KIDAPAWAN CITY, Philippines—Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Collin Bagaforo led some 200 cyclists in a 118-kilometer bikathon from Cotabato City to drum up support for the preliminary framework agreement recently signed by the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
The prelate said their long-distance travel from Cotabato to this city, which ended mid-morning Friday, was also their way of celebrating the Mindanao Week of Peace and the gains achieved thus far in the peace process.
The Mindanao Week of Peace, which Muslim and Catholic religious leaders adopted in 1999, was actually started in Zamboanga City as a form of protest against violence. It eventually evolved into an annual event which bound peace advocates to work for peace in the troubled south.
“The recently signed GPH-MILF framework agreement was also the fruit of the 13-year-old Mindanao Week of Peace initiatives,” Bagaforo said.
This year’s celebration adopted the theme “Responsive and responsible governance: Key to peace, development and sustainability.”
In Zamboanga City, about 20,000 people participated in the parade that marked the start of the week-long celebration on Thursday.
Mayor Celso Lobregat also urged city residents to support the peace process and help sustain its gains.
In General Santos City, Fr. Angel Buenavides of the South Cotabato-Sarangani-General Santos Peace Networks, said the Mindanao Week of Peace is also an opportunity for people of various faiths to converge for a common goal—peaceful co-existence.
“We are happy to see Christians, Muslims, and tribal groups all gather here to celebrate the Mindanao Week of Peace, as it only goes to show that we have Mindanao communities that are united and sharing,” Buenavides said.
“Let us have peace in our hearts and minds to be able to commune with people and nature,” General Santos City Mayor Darlene Custodio said in relation to the celebration.
Mindanao Development Authority chair Luwalhati Antonino said Mindanaoans should continue to conduct regular dialogues in maintaining peace on the island.
“We have nothing to lose if we settle things through dialogue. Wars will only cost us more damage,” Antonino said in an emailed statement.