Thursday, 26 September 2013 00:00
AMID the heavy firefight in Zamboanga City between rebels of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) and soldiers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) last Saturday, September 21, members and associates representing some 30 civil society organizations and government agencies of the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) met to pray, to discern, and to agree on a plan of action to help the community and authorities to restore peace and harmony in the “Orgullo de Mindanao”.
By that 13th day of the rebels’ siege of the city, reports said 86 rebels, 12 soldiers, three policemen and many civilians have been killed in action. So far, too, some 200 have been wounded, while 85 rebels have been captured. Some 183 persons hostaged by rebels either escaped or were released, with more reportedly still in the custody of the rebels. At least 120,000 people are evacuees or were displaced from their homes, creating a huge humanitarian crisis. At least 1,000 houses located in the combat zones have been razed.
These statistics represent a devastating amount of death, destruction and suffering that may have been avoided if government had responded more calmly and circumspectly to the attack that started on September 9 and has dragged on for two weeks. Pope Francis himself warned against the futile use of a purely military solution in regard to the bigger conflict going on in Syria.
But with the crisis being as it is, we can only commend the prompt and massive humanitarian assistance being extended by the government, local/national/international organizations and agencies and especially sundry city residents to the evacuees and victims. For our part, the ISP has partnered with the Claret Parish and the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. to provide food and other relief goods and to extend psycho-social healing to children evacuees.
In line with our peace-building advocacy and to help strengthen the Mindanao peace process, ISP will be joined soon by the Mindanao Peaceweavers to conduct an independent inquiry of the attack and crisis, even as we also appeal to Congress to conduct its own investigation.
We offer to the government and community our experience and capacity in social housing and wholistic community organizing and development to hasten the social rehabilitation and human security work. In establishing housing facilities to the refugees, we urge government not to segregate them into Muslim and Christian settlements, asreported, since this will only deepen mistrust and divisiveness. Let us rebuild social peace and not further destroy it in its already damaged condition.
The theme of our ISP meeting was “Lord, Heal Our Land”, which we also adopted as the theme for the forthcoming Week of Peace celebration in November. Let us as a community of believers in God and His peace together move on and forward with faith, hope and charity.
FR. ANGEL C. CALVO, CMF REV. PASTOR PAULINO ERSANDO
Lead Convener Evangelical Convener
PROF. ALI T. YACUB, AL-HJ. MR. NULHAMDO CEGALES
Muslim Convener Indigenous People Convener
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