On the occasion of the International Day of Peace and National Peace Consciousness Month, UN children’s agency UNICEF and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) came together to celebrate peace and promote peace building by showcasing traditional art forms with the talents of children.
The Pakaradian sa Kalilintad or festival of peace and merry-making feature traditional art forms including music, visual arts and dance. The event seeks to expand community understanding on the welfare of children and their role as instruments of peace building as part of the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign on non-association of children in armed conflict.
Children from Bangsamoro communities from Lanao to the island provinces of Sulu and Basilan competed in three categories of traditional dance, song and musical performances. Clad in vibrant colored costumes, and backed by traditional musical instruments such as the kulintang, agong and dabakan, they proudly shared their folk arts and culture as a significant part of their unique identities as a community.
This event is the grand culmination of six local level competitions organized by the Bangsamoro Islamic Women’s Auxiliary Brigade (BIWAB), supported by Kalimudan Arts and Culture Centre and UNICEF.
“By fostering children’s appreciation for diversity and creating a platform for children to share their stories and dreams, we promote unity and peace. Through these activities, children develop friendships and become active players in peace building, paving the way for social cohesion among communities. The community members such as the Base Commanders, elders and parents also play their role in changing behaviors to keep children away from war, and allow children to play, go to school and just be children,” UNICEF Philippines representative Lotta Sylwander says.
The UN-MILF action plan was signed in 2009 to address the recruitment and use of children and commits the MILF to ensure that no children under 18 are associated with the Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF) as combatants or in supporting roles such as messengers, cooks or cleaners. The “Children Not Soldiers” campaign has reached around 29,100 people, including 10,765 members of the BIAF, 2,457 children and 9,427 community members in eight provinces.
As the seven sambolayang or peace flags by children fluttered in the morning breeze in Camp Darapanan, the children reminded the adults for the need to preserve their rich cultural heritage for the new generation, as well as their desire for the successful implementation of the peace process that is inclusive and supports the rights of all children.