THERE is a certain feeling of assurance upon reading updates from Marawi City, that is no longer about just the war, but about schools re-opening and internally displaced persons (IDPs) getting into some productive activities that help not just their impoverished state but their psychological status as well.
Last August 22, the Mindanao State University Marawi campus opened for the first semester of school year 2017-2018. Some 9,000 students even joined the anniversary celebration of its 56th founding anniversary last September 1.
Also, Brigadier General Rolando Joselito Bautista, commander of the Joint Task Force (JTF) Marawi, said classes in 12 public schools -- Sultan Conding Elementary School, Sikap Elementary School, Cabingan Primary School, Banga Elementary School, DatuTambak Elementary School, Rorogagus Elementary School, Bito Elementary School, Pendolonan Elementary School, Abdulazis Elementary School, Camp Bagong Amai Pakpak Central Elementary School, Sugod Elementary School, and Mipaga Elementary School -- started last Monday, September 5.
"We are nearing the end of the battle with the gunfight confined to the main battle area in the besieged city. Security measures are being tightened to preempt any attempts by the terrorists to hamper classes," Bautista said.
It was also announced that the JTF Marawi has already initiated a series of conferences for the security of students and faculty as they go to school.
"This is one of the steps taken by the security forces and the local government units to bring normalcy in the city. We are taking a gradual phase because we want to ensure that we are doing the right thing and that we are putting to primacy the welfare of the Maranaos," Bautista said.
Yesterday, Western Mindanao Command chief Lieutenant General Carlito Galvez said several payloaders and backhoes arrived in Balo-i in Lanao del Norte on board a military vessel, which will be used in building temporary houses for residents in barangay Sangonsongan. Aside from the equipment, relief goods, hygiene kits, and toys also arrived.
All this brings hope that the siege will end soon, but we all know that the roots of the war have not yet been nipped. What is being nipped are the active combatants, especially the leaders of this terrorist groups.
The discussions about peace and initiatives for a peace agenda involving especially the young and easily convinced need to be a conscious effort of all civil society groups to ensure that taking up arms and killing to deliver a message of supremacy will not appeal to the young and restless.
This will take the joint efforts of all, where a culture of peace has to be nurtured and the agitation-inspiring slogans of the left are avoided.
There is work to be done and it can be done best when everyone works for peace without sniping at each other and the government. We're not advocating people being gagged, we are calling on people to act their thoughts instead and foster an environment where peace can grow, and fanning enmity will never do that.
No one has the monopoly to building back better, but for a change, let's just stop the useless bickering and just get down to work. There's a whole city that needs to be rebuilt, let us allow government and those who have the resources to share to rebuild as fast and efficiently, while we do our small share. Time is of the essence as the longer suffering of the displaced is sustained, the deeper the wounds of war will become, and the wounds of war sometimes breed greater unrest.
The call is not just to build back better the infrastructure and structures, the call is to build back a better psyche and consciousness, a collective repudiation of terrorism.
Published in the SunStar Davao newspaper on September 11, 2017.
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