Science of Harmony: 5th Summer Peacebuilding Course Held This Week

Seeking to foster a more systematic and efficient way to build communal peace, the local civil society consortium Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA is holding its 5th Summer Peacebuilding Course this week, from April 20 to 23.

It is not enough talk about peace, but we have to walk the talk by learning peace-making techniques and understanding the culture of violence and culture of peace, ZABIDA president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF said. Some 33 peace education teachers from five local national high schools, policemen, militarymen, barangay officials, in and out of school youths and civil society representatives are attending the annual training that started in 2011.

Peace is a universal aspiration and while many complain about the violence in their communities, the best way to enjoy peace is to understand what it is all about, learn about it methodology and ideology in the way that to make music one must learn to play a musical instrument like the guitar, Fr. Cavo said.

The course includes topics like “Promoting Interreligious Reconciliation and Solidarity”, “Promoting Responsibility, Honesty and Participation in Government”, and “Expanding Frontiers of Human Security”, as discussed by Fr. Calvo. Dr. Grace Rebollos, vice-president of training organizer Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ), will deal on talks on “Harmony with the Earth”, which includes a field trip to Zamboanga City’s garbage dump, the newly-opened landfill facility, and its four waste recovery plants. She will also talk about “Engendering Peace”, or on the role of women in peace-making, as well as “Violence Analysis-Conflict Transformation”, ”Dealing with the Siege, Mamasapano Incident, Bangsamoro Basic Law”.

ZABIDA trustee Miriam Suacito will dissect the “Art of Hosting”, which is centered on personal peace, while Ayala National High School peace education coordinator Hassan Kaniya will handle “Peace Education”.

Two alumni of the summer course oriented the participants by narrating how they applied what they learned from it. Zamboanga City High School-Main peace education coordinator Katherine Tampon said that her school now regularly holds for its students such peace-awareness and –building activities like peace camps, art contests, ecological promotion, classroom lectures and participation in the annual Week of Peace celebration. On the other hand, Recodo barangay kagawad Thillis “Totoh” Granada said he has resolved conflicts between his constituents through dialogue and educated them on the need for respecting one another and promoting camaraderie.

The whole course is based on the PAZ-modeled framework of peace-building that deals on inner peace, human security, women’s and human rights, sustainable development and protection of Nature, interreligious dialogue and solidarity, educating for peace, human security, and building responsibility, honesty and participation in government. The participants will learn the causes, threats, problems and corresponding solutions to violence and unpeace arising in those areas at the level of the personal, interpersonal and social.

The course’s venue is the Claret Formation Center. (ZABIDA)

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Women Paint Their Gender Issues In Search for Amelioration

Women in the city have been challenged to tackle the various hard social and other issues they encounter in their traditional roles and places in society.

This was the thrust of the assembly that some 100 key women sectoral leaders attended last March 21 as part of the Women’s Month celebration in Zamboanga City. The planning-workshop was organized by the Zamboanga-Basilan Integrated Development Alliance, Inc. (ZABIDA) in line with its social mobilization program through grassroot advocacies to be pursued by the sectors themselves.

In his welcome remarks, ZABIDA president Fr. Angel Calvo, CMF said there are still portions in society where women are at a disadvantage or are not participating enough. He challenged them to claim their rights through united action, which he said will give them the needed strength to resolve their issues and problems.

The theme of the celebration is “Juana Desisyon Mo ay Mahalaga Sa Kinabukasan ng Bawat Isa, Ikaw Na!”

The forum, held at the ZABIDA Peace and Resources Development Center, was attended by women leaders from several barangays in the city that have been involved in the good governance program of ZABIDA. Some of the barangay male officials also attended, as well as local and national government officers.

Katilingban para sa Kalambuan, Inc. (KKI) program coordinator Maisie Faith Dagapioso gave a talk about women’s rights advocacy, struggles, triumphs and challenges to set the stage for a workshop by the attendees. Albert Putong of Peace Advocates Zamboanga briefed them on the “psychology of colors” to prepare them to express their sentiments for advocacy through visual arts. ZABIDA’s Jannet Francisco facilitated the group workshops wherein the women discussed issues and concerns, which they later expressed in the form of visual sketches using oil paints.

City Hall’s coordinator for barangay affairs Violy Alejandro delivered the message of Mayor Ma. Isabel Climaco-Salazar, wherein she urged the city’s women to work together to make the city a safe place for their families. She also emphasized the importance of education for their children.

Department of Interior and Local Government city director Prof. Moh. Taha Arakama urged the women to fully utilize the five-percent allotment for women’s projects that are by law a part of the internal revenue allotments given to barangays.

In her closing remarks, Manos Unidas country coordinator Carolina Unzeta urged the women to utilize all the resources available to them to achieve their aspirations. “Your only limitation is your capacity to imagine and to creatively assert,” she said.

ZABIDA executive director Espie Hupida said the women’s assembly is the first in a series of similar sectoral advocacy planning-workshops that will be implemented by her office during the year. The other targeted marginalized sectors are farmers, indigenous peoples, youths, children, fisherfolks, and urban poor.

In their paintings on canvass provided them, the women used Nature’s elements like trees, sun, rainbow and the like as representations of their ideals, issues and aspirations. They gave emphases on family and community life as basic to collective security and prosperity.

Hupida said the paintings may later be put up for an exhibit along with the other sectors’ works as part of the advocacy campaign.(ZABIDA)

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That MILF Mamasapano Report

The investigations by different government agencies of the Mamasapano tragedy are indispensable to render immediate, standard justice and redress to all those it has hurt or offended, including the nation’s sense of security and peace. Against the complexity of the national crisis it has unleashed, though, the collective findings of the investigations being that of government only will be too lopsided too bring much-needed closure to the tragedy. Without a proper closure that would address the deepest roots of the Moro rebellion and communal violence, Mindanao’s peace process will continue to remain a shaky proposition even if the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) will overcome its present hurdles. The unfortunate fate of the once and future 1996 Final Peace Agreement is lesson enough. Hence, Mamasapano has opened an unprecedented though painful opportunity for a hard, hard look at what it will take to achieve real, just and doable peace in Mindanao, that Congressional debates on the BBL alone could not have gone far enough.

To bring about that closure through the healing power of justice for all, the MILF must give its side of the Mamasapano incident and its own conclusions and recommendations. Its honest report to its constituencies at home and at large is vital to the closure, to enable the peace process to move forward on the dynamic power of the political and social capital that all peace deals need to succeed in the long term.

Obviously enough, the MILF has as much, if not more critical, explaining to do than government about what really happened that day of January 25 in Mamasapano. If its fighters were instantly engaged in the firefight with the SAF commandos, then they could only be neighbors of Zulkifli Bin Hir, who was one of the targets of the police raid, and so how could neighbors not know one another? How much appreciation do its fighters have for the ceasefire and its mechanisms? Did they believe the raid was against them and not Marwan? Why are there armed and dangerous factions roaming in central Mindanao? What can be done to restore or strengthen genuine trust between it and government, between its Moro followers and Filipino citizens?

The MNLF attack of Zamboanga City in 2013 also raised questions of such nature that until now mostly remain unanswered. It’s a major reason why the tragedy has found no closure, justice has not been given to its victims, security and rehabilitation issues cannot be resolved, the old and new wounds continue to afflict the city’s social system. Peace flounders blindly in such limbo, can’t find its way out of the darkness of the heart and mind.

To bring optimum closure in form and substance is as much a priority and challenge to the peace deal architects as getting BBL passed and implemented. To satisfy the intractable doubts and opposition among some Moro communities that undermine the peace project, the MILF can send out clear signals that it can be trusted – by its diverse Moro constituents, by government, by all Filipinos. “The signals that build confidence are those that cut to the heart of the grievances and ambitions that underlie violence,” peace consultant Nigel Roberts wrote a year ago.

He said: “What are ‘signals of intent’? To understand the concept, we need to appreciate two things: first, that it takes a very long time to build the credible institutions that a new country, or a newly autonomous area, needs to operate effectively; and second, that you don’t have the luxury of time, and are at constant risk of losing your legitimacy. So, if you can’t create credible institutional performance overnight, you have to find a way to foreshadow it.” With Mamasapano, the MILF has an opportunity to send out one such signal by making and revealing to all its own thoroughgoing report about the incident. With probity, the “meek shall inherit the earth”. (ZABIDA)

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Cardinal Quevedo’s Prodigal Son

What makes the well-known Gospel parable about the Prodigal Son a fitting analogy to the evolving situation and difficulties of the Mindanao peace process?

On Monday, March 9, Mindanews published online a message, entitled “Grieving, Doing Justice, Working for Peace (A Letter To All Christians)” by Cotabato City Archbishop Orlando Cardinal Quevedo, OMI. In it, he admonished Christian Filipinos, caught in the tumultuous aftermath – often fanned by vicious comments and sentiments – of the Mamasapano tragedy, to “Let not emotions, biases and prejudices prevail over objective reason and over our most cherished Christian values of justice and peace, truth, love and harmony. . . In the face of outrage and calls for all-out war for the manner by which our law enforcers lost their lives, I call for peace. I call for rationality rather than emotionalism. I call for justice that is not selective. I call for openness and fairness rather than bias and prejudice.”

He called for justice for the 44 Special Action Force policemen killed in battle in Mamasapano last January 25. He appealed for the passage of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) because “It fulfills the Bangsamoro aspiration for self-determination. It preserves our fundamental principles of national sovereignty and territorial integrity.(Although) yes, by all means we must refine the BBL so that it will hew closely to our Constitution.”

Cardinal Quevedo made no reference to the Parable of the Prodigal Son in his message. Yet, the passage of the BBL that he espouses can be likened to the father – that is, the Philippine government – joyfully throwing his house gate open to welcome back his once wayward, now returning son – that is, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In Luke Chapter 15, Jesus narrated on with the story thus: “But while he (prodigal son) was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’ But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate.”

In agreeing to drop secessionism, Cardinal Quenedo alluded in his message, the MILF has opted to return to the fold of the nation, to the father’s house after years of futile attempts to achieve a separate (or separatist) existence.

“Meanwhile,” Jesus continued with his parable, “the older son was in the field. When he came near the house, he heard music and dancing. So he called one of the servants and asked him what was going on. ‘Your brother has come,’ he replied, ‘and your father has killed the fattened calf because he has him back safe and sound.’ “The older brother became angry and refused to go in. So his father went out and pleaded with him. But he answered his father, ‘Look! All these years I’ve been slaving for you and never disobeyed your orders. Yet you never gave me even a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends. But when this son of yours who has squandered your property with prostitutes comes home, you kill the fattened calf for him!’ “

Indeed, those opposing or criticizing the BBL have questioned the huge budget proposed for the new Bangsamoro entity, they have denigrated the MILF as wanton trouble-makers or terrorists, not to be trusted but instead kept out of national community and punished with an all-out war. “We dismiss as sham the conversion of MILF from a secessionist movement into a principled partner for peace. We persist in calling them ‘secessionists,’” Cardinal Quevedo lamented.

In his 29th EDSA People Power anniversary last February 25, President Aquino, referring to the angry response to the SAF 44’s death, said: “For us who experienced Edsa, we are aware of the positive effect of sobriety. Instead of giving in to anger and emotion, let us give way to reason, trust and love for one another”.

Mamasapano in the context of the nation’s quest for peace in Mindanao and relatedly for socio-economic progress for the nation is a conundrum. As a mystery seeking rational explanation, it paradoxically rises to the level of a legend in the making, about the blood of martyrs watering the meadows (or cornfields) of peace. Justice for the SAF 44 can be had from the courts of law (and not the parliament of the streets), through reasoned prosecution. On the other hand, the obstacles to peace their deaths created, a dilemma of subjective human convergence, can only be resolved through the power of intuitive affirmations, to “walk by faith and not by sight”, of a Gandhian response of love begets love.

Jesus concluded his parable story thus: “My son,” the father said (to his resentful older son), “you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we have to celebrate and be glad, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” (ZABIDA-PAZ)

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