ARMM children fly kites to call for end to conflicts PDF Print E-mail
Thursday, 27 November 2014 13:11

Thousands of children across the five provinces of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao flew colorful kites on Tuesday afternoon as a symbolic call for an end to secessionist conflicts local stakeholders in the Southern peace process and the government are now trying to address.

Maguindanao province registered the most number of elementary pupils that participated in the event, led by Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu, who also flew a kite, along with hundreds of children in Buluan town, the provincial capital.

Besides ARMM regional officials, only local executives in Maguindanao, from among ARMM’s five provinces, have openly been supporting the government’s peace overture with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

The governor of Maguindanao and his 36 constituent-mayors had even unanimously endorsed recently the draft Basic Bangsamoro Law, the enabling measure for the replacement of ARMM with an MILF-led, more politically empowered Bangsamoro self-governing entity. The bill is now in Congress, expected to be enacted into law by first quarter of 2015.

The kite-flying activity, organized by ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman, Regional Executive Secretary Laisa Alamia and representatives of the education department, was part of the observance by local folks of the “Mindanao Week of Peace.”

It was also one of the highlights of the continuing month-long celebration of the region’s 25th founding anniversary, which started on November 17.

Hundreds of school children from nearby towns in the first district of Maguindanao flew colorful kites inside the ARMM’s 32-hectare compound in Cotabato City at exactly 2:00 p.m. Tuesday.

The event at the ARMM compound was witnessed by representatives of different peace-advocacy organizations, among them the vaunted Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG), a partner of the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung of Germany.

Fr. Eliseo Mercado, Jr., director of IAG, said he was amazed with how Christian, Muslim and lumad school children enthusiastically participated in the kite-flying activity to dramatize their desire for lasting peace and development in their respective communities.

Mercado belong to the Oblates of Mary Immaculate congregation (OMI), which is operating schools in Central Mindanao and the island provinces of Sulu and Tawi-Tawi.

These OMI schools pioneered in the 1990s various “peace education” subjects that are focused on propagation of Muslim-Christian solidarity and meant to inculcate among children the importance of resolving peace and security issues via traditional and religious conflict resolution practices.

Alamia said the Hataman administration was elated with how public and private schools in the autonomous region, which covers Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur, both in mainland Mindanao, and the scattered island provinces of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-Tawi, participated in the kite-flying activity.

Karim, a sixth grade pupil in Maguindanao’s Datu Odin Sinsuat town, said he used a white Japanese paper for his handcrafted kite to symbolize purity of his intention in participating in the event.

He said his family was originally from Datu Piang town in the second district of Maguindanao, but was forced to relocate to Datu Odin Sinsuat by internecine conflicts in 2003.

“I wish to return to my hometown and live there peacefully. I’m sure this dream will come,” Karim said.

Hundreds of non-Muslim ethnic Teduray school children also flew colorful kites in their school campuses in Maguindanao’s adjoining North and South Upi towns.

Edmund, a grade four Teduray pupil, told reporters he and his classmates want the fragile peace now in Maguindanao, as a result of the government-MILF ceasefire accord, to continue for school children to pursue their studies undisrupted.

“We don’t want conflicts. We want to live in peace with our Muslim and Christian neighbors forever,” the 10-year-old Edmund said in Filipino, in heavy Teduray accent.