A new systematic initiative to heal the potentially socially-explosive psycho-social wounds from the year-ago Moro rebels’ siege of Zamboanga has been launched in the city.
At the monthly meeting of the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) last Saturday, September 20, Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) unveiled its “Re-Unidos: Social Cohesion for Peace Project” before the members and guests of the civil society peace-building movement. ZABIDA will tap the Re-Unidos group which it formed months ago to spearhead implementation of the project.
The project has two major components. The first is the “Capacity-Building for Facilitators Training” to equip some 30 volunteers who will later handle the healing sessions. The training will take place next month of October, ZABIDA executive director Esperancita Hupida said in her presentation.
Once the healing counselors are ready, they will hold a series of sessions in schools for youths and pupils and internally displaced families which will target the establishment of peace zones in schools and communities. Their peace zones will later undertake peace-building and social reconciliation advocacies with logistical support from ZABIDA. The advocacy will be highlighted by the holding of a “Children and Youth Peace Festival” during the coming Week of Peace celebration in November. Another latter highlight of the project will be the holding of a round-table discussion among representatives of the civil society to analyze the psycho-social challenges and issues in the city, Hupida also disclosed.
ZABIDA president and ISP lead convenor Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF emphasized to the gathering the need for healing and reconciliation among city residents. He said the moral strength for this effort should come from the common ground of the religious values and traditions of Islam and Christianity. He said all sectors must also work together in this mission.
As an introduction to the unveiling of the healing project, Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) vice-president Dr. Grace Rebollos outlined the urgent need for such effort. She described the extent of the destruction of personal and community life, sub-human living conditions of internally-displaced families, ethno-cultural divisiveness, and weaknesses and deficiencies of local and national governments in the recovery and rehabilitation program. She enumerated the difficult but necessary tasks needed to heal the residents’ psychic and social wounds and to reconcile community residents.
At the start of the meeting, United Nations Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs-Zamboanga City Hub Head Ben Pickering gave an overview of the plight of the thousands of IDPs still stuck in sub-standard evacuation centers and transitory housings located throughout the city. He said they struggle daily to survive amid problems in health services, water supply, sanitation and hygiene, security, and livelihood. He said the death rate from diseases in the evacuation centers is considered a running emergency by the standard set by the UN-OCHA.
Ateneo de Zamboanga University professor Yusuf Morales also rendered a presentation dubbed as “Reconciliation: An Islamic Text-Based Perspective”. In it he discussed the various teachings and practices based in the Koran and Hadith that guide Muslims on the path of reconciliation, to overcome anger and hatred. He said Muslims in some parts of the world are now fighting one another because they have forgotten or rejected these Koranic teachings.