 01 April 2020

19th Mindanao Week of Peace: Call to heal, with justice, remains

Posted On Wednesday, 13 July 2016 11:29

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Almost two decades since the first Week of Peace was observed in the city in 1997, the movement that initiated it finds that the catalysts for its creation remain unresolved.

In the early 1990s, Zamboanga City’s residents were faced with shock and fear over the kidnappings, bombings, and extortions unleashed by the then newly-emerged terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group.

“Once more, as we mark the 19th year of the Week of Peace celebration we make the urgent call for healing and reconciliation... now more than ever,” said the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) in a statement for the 19th Week of Peace, which opened yesterday and will be concluded on Nov. 30.

To counter the spreading anxiety and anger back then, which ISP said was affecting “the social and economic well-being of the people,” local religious leaders, both Muslims and Christians, banded together to help address the situation.

Two groups were formed for the purpose: the Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) by the Christians and the SALAAM Foundation by the Muslims.

In collaboration, one of their first major projects was organizing the Week of Peace celebration in Zamboanga City, which has been extended since 2000 to other parts of Mindanao.

“Over the years, we have continuously called for a unity in the midst of our differences, justice for those whose rights were disregarded and taken away, recognition and honor for the pains of those who have been damaged by a variety of current and historical forms of violence,” ISP said.

The statement was co-signed by Catholic priest Angel C. Calvo as lead convenor, Ali T. Yacub representing the Muslims, Paulino R. Ersando for the evangelical sector, and Amilpasa T. Bandaying for indigenous peoples.

Yesterday’s opening ceremony was marked by the traditional grand parade around the city, participated in by various sectors, including academic institutions, civil society and nongovernment organizations, the local government and offices of national agencies.

The Abu Sayyaf, with strongholds in the islands off Mindanao mainland in the southwest such as Sulu, continues to carry out kidnapping activities despite an intensive campaign launched by government troops to subdue the group since July, upon the order of President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

The Duterte administration has also initiated renewed peace talks with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), including the faction of its founding Chair Nur Misuari, who is facing charges for the Zamboanga siege in 2013, which left hundreds dead, families homeless, and parts of the city in ruins.

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar, in a statement on Nov. 3 when Misuari was invited by the President to Malacanang, said, “As I have mentioned to President Duterte in several of our conversations, Misuari has to be accountable for his alleged crimes. Zamboanga City shall continue to pursue our cases in court against him and the MNLF members responsible for the siege... For the moment, we express strong support to the bold and fresh initiatives of President Duterte to seek sustainable peace with justice in the land.”

“This is the challenge of our time,” ISP said, “To heal, reconcile, to make peace... to become a critical mass that can transform our society.” -- Albert F. Arcilla


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