Cebuanos welcome peace caravan from Mindanao

After hearing speakers from Mindanao who were led by Oblate priest Roberto Layson, Vasquez said: "We realized that our local officials were wrong in saying we shouldn't mind the things happening in Mindanao—what is important is the stable peace and order that we have in the Visayas."

He said they have realized that "everything that has happened in Mindanao is really affecting us in the Visayas not only because many Visayans are in Mindanao and some Mindanaoans are in Visayas, but more because of the fact that if the economy slows down in Mindanao, it also has some effects in Visayas' economy. "

At the forum of around 100 people here, Layson, the co-chair of the MPC, told a crowd that the "problem in Mindanao is also the problem of this country and peace for Mindanao is also peace for this country."

The priest said that he has already experienced four wars in Mindanao and seen many children, suffering or even dying at the evacuation centers.

"Kung kailangan naming lumuhod para supurtahan kami sa aming peace struggle, gagawin namin," the priest said while appealing to Cebuanos for their support in their peace efforts.

Believing Malacanang officials still have the heart to listen to the voice of the Mindanawons, Layson said: "We have traveled so far in places where we have not gone to if only to ask you to help us knock on the doors of Malacanang for them to listen to us and the youth."

The Caravan to Corregidor that started in five major cities in Mindanao on March 13 is composed mostly of youth delegates coming from the provinces of Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and del Norte, Basilan, Jolo, North Cotabato, and Davao del Sur. Others came from the cities of Davao, Kidapawan, Cotabato, Zamboanga and Tagum.

Memen Lauzon of the Initiatives for International Dialogue, co-organizer of the Caravan, said that the impasse in the peace talks between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) has made them "very wary of the possibility of another war. That is why we are demanding from government to immediately sign an accord with the MILF and also deliver its commitment in the 1996 peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).” The MNLF forged a peace agreement with the government in 1996.

Anwar Opahm, spokesperson of the United Youth for Peace and Development (Unypad), said they were joining the Caravan "because the youth is the biggest sector that has been suffering for the lack of peace in Mindanao."

"Mindanao is not only faced with natural disaster but the disaster brought about by the war that has killed many," Opahm said as he called on his fellow youth in Cebu to help them convince government to listen to them.

After the massacre of over 30 youths in Corregidor, that is now known as the Jabidah Massacre, the youth spokesperson noted that there were a lot of massacres that have been committed against the Moro People of Mindanao and "like the Jabidah massacre vicitims, all other victims are yet to be afforded justice.'

"These massacres extremely touch the Bangsamoro people and even the international Moro community. It paved the way for the revolution of the Bangsamoro people that is still going on now," he told around 20 journalists here. (Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus)