International Ministries

Talking About Peace

A Peace Conference With Youth in Mindanao

Talking About Peace
Role playing and performance art help youth understand the causes and impact of conflict, and how healing can begin.

Earlier this summer, 33 young people gathered in the Philippines to talk about peace. A Peace Conference With Youth took place from June 6 - 9 in Davao City in Mindanao, and was organized by Emma Cantor in partnership with the PCC Board of Women’s Work and Balsa Mindanao.

The attendees, who came from various churches, looked at the meaning of peace in the bible and in the context of a community’s needs. Many of the young people who attended the conference are leaders in their churches and schools, and will be able to pass the lessons they learned on to their communities.

The conference participants looked at solutions for peace during a strife-filled time in Mindanao. A great drought and the resulting food shortage has caused violent clashes between farmers and the government. Ancestral land disputes led to the displacement of the indigenous Lumads, as well as to the detainment and killing of some of their leaders. Furthermore, another indigenous peoples, the women of the Moro, continue to suffer from gender discrimination.

Three Day Conference

Throughout the conference, indigenous community leaders, farmers and others told their stories and challenged the young attendees to become peacemakers.

On the first day of the conference, the participants looked at the challenges of building and maintaining peace in Mindanao. Several speakers emphasized the need to step out of one’s comfort zone to actively fight for peace — to live the life of a good Samaritan. Farmers who had marched for food during the recent food shortages spoke of the shootings they witnessed, and the young attendees learned how food insecurity can threaten peace.

On day two, the group visited three different community groups and organizations.

The Community Technical College of Southeastern Mindanao is a boarding school that houses and teaches 400 Lumad students. The Lumads wish for fair treatment and self-determination, and to return to living on their ancestral lands. For many of them, this school is the only way they can get an education.

Khadidja Moro Women is an organization of and for Muslim, or Moro, women. Many of the Moro women of the Philippines are economically, socially and politically repressed. Through Khadidja Moro Women, they acquire life and leadership skills to be able to live more independently.

Lastly the group visited the Bakwit Center, a small community center that is a sanctuary for Lumads who have been displaced from their ancestral lands.

A Day of Reflection

The conference ended with a day of reflection and looking ahead. United Methodist Women Regional Missionary Emma Cantor, who helped organize the conference, told the young peacemakers inspiring stories about her ethnic roots, the Ibanag people, and about her own upbringing. She explained how hard her family worked so that all 11 children could go to school and attend church, often traveling for miles on foot. She encouraged the attendees to look back at their own roots and aspire to live a meaningful and self-determined life.

After the conference, the participants planned to go back home to promote peace in their communities and in their churches, and to continue building bridges with the organizations they visited. They learned that peace can be achieved by addressing the roots of poverty, guaranteeing the right to education, honoring diversity, developing infrastructure and promoting equality among all people.

Posted or updated: 8/8/2016 11:00:00 PM
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