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Sulu Vice Governor Sakur Tan and Sulu Provincial Women’s Council chairwoman Nurunisah Tan lead various civil groups in the celebration of the Week of Peace which culminated on December 3. (Photos by Ahl-franzie Salinas)

ZAMBOANGA CITY – Thousands of people joined the celebration of the Week of Peace in Zamboanga City and Sulu province with government officials and community leaders pledging to work hand-in-hand and together sustain the peace and harmony among peoples in the southern Filipino region.

The peace celebration, which started November 26 and ran until December 3, brought members of the different sectors of society, including civil society groups and non-governmental organizations, the police and military authorities in Sulu and Zamboanga.

Governor Totoh Tan, in his message delivered by his father, Vice Governor Sakur Tan, praised those whom participated in the Week of Peace and called on the public to continue advocating for peace in Mindanao.

“To depict peace in a concrete form or to have a discourse on the subject like an appreciation of a motorcycle or a painting, for example, is quite difficult as there is no set model or formula able to manifest peace in physical shape. Despite that fact, let us derive wisdom from the words of those who in one way or the other made a journey in the road to peace and freedom, for both are intertwined,” the governor said as he quoted Mahatma Gandhi, who fought the British for independence of India though peaceful means.

The governor said: “Gandhi also countered the dogma of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth which is a concept of vengeance or justice, by simply stating: “An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.”

He urged everyone in Sulu to support not only peace, but the efforts of the government in bringing about harmony among all races.

“Let the first act of every morning be to make the following resolve for the day -I shall not fear anyone on Earth. I shall fear only God. I shall not bear ill will toward anyone. I shall not submit to injustice from anyone. I shall conquer untruth by truth. And in resisting untruth, I shall put up with all suffering,” the governor said.

He ended his message with a quote from civil rights activist Martin Luther King, Jr. :“Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

Vice Governor Tan led provincial officials and other groups headed by Kusug Tausug in the celebration and peace parade participated by more than 10,000 people around the province and a program held at Notre Dame Gymnasium in the capital town of Jolo.

“This annual observance of the Week of Peace is a manifestation that majority of our people desires peace and that they want peace to reign in Sulu and Mindanao. Peace has no shape, no form and no face. It is abstract and resides in the heart of those who seek it. Peace is perfection as God is Perfection, not attainable in a lifetime,” Tan said.

The Sulu Provincial Women’s Council headed by Nurunisah Tan also led a huge contingent to the Week of Peace celebration and she urged residents to continue the harmonious and peaceful relationship between Muslims and Christians.

“Peace is us. Peace begins in our heart and we continue to advocate peace in Sulu and everywhere we go and let us remember that in unity there is strength and power and that we use that power to spread peace and harmony among the people, not only in Sulu but the whole world,” she said.

Peace advocates in Sulu and political allies of Vice Governor Tan also condemned the negative propaganda being peddled by unscrupulous people who are being paid by political foes of Tan to attack the credibility of the provincial government and undermine its efforts in promoting peace and harmony, and development in the province. Tan, one of the most respected Muslim leaders in southern Philippines, is running as regional governor in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao in next year’s polls and is being supported by other governors in the ARMM and various groups.

Peace for Zamboanga

In Zamboanga City, some 5,000 people – Christians and Muslims and tribal members – also joined a torch parade on December 2 which was organized by Interreligious Solidarity for Peace.

“We end our meaningful celebration of the Week of Peace with the traditional torch parade to signify our advance from the big and small achievements of our community’s peace-building and peace-making towards the exciting challenges and opportunities we together face in the new year,” Spanish priest and missionary Father Angel Calvo said.

He urged people to face the challenges united in purpose and vision. These challenges, he said, are found in the coming elections, environmental threats, and the Mindanao peace process.

“The elections in May will be our opportunity to renew and strengthen good governance under a political leadership of integrity, who will orchestrate our collective efforts to achieve social justice, human security and communal harmony and peace.  As stakeholders we shall climb new heights, turn new corners in the Mindanao peace process as the agreements between our government and rebel fronts are tested by fast-approaching milestones.”

“As one human family inhabiting one global village called Earth, we shall have to undertake many projects for climate adaptation, disaster management and ecological enhancement for the survival – yes, survival – of our present and future generations,” the priest said.

Zamboanga Mayor Beng Climaco was also one of the keynote speakers at the culmination of the Week of Peace program and she called on the public to support local government efforts in promoting peace. (Ahl-franzie Salinas. With a report from Rey Banagudos.)

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