Muslim and Christian preachers led the first ever ecumenical prayer service in the Army’s Camp Siongco in Maguindanao on Sunday.
John Unson
Army's 6th ID holds first ever ecumenical 'peace rite'
John Unson ( - October 24, 2016 - 2:10pm

MAGUINDANAO, Philippines -- The Army’s 6th Infantry Division on Sunday set another historical record by gathering leaders of different religions for an ecumenical “peace rite” never done since the unit was formed in 1987.

The activity, organized by 6th ID commander Maj. Gen. Carlito Galvez, Jr., and his Moro civil-military relations staff, Lt. Col. Markton Abo, was held at Camp Siongco in Datu Odin Sinsuat town in Maguindanao.

One of its objectives was to disprove the notion that Christians dominate the ranks of the 6th ID and its brigades and battalions, where non-Muslim enlisted personnel and officers comprise a majority.

“We also want to help heal the wounds, inflicted in the hearts and minds of people by bloody conflicts, through propagation of spiritual solidarity among Muslims, Lumads and Christians in our area of responsibility,” Galvez told The STAR after Sunday’s prayer rite.

He said the 6th ID’s peace projects are intended to complement the gains of Malacañang’s peace talks with Moro sectors, particularly the absence since 2010 of any armed confrontation in Central Mindanao between the military and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The 6th ID, which covers Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat, and North Cotabato provinces and parts of the second district of Lanao del Sur, is touted as the Philippine Army’s most “combat-exhausted” division for its deadly engagements with secessionist forces from 1987 to 2009.

The Army-led ecumenical prayer gathering on Sunday in Camp Siongco, the division’s first since its creation 29 years ago, was attended by Muslim and Christian preachers, soldiers and villagers from nearby residential areas.

Scholastica Mutua, a Kenyan Catholic nun who has been in the Philippines for 16 years, told Muslims and Christians at the gathering that there is a need to promote religious understanding among them for peace to fully take off in the country’s south.

She and Galvez agreed to cooperate, along with a popular cleric, Esmail Ebrahim of the Islamic Da’awah Affairs in Cotabato City, on projects that can help hasten the resolution of the now four-decade-long Moro issue.

As a confidence-building measure, the 6th ID also hosted a pistol shooting match over the weekend among members of the MILF and the Moro National Liberation Front, Army enlisted personnel and officers, and representatives from the police and from local government units.

The MILF was represented at the competition by members accompanied to Camp Siongco by Toks Upam of the group’s Coordinating Committee on the Cessation of Hostilities, which deals with a counterpart panel in the government.

The joint government-MILF ceasefire committee helped supervise an operation last month against drug trafficker Mokz Masgal in Midsayap town in North Cotabato that resulted in the arrest of 13 of his followers, now being prosecuted for narcotics and other crimes.

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