Christian, Muslim leaders commit as one in rebuilding Zamboanga

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ZAMBOANGA City, Dec. 18, 2013—Around 250 Christian and Muslim leaders met in a region-wide leaders’ summit in Zamboanga City committing themselves as one people in rebuilding the city that was attacked and destroyed by rebel forces last September.

Themed “Confidence Building, Reconstruction and Healing: What Muslims and Christian Leaders Can Do Together”, the event was organized by Darul Ifta and the Archdiocese of Zamboanga, in coordination with the city government.

Representatives from Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-tawi and two other provinces in ARMM were also in attendance as an expression of solidarity with Zamboanga City and its citizens over the suffering it underwent from the MNLF attack on the city last September 9, 2013.

It will be recalled that the attack lasted 23 days with government forces and the rebels fighting within  residential zones of 7 villages, about 7 kilometers from City Hall.

The three-week fighting killed about 200 and displaced thousands from their homes which were razed to the ground.

The internally displaced persons (IDPs) were housed in a sports center and public elementary school buildings and provided food and other services by the government and various organizations.

According to Sulu Vice-Gov. Sakur Tan any calamity that befalls Zamboanga City also impacts on the residents of Basilan, Sulu and Tawi-tawi because many of the people living in these three places come to Zamboanga City for education, medical consultations and business reasons.

Because of this, it is important that the government units from these three provinces help the city recover as quickly as possible from the results of the war, he said.

The summit participants were given an update by the office of the Mayor on the reconstruction efforts being done by the city government in tandem with the national government.

A number of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) also gave short reports on what their respective groups did to assist the city and mitigate the adverse effects of the rebel attack.

For his part, Msgr. Crisostomo Manongas reported the decision of the archdiocese to put up low-cost houses in a property owned by the Archdiocese.

Mr. Pocholo Soliven, who represented the business sector, also gave a report on the efforts of the business community to normalize business activities, like advocating with the Central Bank to get the local banks to reopen for operations even for limited hours.

The Darul Ifta and a group called ESPERANZA spoke of the various ways they helped the IDPs, a majority of whom belong to the Islamic faith.

Summit participants signed a covenant pledging themselves to individual and group action in “reconstructing a better and more habitable Zamboanga,  where Muslims, Christians and indigenous people are living [in] harmonious existence; to heal and mend the social fabric, torn by the recent war; and committing to rebuilding a better and more peaceful society.” (CBCPNews)

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