By Francis Wakefield
Peace advocates from the Caraga region culminated the Mindanao Week of Peace with renewed calls for peace despite the intensified communist aggression and the looming threat of violent extremism in the region in Butuan City.
Spearheaded by the Caraga Conference for Peace and Development and Caraga Regional Peace and Order Council (RPOC), this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace celebration which was held in Butuan City on Wednesday focused on resolving four conflict lines – Criminality, Insurgency, Resource-Based Conflicts and issues and challenges of the Indigenous Peoples (IP), which are identified in the Caraga Roadmap for Peace.
With the theme, “Owning Mindanao History for Peace and Development”, the week-long celebration which started on December 1 featured several activities such as peace forum on countering violent extremism, ecumenical gathering in commemoration of 500-year anniversary of Protestant reformation, IP dialogue, youth summit, and forum on extortion and revolutionary tax.
In her speech, Agusan Del Norte Governor and RPOC-13 Chairman Ma. Angelica Rosedell M. Amante-Matba emphasized the importance of unity in combating insurgency in the region.
“We in Caraga region are pieces of a puzzle. It doesn’t matter if you’re from Agusan Del Sur, Agusan Del Norte, Surigao Del Sur, Surigao Del Norte or Dinagat Islands … We belong to one region. If we fit the (pieces of the) puzzle, we will be able to create a picture of true peace through cooperation and tolerance,” she said.
“Peace has a chance to be achieved. We just need to love our region,” she added.
Meanwhile, Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) Assistant Secretary Rolando Asuncion stressed the importance of inclusivity in the peace process in his keynote message.
“We at OPAPP recognize the diverseness of the people in Caraga region. We have Muslims, Christians and Lumads coexisting in this melting pot of culture and religion. It is important for us to recognize that our identity as Filipino goes beyond diversity. There are no barriers if we are working for the common good of our nation,” Asuncion said.
Asuncion also echoed Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza’s pronouncement on laying the foundation of social infrastructures to combat violent extremism.
“The prevention of another Marawi begins with social healing and reconciliation. As Secretary Dureza said, ‘build relationships, bring back social cohesion, and mend the torn social fabric brought about by the armed conflict.’
Lastly, the assistant secretary called for Caraganons to bolster the gains of the peace process.
“This year, we have gained so much in our endeavors for peace in Mindanao. Let us all hope to sustain these gains for the incoming year through unity, compassion and inclusivity,” he concluded.
The Mindanao Week of Peace is an annual celebration which started in 2001 through the Proclamation Order No. 127 issued by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to “recognize the common aspirations of Mindanaoans to live in peace, unity and harmony with each other regardless of status in life, religion or culture”.
It is held every last Thursday of November up to the first Wednesday of December of every year.