COTABATO CITY – As part of the Mindanao Week of Peace, a diverse group of multi-stakeholders came together through a vibrant Peace Walk held on December 2, 2023.
The event witnessed the participation of around 300 individuals from 23 organizations from different sectors including teachers, students, community leaders, religious leaders, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations (CSOs), youth, women and the security sector.
The lively parade of colors commenced at the Cotabato State University Campus Park, culminating at the in PC Hill, Cotabato City. This significant gathering aimed to emphasize the collective commitment to fostering peace and cooperation among the diverse communities in Mindanao.
The Mindanao Week of Peace is annually celebrated from the last Thursday in November to the first Wednesday of December through Proclamation Order No. 127, issued by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The event serves as a reminder of the power of collective efforts aiming 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”.
Following the Peace Walk, a program unfolded at the 6CMO. LTC Dennis C Almorato, Battalion Commander of 6CMO, gave welcoming remarks, “Ang ating Peace Walk ngayon ay hindi lamang isang simpleng paglalakad; ito’y isang malakas na pahayag na ang kapayapaan ay hindi lamang isang pangarap kundi isang layunin na ating makakamit nang magkakasama. Ang bawat hakbang natin ay simbolo ng ating lakas, katatagan at pangakong magtulungan para sa isang mapayapang kinabukasan (Our Peace Walk today is not just a simple walk; it is a strong statement that peace is not only a dream but a goal that we can achieve together. Every step we take is a symbol of our strength, resilience and commitment to working together for a peaceful future.)”
Guests of honor representing different sectors also gave solidarity messages, including Archbishop Emeritus Antonio Ledesma from the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro; Sheikh Abdulrahim Sangkua of the World Association for Alazhar Graduates; Mr. Philip Cuevas of Cotabato State University – Indigenous Peoples Center; PLT Jay-ar Rimorin, Assistant Company Commander of 44th Special Action Company, 4th Special Action Battalion, PNP Special Action Force; and Mr. Nash Mantao, Youth Development Officer of US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Students of Cotabato Rasheeda High School and Cotabato City Central Pilot School Drum and Lyre Corps also showcased captivating performances. The atmosphere resonated with positivity as doves were released after the community singing, symbolizing the shared aspiration for lasting peace. The celebration concluded with a poignant Symbolic Gesture of Peace, as participants affix post-it notes on the Freedom Peace Wall, echoing their commitment to building lasting harmony.
Ms. Nicole Lopez, National Coordinator of HWPL Philippines, conveyed the message of Chairman Lee Man-hee of Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light, reminding everyone to strengthen the call for cessation of end of wars, particularly the recent Israel-Hamas conflict.
Hosted by the HWPL in partnership with Kutawato Greenland Initiatives, the Mindanao Week of Peace festivities continued with a series of impactful events, in conjunction with the observance of the UN International Volunteer Day (December 5). On December 3, a clean-up drive was organized in Manila Bay, underscoring the importance of environmental responsibility and sustainability. Additionally, from December 4-5, a Toy Donation Drive for Badjao Community and a dedicated clean-up initiative were also held in Cotabato City, reinforcing the spirit of giving and community welfare.