Manila (AsiaNews) – The Claretian missionaries in the Philippines in cooperation with the government and other agencies have launched a new programme for peace and development in Mindanao. Its basic thrusts are in essential and health services, livelihood enterprise assistance, good governance and capacity-building at the community level, peace advocacy, environment enhancement and sustainable agriculture, said Claretian Fr Angel Calva, chairman of the Peace Advocates Zamboanga project.
The programme includes micro-lending to community livelihood groups, particularly the urban and rural poor, water systems, mangrove replanting, supply of health services, organizational development trainings initiatives, non-formal education and others.
The coalition of groups behind the programme is called the Zambanga City-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance (ZABIDA) and its goal is to promote co-operation as part of a “growing network of multi-sectoral and multilateral movements in Mindanao aimed at fighting poverty and strengthening peace and security,” Fr. Calvo said.
‘Manos Unidas, i.e. ‘United Hands’ (MU), an international Spanish foundation based in Madrid (Spain) is among the participating organisations; it also enjoys the support of the Spanish government.
Mindanao, which includes the provinces of Zamboanga and Basilan, is a southern island region that has a Muslim majority. It has been marked by a long standing conflict between the Filipino army and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In 1996 a Bishops-Ulama Forum was set up. It includes Catholic, other Christian and Muslim religious leaders in Mindanao who advocate inter-religious dialogue.
The Claretian missionaries’ initiative is a further sign of their commitment to achieve shared welfare and concrete support for the local population.