DAVAO CITY—A team of peace advocates from various parts of the world will visit war-torn areas in Mindanao, including Maguindanao, next week in a bid to press the United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations to respond to the plight of civilians displaced by fighting.
Nearly 500,000 people fled their homes in Lanao del Norte, Maguindanao and North Cotabato when fighting broke out between the military and Moro guerrillas in August last year.
Although many of the evacuees had returned home, thousands are still living in squalid conditions in camps in Maguindanao.
Most of those who refuse to go home fear the resumption of violence as the government continues with its manhunt operations for guerrilla leaders who had attacked civilian communities.
Ma. Carmen Lauzon-Gatmaytan, program coordinator of the Initiatives for International Dialogue and member of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) for Southeast Asia, said the visiting team would be composed of about 40 members from Africa and Latin America.
“Something can still be done to resolve the armed conflict in Mindanao and [prevent] the armed conflict from happening again. We want the international community to give attention to what is happening in Mindanao. With this, we want to engage the United Nations and the Asean,” she said.
Gatmaytan said the peace advocates, who will be arriving on Sept. 30, will go to Bukidnon to look into the condition of indigenous communities facing problems over their ancestral domain claims.
Some members of the team are experts in early warning and early responses to conflict, which are needed in the prevention of war, she said.
“The team will also be showing their solidarity to the victims of the conflict, as they themselves, in their own countries, are living in an environment where there is conflict. Because of this, it is expected that there would be a very healthy and helpful exchanges between the internally displaced persons in Mindanao and the peace advocates,” Gatmaytan said.
The peace mission, Gatmaytan said, would also allow the members of the GPPAC, a worldwide network of peace builders, to dialogue with parties involved in the conflict.
This news story first appeared in Philippine Daily Inquirer