ZAMBOANGA CITY – Muslims and Christians from all walks of life in the conflict-ridden island of Mindanao will seek common ground as thousands of them join in the annual Mindanao Week of Peace celebration from 30 November to 6 December.
In an interview with Adnkronos International (AKI), event founder and Claretian priest Father Angel Calvo said the annual celebration is so far the biggest peace gathering in the country which has actively involved both Muslims and Christians since 1997.
“We want to see the people of Mindanao united as we advocate lasting peace in the region,” Fr. Calvo, whose non-government organization Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) has also led the celebration in Zamboanga City, told AKI.
He added that the event will also provide the local residents “a common ground for recognizing and respecting cultural differences that is basis for unity and peace.”“This is also the right venue where some issues and possible disputes will be settled,” he added.
The theme for this year celebration is centered on the environmental care. Fr. Calvo said different activities were planned in various key areas and cities in Mindanao.
In Zamboanga City, he said PAZ will lead the opening and the closing day parades, the two big events that are expected to draw tens of thousands of people from government offices, private companies, universities, urban poor associations, and other non-government agencies.
They include concerts, peace rallies and vigils, medical and dental missions for the depressed rural villages, jail visits, peace assemblies and youth gatherings, a coastal clean-up and other school and community-based activities.
Mindanao Week of Peace is now into its 10th year since the first one being organized at the height of extremism of the homegrown terror group Abu Sayyaf.
In previous years, the observance of the week of peace has means a security breather in the conflict-stricken region and the number of insurgent attacks and other crime-related activities also reportedly lowered.
“We will join efforts with the people of Mindanao on their initiative and they can expect smooth security measures from our part,” Superintendent Jonathan Perez, deputy director for Zamboanga City Police Office, told AKI ahead of this year's event.
“We assure that it will be generally peaceful,” he added.Meanwhile, in a statement obtained by AKI, the influential Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), which spearheads the Mindanao-wide celebration, called on the people of Mindanao to have “love, respect, justice, fairness, mercy and compassion among one another not only before or during the celebration but also after the Mindanao Week of Peace.”
“We wish to remind us all that peace comes from order and harmony both in our relationship with God, with one another and with the environment,” BUC’s Muslim, Catholic and Protestant conveners stressed in their joint statement.
The Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the country's largest Muslim rebel group, also said it was supporting the weeklong peace celebration."We are with all peace-loving people. We are for peace and we fully support the aspiration of many for a peaceful Mindanao," Eid Kabalu, a rebel spokesman, told the Mindanao Examiner. (Mindanao Examiner)