Central Mindanao, ARMM leaders gather in Cotabato for int’l peace conference

By on June 7, 2014

Map of Cotabato / Wikipedia Photo
Map of Cotabato / Wikipedia Photo

COTABATO CITY — Local chief executives from the provinces of Maguindanao, North Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat congregated Saturday at the Notre Dame University here to attend a daylong peace forum dubbed as Religions and Cultures in Dialogue for Peace and Reconciliation in Mindanao.

Top program presenters on their experiences in the Mindanao conflict include Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao Mujiv Hataman, Maguindanao Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu and North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Mendoza, among others.

Government peace panel chair Prof. Miriam Coronel Ferrer and MILF counterpart Mohaqher Iqbal, meanwhile, would present significant experiences on the peace process for Bangsamoro, the political entity that would replace the old, graft-ridden ARMM set up.

Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Secretary Teresita Quintos-Deles and MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar are also expected to grace the occasion.

The two-day activity, which began Friday, has for its theme “Peace is Living Together” that supports the ongoing government–Moro Islamic Liberation Front peace overture.

The principal event sponsors, aptly called the International Conference of Cotabato, include Italy-based Community of Sant Egidio, Muhammadiyah Indonesia and Archdiocese of Cotabato.

“At the heart of peace is respect and trust with each other,” said Orlando Cardinal Quevedo in briefly describing the purpose of the gathering.

If peace given a chance in mind and spirit, he said dialogues instead of armed fighting play a vital role in the co-existence of Christian and Muslim settlers in Mindanao.

“Lasting peace could not be changed overnight. The culture itself has to change,” Quevedo, stressed.

The prelate’s stand was supported by foreign peace advocates Sudibyo Markus, vice chairman of the Muhammadiyah Indonesia, and Alberto Quattrucci, secretary-general of the Sant’ Egidio, who are also attending the forum.

In particular, Markus and Quattrucci commented on the issue of religious extremism that might possibly agitate the proposed Bangsamoro entity.

“Extremism exists everywhere. The solution to this is through education,” Markus, himself a Muslim, said.

“Dialogue is a good medicine against extremism,” Quattrucci said for his part.

Here in the Cotabato area, Quevedo said extremism is still minor, though there are now those in the field taking their own brand of interpretation on religion.

“We should not kill anyone in the name of peace,” he said.

Quevedo noted that Mindanao is currently being watched worldwide as a roadshow for peace on living together.