Philippines: Muslim, Christian students celebrate peace

Week of Peace events in troubled Philippines south aim to bring different religious communities together, heal rifts of recent years

Philippines: Muslim, Christian students celebrate peace

World Bulletin / News Desk

Students at a predominantly-Muslim public secondary school in the Philippines' south took turns to read passages from the Koran and Bible on Friday as they joined a week-long province-wide celebration called the Week of Peace in the predominantly Christian city of Zamboanga.

Muslim students -- who make up 90 percent of the Arena Blanco High School -- joined their Christian schoolmates in reading passages from the two holy books to foster understanding, respect and solidarity, according to school principal Garry Sta. Ana.

The readings and sharing, he said, would build harmony on the school campus as well as the community.

The neighborhood of Arena Blanco is one of at least seven directly affected by a Sept. 2013 siege by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) rebel group, which left more than 300 civilians, soldiers and policemen dead and more than 1,000 houses destroyed in a series of fires.

After the readings, some of the students joined their parents and teachers to paint the school’s concrete fences with images and messages of peace.

Sta. Ana said the school’s Parent-Teachers Association had participated in the painting along with policemen and watchmen, local officials, civic organizations and students of nearby elementary and high schools.

"The murals will help develop a culture of peace among students and other residents whenever they see them as they pass by daily," he told Anadolu Agency.

"I thank Peace Advocates Zamboanga [PAZ] especially Father Angel Calvo for helping us in this project."

PAZ pitched in by providing the enamel paints and brushes, as well as coaching by its staff and volunteers, headed by program coordinator Rosie France Montojo.

"This is one of the school- and community-based activities in celebrations for the Week of Peace," Montojo said.

The Week of Peace is being celebrated Nov. 26-Dec. 2 in Zamboanga City and many other communities on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines south.

The Mindanao Bishops-Ulama Conference has issued a message of solidarity enjoining Mindanao people to observe the annual event, which began in 1998 as an interfaith peace-building activity.

Zamboanga’s Interreligious Solidarity for Peace launched the celebration with a parade and program Thursday attended by around 20,000 participants.

The city’s Catholic archdiocese has also organized several of its own activities for the celebration.

Zamboanga City Mayor Isabelle Climaco-Salazar earlier issued an order urging all government agencies to observe the event.

The MNLF, a Muslim rebel group that had signed a peace agreement with the Philippines government in September 1996, laid siege to Zamboanga City in September 2013 in protest at a peace deal the government had entered into with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, then the country's largest Muslim rebel organization.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 27 Kasım 2015, 15:47