“We will Rise!” is theme of year after Zambo siege commemoration

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews/08 September) – “We will Rise!” is the theme chosen by the Archdiocese of Zamboanga to commemorate the first anniversary of the September 9, 2013 siege that led to a three-week standoff between members of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) loyal to founding chair Nur Misuari and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

The 20-day standoff started September 9, 2013 after hundreds of MNLF members laid siege initially on four barangays.

Monsigñor David Alonzo, Archdiocese of Zamboanga Media Affairs Officer, said commemorative activities will be anchored on the theme “We will Rise!”

Alonzo said the activities will kick off with a prayer in all parishes at 2:45 p.m. Monday, which will be followed by the ringing of church bells at 3 p.m.

He said an ecumenical prayer service will be held at Plaza del Pilar at 4 p.m. to be led by the city government to be followed by Commemorative Program at the shrine of Our Lady of the Pillar with the theme: “Honoring, Healing and Heading Forward.”

Alonzo said the program will include a floral offering and a Prayer for Healing of Zamboanga City.

He said Zamboanga Archbishop Romulo Dela Cruz, with the Clergy of this city concelebrating, will preside the celebration of the mass at 5:30 p.m. “to honor those who sacrificed their lives, and those who died as a consequence of the siege as well as those displaced families.”

The 20-day standoff resulted to the death of more than 20 soldiers and policemen and injured over 190 others.

Almost 200 civilians were held hostages while more than 10 were killed and over 70 others were wounded during the standoff.

The standoff also displaced more than 100,000 civilians.

Latest city government records showed that 1,810 families consisting of 9,723 are still housed in seven transitory sites.

Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman, who visited Friday the internally displaced persons (IDPs) or “bakwits,” disclosed that there are still 2,304 families comprising 12,476 individuals who are staying at this city sports complex.

Alonzo said the mass will be followed by candle lighting for peace and unity of Zamboanga City in front of City Hall at 6:30 p.m. on Monday.

Dela Cruz wrote a pastoral letter titled “Choose Life, Not Death,” to commemorate the Zamboanga siege, which was read in all masses and published Sunday, September 7, in parish bulletins of the Archdiocese of Zamboanga.

An excerpt from the pastoral letter said, “We Christians and our Muslim brothers and sisters have lived together in peace for hundreds of years. Last year’s sad and tragic episode should not and will not affect the old and established relationship of peace and goodwill we have enjoyed together for many centuries…. In the Book of Deuteronomy (Dt. 30:15-20) 3,400 years ago, Moses reminded his people about their sacred covenant with God. ‘Today I am giving you a choice between good and evil, between life and death… Choose life!’”