More than 20,000 residents of Zamboanga City this morning (November 26) paraded to open the Mindanao Week of Peace 2015 celebration in this multi-cultural city that has played a historic part in the peace and security of Mindanao since its founding in the 1500s.
Calling the parade a “significant expression of our commitment to peace”, Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) lead convenor Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF in his welcome address at the opening program said the Week of Peace celebration in its 18 years has underscored the need for the citizenry to make peace-building both a personal as well as collective cause. The week-long observance that originated in the city but is now spread throughout Mindanao is being held under the shadow of the two year-ago war in Zamboanga as well as the present overarching yet uphill national effort to establish a new Bangsamoro autonomous region.
“We need to show to the nation and the world that we believe in peace, that in Zamboanga the Muslims, Christians and indigenous peoples can walk together in a journey to achieve peace”, Fr.Calvo told the parade and program participants. He said achieving communal peace is like cultivating a plant to grow from seed to maturity that is made especially challenging by the complex social conditions of Mindanao.
The parade was participated in by students and their teachers, military and police personnel, urban poor, religious leaders and civil society workers, government civilian personnel, tribal members, and others. The parade started from the Sta. Maria Elementary School and ended at the Pasonanca Park’s Boy Scout amphitheater where the opening program was held.
The statement of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC) was read by Fr Joel Malcampo on behalf of Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo de la Cruz. The religious leaders called for intra-faith dialogue among Christians and Muslims as a means to achieve peace in Mindanao.
The ISP spearheads the week-long celebration featuring daily activities from November 26 to December 2, to be capped by a torch parade. The celebration theme is “Peoples’ Solidarity for Integrity, Justice and Peace”.
Peace Advocates Zamboanga vice-president Dr. Grace Rebollos during the program read the ISP statement on the Week, saying that “From the very beginning, our Week of Peace has been a celebration of our peoples’ diversity in terms of ethnic origin, religious faith, political affinity, and economic standing. With the Week of Peace, we have harnessed this diversity to serve as our source of multi-cultural and interreligious strength to build a community of peace, harmony and security.”
The statement said in reference to the theme that “With solidarity as our basic interfaith framework, we promote and enjoy the fruits of integrity in the form of good governance, of ethical and moral conduct and best practices in public life that among others the coming elections is an opportunity. By solidarity, we promote and enjoy the fruits of justice by the delivery of social services and the demands of human rights, of all-inclusive socio-economic development. By solidarity, we support and enjoy the fruits of the Mindanao peace process at its grassroot to its highest social as well as legal levels.”