Sketching the Graph of Peace  

Monday, July 13, 2009

I have recently joined the BIMP-YCDN Network which means Bangladesh-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines - Youth Collaborative Development Network upon membership I took notice of this post and article which I would like to share to all.

Sketching the Graph of Peace
by Ernesto C. Casiple, Jr. on June 20, 2009 at 11:49am

After the series of fights between the MILF and the military in Sarangani Province, I joined also the series of psychosocial activity for children in the affected communities (September 26, 2008). In one of the sessions I facilitated, I asked the children to draw what they believe to be a peaceful community. To my surprise, a nine year-old boy draw two men :( one in blue the other in red) labeled Government and MILF. They seemed positioned as if they were exchanging shake-hands. On the contrary, last August 29-September 5, 2008, while facilitating another sessions for children affected with conflict, I asked them what they wanted to become. Many answered: kyugan ku mag-MI (I wanted to become a member of MILF.) Some wanted to become military, police officers—all related to arm struggle.

Whatever those messages might be for the children, the above contradicting views made me also realized that it’s very difficult to assess the peace and order situation in my area. It is not easy to create a defining statement telling everyone whether the community is living in peace.

In the paper I presented on April 18, 2008 before the students of Masters in National Defense of the National Defense College entitled The Public Administration of Peace and Development: A Sarangani Experience it stated: “The unique multicultural view of Mindanao and the challenging frontiers it has experienced showed by the occasional setbacks in development is a breakthrough to redefine livability in terms of the needs of the community. This is brought about by conflicts surrounding the island. Peace and development is viewed as eclectic in terms of definition and applicability”.

Like all other institutions that are working for peace in Sarangani Province, the premise for their creation and intervention was the history of conflict in the area. Before the province was named Sarangani in 1991, the place was already included in the dynamics of wars n Mindanao—the continued struggle for recognition of the Bangsamoro people and the various underlying options for recognition. The tri-people of Sarangani have been displaced many times by the conflicting views of Mindanao. Various forces are continuously living in this part of Southern Philippines.

But how would I personally assess peace and order situation in my area? Is there peace in my locality? Just recently, Sarangani had its experience of conflict despite the continuing local interventions given in the communities. The continuing conflict of the GRP and the MILF had displaced even thousands of families from five Barangays alone in Maasim. Sad to say some Peace and Development Communities (identified in the 1996 Final Peace Agreement) were the affected communities to wit, Daliao, Lumatil, Nomoh and Kanalo. The Muncipality of Maitum had an armed conflict earlier July 2008 while local MILF forces that hit Maasim also caused destruction in Kiamba on September. That made all of us in the provincial peace program ponders ‘what had happened’? We even thought the foundations for lasting peace in Mindanao had collapsed because of the controversial MOA between the government and MILF.

But the ways to helping find peace shall continue. While the image of conflict still remained in the minds of the adults, we continue to find proactive measures to support the effort to peacebuilding vis-à-vis assisting internally displaced persons. Various volunteers, institutions, agencies, civic organizations came together to pour assistance to Maasim. On the other hand, the pre-planned peacebuilding initiatives that are already in the pipeline were not set aside rather fast-track for the benefit of the community.

In fact it is really hard to assess the peace and order situation for the graph of conflict incidence does not speak of a commonality rather only a fragmentation of escalation that no one have perfectly predicted. For a person like me whose passion and work is to facilitate the institutionalization of the culture of peace in the community, there is a high level of peace in Sarangani. Why? Because the people in the community still respect each other. I saw the spirit of bayanihan (unity) among the tri-people of Sarangani. And more than the tangible projects, trainings and peace dialogues at the community levels, the ‘laughters’ of children are indicators of a continuing statement not to stop creating the way to peace; that is also peace.

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