For the second year in a row, the Lanao Regions of Northwestern Mindanao in the Philippines celebrated the Mindanao Week of Peace in style. It is a one-of-a-kind celebration. People from different sectors and institutions join, have fun, and run together for one purpose—PEACE. All parts of society join the fun run: from elementary, high school and college students and teachers to the police, government, and community workers.
In 2013, the Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP) was celebrated in Lanao with a fun run, I Run 4 Peace, organized by the local organization EcoWEB, Inc. along with its partners. I Run and Roll for Peace was the theme of the run in 2014. The goal was for the run to be more inclusive. In 2014, the mobility-challenged were able to join, celebrate and support the push for long-lasting peace in Mindanao.
Presidential Proclamation No. 127 issued in 2001 designated the last Thursday of November until the first Wednesday of December as the Mindanao Week of Peace. The theme for the 2014 Mindanao Week of Peace was Pray for Long-Lasting Peace in Mindanao. A long-lasting peace is the beginning of the development of Mindanao, the beginning of restoring long-broken relationships. It is to live a life where it does not matter from where someone comes or what is his/her belief.
"It takes years to build, but a second to destroy." That is what wars do in places where there are armed conflicts. War destroys what people have built over the years, not only physical structures, but also trust, unity and togetherness, businesses, and friendships. Mindanao is an island where some communities have been living in relative calm for decades, with no armed conflicts, but in other parts of the island, there has been a long history of communities torn apart by conflicts. The present peacebuilding efforts show that now is the time to rebuild what has been destroyed so that all may have a better life.
A military person with whom I had a chance to talk on the day of the run said, "It is not easy to be in the battlefield knowing anything can happen to you and you have a family that lives far away." He continued by saying, "It feels bad that people who you consider your people look at you as the enemy. I feel sometimes like ... I am fighting my own flesh." I Run and Roll for Peace aimed to specifically bring people who once viewed each other as enemies together in one place to run for one cause that we all pray for. It is a chance to start looking at the things that unite us rather than the things that separate us. Sultan Abdul from Marawi City said we are created differently so we can learn from each other's cultures and customs. Diversity exists; therefore it is our responsibility to show to others how to give, live and proclaim peace.