CAGAYAN DE ORO, Philippines – Religious leaders called for the resumption of peace negotiations between the government and the National Democratic Front (NDF), as a multisectoral group took to the streets on Thursday, December 1, to conclude this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace celebration in Cagayan de Oro.
Similar street marches, caravans, and fora have been been organized throughout Mindanao’s six regions since November 24.
Presidential Proclamation No. 127, issued by then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2001, declared the last Thursday of November up to the first Wednesday of December of each year as Mindanao Week of Peace.
The presidential proclamation encourages all government agencies, as well as Mindanao’s civil society groups, to participate in relevant and meaningful activities during the annual celebration.
Iglesia Filipina Independiente-Cagayan de Oro Bishop Felixberto Calang said that peace advocates drummed up calls for “nationalized peace talks as a viable process in attaining just and lasting peace.”
Calang said the root causes of the conflict are poverty, marginalization of communities, and dehumanization, and that these concerns can only be addressed if the government and NDF negotiators sit down and discuss what can be done.
The interfaith prayer rally gathered hundreds of church leaders, academics, students, young people, Muslim leaders, and government officials in the city alone.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum led Thursday’s peace march from the Rodelsa Circle to Misamis Oriental Capitol grounds in Cagayan de Oro.
Misamis Oriental Governor Peter Unabia joined the march organized to amplify calls to resume the peace talks between the government and the NDF that stopped during the Duterte administration.
Cagayan de Oro Mayor Rolando Uy sent Councilor Suzette Magtajas-Daba to represent city hall and express the local government’s solidarity with civil society groups and peace advocates.
Across Mindanao, all sorts of activities marked the weeklong celebration. There were peace fun runs, bicycle races and other sports events, Zumba for peace sessions, dance and singing competions, and even a fashion show.
In Cotabato City, for instance, Bangsamoro officials and peace advocates released several dozen sky lanterns to dramatize their calls for lasting peace, especially in the autonomous region that was once a hotbed for secessionism.
Maranao civic leader Samira Gutoc, a candidate for senator in the past two elections, told a gathering in Marawi City on Wednesday, November 30, that Mindanao Week of Peace should not to be reduced into a platform for speeches but action.
“It is not just for a Lumad-Moro-Christian dialogue but to make our unity real,” said Gutoc while emphasizing the need to educate people, especially “those whom we thought were our enemies.”
In Basilan, Peace Weaver Award recipients gave similar solidarity messages for peace and development during the celebration which started with a cultural parade. – Rappler.com