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Maintaining the Interfaith Character of Zamboanga City

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“Muslims and Christians together make-up well over half of the world’s population. Without peace and justice these two religious communities, there can be no meaningful peace in the world. The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians,”

- From the An Open Letter and Call from 138 Muslim Religious Leaders to His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and other Christian Leaders of the World on the Occasion of the Eid Al Fitr Al Mubarak 1428 A.H./October 13th 2007 C.E.

ZC: AN INTERFAITH CITY

In 2017, Architect Felino A. Palafox and co. gave a new name to the branding of Zamboanga City as an “Interfaith City” believing that only this city one called “Jambangan”, “Nawan”, “Ciudad de Flores”, “City of flowers” and now “Asia’s Latin City”.

But Arch. Palafox rightly said it without reservation, because, he said, only Zamboanga City can be called with such an appellation, as an “Interfaith City” due to the co-mingling of Catholics, Protestants, Evangelicals, Muslims and other faith traditions to this day which has not been marred or interrupted in its peacefulness and tolerance to the beliefs of everyone living in this city.

An ordinance after the MNLF Siege in September 2013, created the Interfaith Council no other city can proudly say it has such document to prove worthy of the title as an “Interfaith City”.

THE CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANIZATIONS AS SUPPORT FORCES FOR THE INTERFAITH CITY BRANDING

In this city, we have the Interreligious Solidarity for Peace (ISP) headed by a Clarian Priest Fr. Angel C. Calvo, CMF with conveners coming from the Catholics, Evangelicals, Muslims and the Indigenous Peoples (IPs).

Silsilah Dialogue Movement headed by an Italian Priest Fr. Sebastiano D’Ambra, PIME with Muslims, Catholics and other faith traditions supporting the movement under Fr. D’Ambra.

The ISP takes care of the annual celebration of the Mindanao Week of Peace participated by many sectors of the city. The UN World Interfaith Harmony Week is under the care of the Silsilah Dialogue Movement. Both organizations are handled by Catholic priests with the support of all religious personalities leaving “no stone unturned” to the celebrations of the annual activities of the city. Indeed, the city government is well pleased of the efforts of these two organizations in bringing unity, harmony and peace to the city.

Contributing to the city’s peaceful image are these two organizations.

Therefore, maintaining Interfaith Character of Zamboanga City may one day the envy of all the places in Mindanao, and perhaps, the whole country.

***

REMEMBERING 2016 PEACE WEAVER AWARDEE: HADJI DATU AYU MANDI

There are people whose lives are remembered with much appreciation and pride for they lived their lives with honor and service for their people.  One of these is our honoree who was one of the few native Muslims of the Sama tribe who had gained prominence and distinction in his own right.  He hailed from Manalipa Island, Zamboanga City.

Bestowed with the traditional title of Datu, our honoree was regarded as a leader by the Muslims not only in the City of Zamboanga but also those Muslims from Basilan and Zamboanga del Norte. Everyday, his office would be the venue for the settling of problems of the Muslims particularly on matters pertaining to family relations, land conflict and even crimes involving members of his tribe.  Oftentimes, the Local Executive of the City of Zamboanga found it necessary and useful to consult him on matters pertaining to the problems of the local members of the National Cultural community, especially in his capacity as deputy to the Mayor of Zamboanga City during the post-war years.

As an official of the Commission on National Integration, he helped administer the scholarship program of the government for the members of the so-called National Cultural Communities. Even beyond his retirement from government, he devoted his last years of service serving the cultural communities as a functionary of  the PANAMIN or the Presidential Arm for National Minorities, a nonstock, nonprofit organization created to protect the interests of Philippine cultural minorities.

A remarkable feature of his younger years especially during the early thirties was his prowess in swimming that gave fame and name to Zamboanga.  He was known as a “pre-war star winner” - the Zamboangueño-Muslim star swimmer of Far Eastern Olympics held in April 1934 in Manila and Dual Philippine-Japan Swimming Meet held in Tokyo.  He was best known for long distance swimming events.  His swimming career was capped with winning thirty-six (36) medals.

Reflective of his character of being humble, soft-spoken and unassuming, his death in 1994 went unnoticed, but certainly was an irreparable loss to the people and the city of Zamboanga.  In order to perpetuate his memory to be treasured as a model for our youth and people, we find it fitting to honor him tonight.

A Muslim, a Sama, a leader of peace who served especially the cultural communities, and the people of Zamboanga, we accord the honor of being a Peace Weaver for 2016 to Hadji Datu Ayu Mandi. (By Ali Yacub)




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