Catholic schools committed to promoting peace in Mindanao
by Santosh Digal

Representatives of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines visited Christian schools in Zamboanga. Students are offered outreach and community service programmes to empower people to live with the region's painful past.

Manila (AsiaNews) – A group of officials from the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) visited Catholic schools in Zamboanga province, on the southern island of Mindanao.

In the once conflict-ridden region, Christian institutions share the mission of promoting peace and interfaith dialogue.

CEAP presidents Fr Albert Delvo, Fr Raymond Arre, and Allan Arellano, along with other staff members, visited several establishments between 19 and 21 March, including Notre Dame of Joli for Girls in Kasulutan, the Marist School for boys, run by the Dominican Sisters, and St Joseph's School in Zamboanga City.

The CEAP began a tour across the country two months ago, which is expected to end before the start of the 2024-25 school year. The purpose of the visits is to show solidarity and synodality with CEAP schools across the country.

Due to past violence between Muslims and Christians, most educational establishments offer awareness-raising and community service programmes, promoting various peace initiatives in Mindanao, a region where, unlike other parts of the country, Christians are the minority.

The high point of the visit was the meeting with Archbishop Julius Sullan Tonel of Zamboanga, who offered his support to Catholic teachers and educators.

For his part, Fr CEAP president Albert N. Delvo enumerated the association's current commitments, in particular its advocacy initiatives in both the Senate and the House of Representatives, and with national educational agencies.

Representatives of other groups also spoke at the meeting. Fr Eduardo Santoyo, a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao and president of Notre Dame of Jolo College, described Catholic education as a bridge that fosters mutual understanding despite differences.

Fr Santoyo also set up a courtesy visit with Brigadier General Christopher Tampus, head of the Army contingent in Jolo (Sulu province), who spoke about the conflict on the island and ongoing efforts to promote peace.

The general explained that, based on current experience, the most effective way to reduce tensions is to involve the community and put people at the centre.

Tampus enumerated the military's efforts to help locals with their daily concerns, such as building mosques, providing medical care, organising regular visits to local government officials, and recruiting local soldiers.

Over the past few years, all this has led to greater stability and peace in Sulu province.