Wednesday, February 1, 2023

[HWPL] Peace Tours of Man-Hee Lee (35): A Unique Peace Festival for ‘Soldiers, Police Officers, and Residents’ in Mindanao, Philippines


[HWPL] Peace Tours of Man-Hee Lee (35): A Unique Peace Festival for ‘Soldiers, Police Officers, and Residents’ in Mindanao, Philippines

On May 25, 2015, a ceremony was held to commemorate the second anniversary of the Declaration of World Peace at Buluan Gymnasium in Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines. Chairman Lee (front right) and Maguindanao Governor (front left) are waving national flags while walking with residents at the Peace Walk held after the ceremony

On May 25, 2015, the HWPL Peace Monument Unveiling Ceremony was held at the end of the Peace Walk, and participants cheered

According to an HWPL official, following the World Alliance of Religions' Peace (WARP) Summit in September 2014, invitations from around the world for Chairman Lee to visit continued until HWPL's anniversary. Chairman Lee finally chose the Philippines, with full knowledge that the route there would be a perilous one due to its geographical positioning. Moreover, the weather in the Philippines in May is suffocating, hotter than a midsummer's day in Seoul, South Korea, so it was stifling for Chairman Lee, who was 85 years old at the time. Nevertheless, Chairman Lee and the peace delegation chose the Philippines among several invites.

After the Mindanao Civil Peace Agreement of January 24, 2014, Chairman Lee headed to the Philippines upon hearing about the positive results that local residents had produced by embodying the spirit of peace conveyed by Chairman Lee. He even promulgated the Declaration of World Peace for the purpose of establishing peace as a legacy for posterity. The zeal and sincerity of the local residents of Mindanao, who bore fruits of peace, moved Chairman Lee.

After the Civil Peace Agreement, various projects were under way to establish a culture of peace in Mindanao, Philippines. And Chairman Lee's visit only added momentum to the spirit of peace created by the locals. Why was the visit of HWPL, a private non-governmental organization, so meaningful in this conflict zone?

It is because Chairman Lee’s visit to Mindanao was motivated with the intention of “realizing peace” without any political motive. In fact, the HWPL peace delegation carried out peace work on the ground without requesting anything in return. The pure motivation of the peace tour planted a spark of peace in the hearts of local Filipinos who were distressed by those who sought to manipulate the regional conflict for political gain.

On May 25, 2015, Provincial Government of Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines conferred an honorary award on Chairman Man-hee Lee

Declaration on May 25, 2015, by Provincial Government of Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines designates January 24 'HWPL Day' every year

On May 25, 2015, Provincial Government of Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines, awarded a certificate of appreciation to Chairman Lee in commemoration of the installation of the Peace Monument and to designate 'HWPL Day'

Mindanao officials who attended the WARP Summit in Korea in September 2014, following the establishment of the private peace agreement held earlier that year, were deeply moved by their firsthand experience of how peace was achieved. This is why they held the 'Mindanao Civil Peace Agreement 1st Anniversary Ceremony' on January 24, 2015, where local residents were reminded of the message of peace promulgated by Chairman Lee.

To unite the people for peace and build a conflict-free Mindanao, a pivotal experience was needed. On May 25, the governor of Maguindanao prepared the World Peace Walk and the Unveiling Ceremony of the Peace Monument to commemorate the anniversary of the Declaration of World Peace. In addition, the Province of Maguindanao decided to establish HWPL Day (Declaration of World Peace) on January 24 every year. Ahead of such a momentous declaration, the governor of Maguindanao produced and sent a heartfelt video message to HWPL with an invitation to Chairman Lee.

“We request the pleasure of Chairman Lee to our event on May 25, 2015. Many residents of Maguindanao will be attending. I hope they will be allowed the opportunity to listen to Chairman Lee’s speech.”

This video message moved the hearts of Chairman Lee and the peace delegation.

On May 25, 2015, a group of young soldiers who participated in the Peace Walk are enjoying the festival with bright smiles

The highlight of the 18th peace tour was an event on the 25th. The peace delegation moved from Manila to Cagayan de Oro on the 22nd, completed their schedule, and then took an hour-long flight from Laguindingan Airport to Maguindanao on the 24th. After arriving at Francisco Bangoy International Airport (Davao International Airport), the peace delegation traveled by car for about an hour to their accommodation.

Mindanao consists of five autonomous Muslim provinces: Basilan, South Lanao del Sur, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Maguindanao. Maguindanao is the most populous among them. How many peace activists had visited this region to end the bloody 40-year conflict? The majority of the islands surrounding Mindanao are Catholic, but no pope has ever visited the disputed area. Chairman Lee visited several times and he established a precedent for peace.

On May 25, 2015, students walk at the head of the Peace Walk

On the 25th, in Maguindanao, an unprecedented sight unfolded: government forces, MILF forces, Islamic and Catholic leaders, local politicians, and women's and youth groups came together for peace. The event on that day had great implications for the local residents, whose basic freedoms had been denied during the conflict. At the event, Moro Islamic Liberation Front Chief Sheikh Khalipha Usman Nando and Commander of the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) of the Armed Forces of the Philippines Benjamin Mohammad Dolorfino (Ret.) delivered congratulatory remarks. Local residents experienced a new climate of peace that imbued Mindanao after the Mindanao Civil Peace Agreement. Attendees were inspired by the peace event.

Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, who visited Cagayan de Oro in person for the event, said in his congratulatory remarks, “It is very symbolic that the unveiling of the Peace Monument is being held in front of the Governor’s main office building,” and added, “We pray for lasting peace in Mindanao”. He made the appeal “Let's work together.”

Chairman Lee said, “I am not trying to achieve a world of peace with my own strength.” He continued, “Today is May 25th. At this time, monuments to the Declaration of World Peace are being erected in schools and colleges everywhere. Let's not forget this day. This moment will be a living testimony to the whole world.” He also said, “Let’s have a mind that we can achieve it. This whole country had been seething in pain, yet peace has now come to this blood-stained land. Now you also have to love your enemies. If God rules over the world, there will be no more pain or tears on the earth.”

HWPL Peace Monument installed in front of Buluan Gymnasium in Maguindanao province, Mindanao, Philippines on May 25, 2015

On that day, the governor of Maguindanao declared January 24 as HWPL Day (Declaration of World Peace Day). At that meeting, the Governor of Maguindanao presented an Achievement Award to Chairman Lee, who had not hesitated to travel a vast distance to Mindanao for peace. Key high-ranking officials from Maguindanao who attended on that day signed a peace agreement with Chairman Lee and pledged to work harder for the peacekeeping and development of Mindanao.

After the event, a peace walk was held. The Peace Walk, which started at a high school, was considered an unusual scene, with soldiers and police officers also in participation. The Peace Walk became an event symbolizing harmony and peace.

At the final point of the peace walk, an unveiling ceremony was held to commemorate the peace agreement in Mindanao. Even after the unveiling ceremony, the residents did not leave their seats and left pictures to commemorate the day. The 5-meter-high monument has become a symbol of peace that awakens people's awareness of peace.

Moreover, the governor of Maguindanao was so impressed by the activities of International Women's Peace Group (IWPG) that he established a branch office for women in the region. Along with other events, the first IWPG meeting was held.


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