Peace Begets Peace, AFP Official Says in Solidarity Forum

PEACE begets peace. God is the source of all harmony, He is its foundation and fulfillment. Please tell our city’s policemen not to arrest blind people for jaywalking because they can’t see the pedestrian lane.

These were some of the notions expressed by participants in the Solidarity Forum sponsored by the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) and Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) last Saturday, February 7 in celebration of the World Interfaith Harmony Week (February 1-7). It was held in Akay Sofia Hall of Claret School of Zamboanga. The over-100 participants included not only religious and indigenous people’s leaders but also other sectoral and youth representatives plus internally displace people (IDPs).

In his welcome remarks, ISP lead convenor Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF emphasized on the interreligious nature of the forum. He said this is within the overarching context of Asian societies and communities that are increasingly multi-cultural in population and social behaviors. This is why, he said, the umbrella network of peace advocates in Mindanao is called “Mindanao Peaceweavers” – the different cultural and religious groups are being woven through dialogue and interactions into a technicolor tapestry symbolic of a society that is in actuality progressing towards a peaceful and harmonious whole.

The forum, Fr. Calvo said, is but another meeting of local minds and hearts to consider the challenges and trends in current and various peace-building efforts and perspectives. What can we do together?, he asked, as we discover our own dreams of what peace means to us and how to achieve it.

The forum took place amid the raging crisis arising from the wholesale death of 44 elite policemen during an operation last January 26 to capture international terrorist Zulkifli Bin-Hir alias “Marwan” in Maguindanao province. The incident threatens to derail the ongoing efforts to set up a new autonomous system of government in parts of Mindanao as means to end the decades-long bloody Moro rebellion.

Harmony for the security sector is about respect for human rights, adherence to international humanitarian laws, dialogue, negotiation, forgiveness and accommodation, said t. Col. Taharudin Ampatuan, commander of the 4th Civil Relations Group of CRS-Armed Forces of the {hilippines. He gave a talk on the military’s current experience in peace-making in Mindanao. He said AFP units in Mindanao implement various programs aimed at promoting interfaith and inter-cultural harmony because “peace begets peace” and it is better to negotiate for peace than to go back to armed fighting.

PAZ vice-president Dr. Grace Rebollos discussed the concept and elements of social harmony, pointing out to God as its source, center and fulfillment. She said the bases for Muslim-Christian peace is their mutual belief in written testaments like the Bible and Koran, inner submission to God, respect for each other’s differences, forgiveness and love of enemies, and sharing of common humanity.

Former MNLF commander and autonomous government official Amilpasa Bandaying, representing the Muslim sector, in regard to the Maguindanao incident appealed “that we may continue to pursue the cause of peace and harmony, especially amongst us Christian and Muslim community. Let not recent chaos tear us apart now that I believe we have already achieved that level of understanding and harmony. . . A small and insignificant number of criminals” – referring to local terrorists purporting to wage Islamic causes – “should not represent the great majority of Muslims who do not subscribe to violent ways.”

Bandaying also warned about exploiting omnipresent social and digital media to spread “the barrage of improper information (that) leads us towards mistaken beliefs, erroneous aspirations and hostile views”. He cited how sectarian fundamentalists in the Middle East are using social media to radicalize and recruit supporters and fighters.

The other resource persons were Hadja Piddang Hasim – head of a volunteers group helping IDPs; Maisie Faith Dagapioso – women sector and project coordinator of Katilingban para sa Kalambuan; Joshua Pierra – youth sector and coordinator of Mindanao Youth for Development (MYDEV) program; and Teddy Kahil – president of the city’s association of persons with disability.

In his talk, Kahil lamented the fact that some blind people have been apprehended by policemen for violation of the anti-jaywalking ordinance. Please tell the police that blind people cannot see the pedestrian lanes, he urged the participants.

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