One goal: peace one day
MANILA, Philippines – Peace through sports.
This is the message that Philippine soldiers want to bring to children affected by conflict in Mindanao.
On Friday, October 4, soldiers from the Philippine Marine Corps and the Zamboanga Football Association (ZAFA) taught 150 children about cooperation and teamwork through the sport of football. The children, aged 6 to 14 years old, are temporary residents of the evacuation centers in Zamboanga City, after being forced to leave their homes in barangays Rio Hondo, Mareke, and Talon Talon.
The football festival was originally scheduled for September 21, to commemorate International Peace Day, at Zamboanga’s Joaquin Enriquez Sports Complex. But the organizers had to postpone the festival due to the prolonged standoff between the military and fighters of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
Lt. Col. Stephen Cabanlet, a key official of the Marines’ Footballs for Peace program, told Rappler that the humanitarian crisis in Zamboanga City sparked a change in the plans.
“We decided that instead of bringing the children from Sulu, Sultan Kudarat, Basilan and Cotabato to Zamboanga City for the festival, we did the football clinic (for) the children affected by the crisis to give them a day of peace by playing football,” said Lt. Col. Cabanlet.
The Marines hope to foster understanding between Muslim and Christian communities through football. They have conducted football clinics and festivals in Mindanao and in Metro Manila.
Lt. Col. Cabanlet hopes that people will see the program not as propaganda for the military but as a sincere attempt to build a culture of peace and mutual respect among the youth.
"Ang mithiin ng mga marino, kami ng mga sundalo, ay ganon din ang mithiin ng ating kababayan. Iisa ang ating mithiin, ang kapayapaan." (The goal of the Marines, the soldiers, is the same as that of our countrymen. We have one goal – peace.)
– with a report by Zak Yuson/Rappler.com