Maguindanao unveils peace monument, courtesy of Korean peace advocates

BULUAN, Maguindanao (MindaNews / 26 May) – While most city and municipal halls or plazas have the statue of Dr. Jose P. Rizal, Maguindanao province opted not to put a hero or a certain personality for its monument.

Instead, it has a big white dove perched on a globe spreading its wings – called the Mindanao Peace Monument – as the people’s way of expressing their quest for a lasting peace in the region.

It was donated by the advocacy group Heavenly Culture, World Peace, Restoration of Light (HWPL) led by South Korea peace activist Man Hee Lee, and the Schincheonji Church of Jesus the Temple.

The unveiling of the monument was one of the highlights during Monday’s Peace Summit.

Lee’s group has been one with the Mindanao Bishops-Ulama Conference, in his group’s attempt to help various religious groups come to an understanding as far as peace is concerned.

Lee, in his speech, stressed that 80 percent of armed conflicts around the world is rooted on religious differences.

“If we all believe in one God, then religion is not the problem,” he stressed during a translated speech at the peace summit.

Lee said the efforts and stand of Maguindanao province and its people calling for peace and supporting the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) are a way forward into achieving the dream of every peace-loving individual.

During the event, Maguindanao province and Lee’s group agreed to celebrate every 24th of January as international day of peace or HWPL day where they signed a peace covenant.

Before the monument unveiling, participants first had a peace march from the Buluan Gym going to the Rajah Buayan Peace Center. Also participating were children and the security sectors waving flaglets and placards containing peace messages.

Among those present at the peace summit and delivered their messages of support were Sheik Khalifa Nando of the Shariah Supreme Court of the MILF Central Committee, Bishop Antonio Ledesma of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro, and retired Marine commanding general Benjamin Dolorfino, who was dubbed as “peace warrior” because of his distinct approach at dealing with the Mindanao insurgency.

The three highlighted the aspiration of the Moro people to achieve peace in Mindanao, and expressed their belief that the BBL will play a crucial role in attaining peace and stability in the island.

Sixteen-year-old Narimbai Utto, who represented the youth sector, expressed that she could not bear watching young boys forced to stop going to school to work as “padyak” drivers or to work in the farms to help their families make both ends meet.

Utto was the class valedictorian of Tukanalipao National High School, in the same village where the Mamasapano encounter took place last January. Sixty-four people died during the clash, including 44 from the police’s Special Action Force, 17 from the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, and three civilians.

Utto said the war has made them even poorer because displacements continue to hamper their livelihoods and worsened their living conditions.

She appealed for the passage of the BBL and to stop the war, and instead address the welfare and education of Mindanao’s youth.

Dr. Alicia Manandog, of the Sultan Kudarat State University, in her speech representing the women sector, pushed for equality among tribes and religions, and not to treat women as second class citizens should the BBL be enacted into law.

Maguindanao Governor Esmael Mangudadatu, who is vocal in his campaign for the BBL, has appealed to all sectors to work together to achieve peace and give no chance for violence to happen again.

The governor recalled that during his youth, while helping her mother earn extra income with their ice candy store, armed men affiliated with rebel groups would come with pistols tucked in their waists.

“I don’t want the children anymore to grow in the culture of violence,” he said.

North Upi, Maguindanao Mayor Ramon Piang said that since the BBL is being supported by majority stakeholders of Mindanao, then the Mindanaons should decide for their own and not be dictated by outsiders.