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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Re-Unidos who committed to cooperate in the task of Rehabilitation and healing of the communities in the City that had been working on a special project named RE-UNIDOS SOCIAL COHESION FOR PEACE PROJECT since October last year. Part of this project is the Implementation of Psycho-Social Healing of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), who were the direct victims of the 2013 September Standoff that are now in four (4) different transitory sites namely;

  1. Grandstand
  2. Tulungatung
  3. Mampang
  4. Upper Calarian (PTSI).

On January 29 and 30, more than 120 Internally Displaced Persons (composed of families), that were from the two transitory sites in Tulungatung and Mampang 2 respectively participated in the -Social Healing Session conducted by Re-Unidos community members.

The main purpose of this session is to know firsthand from the IDPs how were they doing as IDPs, how are they with their new environment, what are their stories before and after, by simply utter the word “Kumusta ka?’. One of the Facilitators, AL- Rashid Jama said that, “Through this question, we allow them to express themselves”. Different sites, different stories, but majority of the participants has the same concerns on their current situation in the transitory sites have transpired.

The participants who were identified with the help of the CSWDO staffs in Tulungatung and the Integrated Resource and Development for Tri-People (IRDT) in Mampang 2 who also provided the venue for the healing activities were cooperative and were grateful that they were able to voice out their sentiments and currents situation in their respective sites. “Thank you ZABIDA and all the facilitators for coming here, at least, we were able to express how we feel, and maybe you can help us reach out to concerned National agencies/ persons about our situation,” One of the participants from Mampang Transitory site, Liling Jailani said in vernacular.

These activities were the continuance of the Psycho-Social Healing activity held in Grandstand on November last Year, and the same activity will be held on February 3, to accommodate IDPs from the PTSI Transitory Site in Upper Calarian.

Active members of Re-Unidos coming from different Institutions such as the Philippine National Red Cross, Barangay local Government Units, Academe, and other Non government organizations like the Integrated Resource for Development for Tri-People, and youths have volunteered to be facilitators and documenters in the conduct of the healing session with the IDPs through the “Art of Hosting”.

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ZABIDA Completes Training Program on Barangay Good Governance

The last batch of 50 barangay leaders who trained in community good governance has completed the final 2-day session today, January 22. They belong to picturesque Barangay Pasonanca, and they form the 20th barangay-based group to have undergone the program provided by the Zamboanga-Basilan Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA).

Through the program, ZABIDA aims to partner with selected city barangays to improve the living and security conditions of their respective residents. Local leaders are oriented in the elements of good governance, taught how to gather and process baseline data, conducted social-economic analysis, and then developed a five-year barangay development.

The local non-government organization works closely with the Department of Interior and Local, city government and concerned barangay councils and sectoral groups. A major plank of the program is women empowerment, by which an equitable number of women are enrolled in the preparation and implementation of their community’s development roadmap.

Pasonanca’s leaders on Thursday and Friday this week first assessed their baseline data using methodology the program had taught them. On the second day, they conducted a final situational analysis and completed their barangay development plan. The plan has three components each of which a group was assigned to work on. The components are poverty alleviation or socio-economic development, peace and security, and good governance/administrative development. The host barangay provided a counterpart of snacks, transportation and venue to the participants.

ZABIDA is headed by Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF; the good governance program is one of several the consortium implements in the city and Basilan to promote comprehensive human security and communal peace. Efforts cover environmental preservation and disaster risk management, sustainable agriculture, housing, delivery of social services, security and policing, interreligious dialogue, youth welfare, livelihood assistance, etc. The program is funded by the Agencia Espanola de Cooperacion Internacional para Desarollo, which is Spain’s international development assistance agency.

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ROOF conducted Data Presentation and Validation

On Wednesday, January 21, A Project Research managed by Reach Out to Others Foundation, Inc., entitled “Measuring Health Vulnerability, Enhancing Resilience and Adaptation to Climate among At-risk to Communities of Zamboanga City and Basilan,” was presented by Lead Researcher, Liezl de-Sosa Camacho for presentation and validation to the invited participants, majority came from selected Barangay local government units from Zamboanga City and Basilan, including Barangay Health Workers at a newly operated hotel in the city.

According to Ms. Camacho, the presentation has three (3) major objectives; first, is to develop a conceptual framework and measurement instrument for determining “vulnerability and resiliency” factors associated with health and disease; second, to apply the above cited measurement tool in assessing the vulnerability status of selected deprived communities; and third, is to determine community resiliency in examining their own natural strategies for adaptation to climate change.

“This research invites us to explore more and share existing knowledge with the communities,” Ms. Camacho urged the participants.

ROOF President, Dr. Grace J. Rebollos said that this is a validation meeting; it is the first step to confirm to BLGUs about the research that has been done. “We want to get back into the Barangays to see what we can do to put things together with the native knowledge that has been inputted during the surveys,” Dr. Rebollos said.

Brgy. Capt. Joselito Macrohon and Kag. Phyllis Granada, (BLGU-Recodo) were among the few BLGU officials who shared some of the factors, which led to diseases/ illnesses in their respective Barangays.

Dr. Rebollos said that this is a good way that we have this kind of meeting; “the participants were able to validate or disagree to the survey results,” she added.

Also among who attended the meeting were from the Philippine Information Agency (PIA), ZABIDA, Katilingban sa Kalambuan Inc. (KKI), and Nagdilaab Foundation, Inc. (NFI).

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