Theme of Mindanao Week of Peace amid pandemic: “Dialogue Towards Harmony”

DAVAO CITY (MindaNews/26 November) – “Dialogue Towards Harmony” is the theme of this year’s Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP), the 22nd of the annual celebration since 1999.

But in the time of COVID-19 pandemic, when restrictions are imposed and survival is primordial, how can this be achieved?

Cardinal Orlando Quevedo (in white barong) with convenors of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (L to R) UCCP Bishops Hilario Gomez, Davao Archbishop Emeritus Fernando Capalla and Judge Abo Cali of Ulama League of the Philippines 5th General Assembly of the Bishops-Ulama Conference on 27 November 2018 at the Ateneo de Davao University. MindaNews photo by CAROLYN O. ARGUILLAS

Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla, Archbishop Emeritus of Davao and chair of the Bishops-Ulama Conference (BUC), acknowledged that the pandemic involves ideas and feelings, “that is, both the head and the heart must be involved. And harmony and peace are achieved when the following simple principles of authentic, human and fraternal dialogue are followed.”

He cited three principles: humility, no monologue and openness to all ideas.

“The first is humility, that is, no air of superiority; the second is no monologue but listening with the two ears and with the heart the third ear because God created us with two ears and only one mouth in order to listen twice as much as we speak; the third principle is openness to all ideas without accepting or rejecting any,” Capalla said in a written and videotaped message.

He said he refers to these three principles as “dialogue of feelings, promote oneness, unity or communion or solidarity or harmony or order and peace.”

Held every last Thursday of November until the first Wednesday of December, the MWOP was initiated in 1999 by the BUC (then Bishops-Ulama Forum), inspired by the annual week of peace initiated by the Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) in Zamboanga City .

The BUC was born three years earlier, on November 29, 1996.

Kublai Art Garden in Kapatagan, Digos City in Davao del Sur had become a popular destination for bonding time with relatives and friends before COVID-19. The place features the Agong House and other sculptural pieces of Mindanawon artist Kublai (Mujahid Ponce Millan). MindaNews photo taken 30 Dec 2017 by GG BUENO

Capalla said he and co-convenors Judge Abu Cali of the Ulama League of the Philippines and Bishop Hilario Gomez of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, chose the theme to “promote the culture of peace and bring about peaceful relationships among individuals and communities, among families and associations in business, government, schools, churches and society in general,” and because there is a “crucial need for harmony and dialogue among followers of different religions in the present pandemic situation.”

Capalla noted that the COVID-19 pandemic is “unprecedented and urgent” and demand mutual cooperation from everyone, “from government, military, police, the barangay captains, businesses, churches, educators, NGOs, and the health and hospital personnel especially the so-called courageous Frontliners.”

He said decisions from the government’s COVID-19 task force on quarantine measures, lockdowns, health protocols and fines “must be followed,” citing the principle “I am willing to sacrifice certain personal freedoms for the sake of the common good, mostly of the poor and the marginalized,” before stressing on the principles of  “humility, no monologue and openness to all ideas.”

MWOP themes

MindaNews tracked down the themes of the annual celebration, many of them recurring:

1999: Healing the Past, Building the Future
2000: Mindanaoans Journeying Together Towards a Culture of Peace.
2001: Peace: Sharing the Vision of Unity and Hope
2002: Peace through Reconciliation: Mindanaoans seeking a Common Ground
2003: Healing through Forgiveness: Key to Total Human Development
2004: A Reconciled Family, Agent of Reconciliation
2005: Millennium Development Goals: Women and Youth as Partners in Peace Building
2006: In the Name of the Almighty, God of Harmony, Care for the Earth
2007: Building Bridges of Peace with our Peace Officers
2008: Integrity of Mind and Heart a way to Reconciliation and Peace!
2009: Think Mindanao, Feel Mindanao, Bring Peace to Mindanao
2010: Responsive and Responsible Governance: Key to Peace, Development and Sustainability
2011: Common Word between us and you: Love of God, Love of Neighbor
2012: Love of God and Love of Neighbor, A Challenge for Mindanao
2013: Dialogue and Hope: Key to Peace
2014: We pray for long-lasting peace in Mindanao. Give, Share, Live and Proclaim Peace
2015: Mindanaons’ Aspiration for Peace
2016: Healing for Personal and Social Transformation
2017: Owning Mindanao History for Peace and Development
2018: Peace through dialogue: Our destiny
2019: Towards Human Fraternity for Peace in Mindanao
2020: Dialogue Towards Harmony

Then President Joseph Estrada issued Proclamation 207 on November 5, 1999, declaring November 25 to December 1, 1999, “and every year thereafter” as the Mindanao Week of Peace, “to provide a venue for the expression in various forms of the peace aspirations of the people of Mindanao and for convergence of peace initiatives.”

The Proclamation said all concerned government agencies and instrumentalities, including government-owned and controlled corporations and members of the private sector and civil society based in Mindanao “are enjoined and encouraged to engage in relevant and meaningful activities in celebration” of the MWOP in coordination with the BUF (now BUC).

It also said the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) in partnership with the secretariat of the BUC Secretariat, “shall provide all the necessary help to ensure a successful coordination of all undertakings during the said week of peace.”

In March 2000, four months after issuing Proclamation 207, Estrada waged an “all-out war” against the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), displacing nearly a million residents, some of whom returned home only after Estrada was ousted in January 2001.

On November 3, 2000, Estrada issued Proclamation 408, amending Proclamation 207 by resetting the date of the MWOP to the last Thursday of November until the first Wednesday of December of every year thereafter.

On November 26, 2001,  President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who assumed the Presidency in January that year following the impeachment of Estrada, issued Proclamation 127, reiterating Proclamation 207 and declaring the last Thursday of November up to the first Wednesday of December of every year thereafter as the Mindanao Week of Peace. (MindaNews)