THE NEED FOR A PEACE AND RECONCILIATION INITIATIVE
We cry with the majority of the people in our land! We cry for food. We cry for shelter. We cry for jobs. We cry for the preservation of our families. We cry for the rights of the women and children. We cry for dignity. We cry for security.
We also name the reasons why our people are crying: Unjust Globalism—poor countries are oppressed and suppressed by certain sectors among powerful nations and certain players among multinational corporations whose highest values are greed and power. Conflicted Land—our government is wasting huge amounts from our scarce resources due to armed conflicts against our own people. Violence of Injustice—majority of our people are enslaved in poverty while warlords run many of our local governments.
The history of our people and our land has been a history of violence and colonialism that destroyed our cultural identity, psycho-social dignity, and resource-based economy.
We were told by the colonizing powers that our culture was inferior to the Western cultures; and we believed them! We were told that we were not good enough as people; and we believed them! We were told that our traditional resource-based economy, that fed our people for centuries, were not as valuable as their money; and we exchanged our land with their cash!
Now, our people are enslaved in our own land. Our rich natural resources are being devastated for unjust profit. Our national industries are trampled upon by multinational corporations who extract the riches of our land for their greed.
Like the Prophet Habakkuk (1:2-4), the poor in our land have been crying for decades:
How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, “Violence!” but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice? Why do you tolerate wrong?
Destruction and violence are before me; there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed, and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous, so that justice is perverted.
Many groups have armed themselves and used violence to express their grievances. Instead of listening to them, many Christians and church groups just declared them as political enemies simply because our unjust government declared them as enemies. Instead of listening to Jesus—that we must love our enemies—we allowed the government to dictate to us who our friends are and who our enemies are.
Some church groups, in desperate search for an alternative, supported armed struggle.
Is it, perhaps, they have never heard of biblically-based Peace and Reconciliation alternative?
PBCI peace-building ministry seeks to contribute to the radical and peaceful transformation of our country.
PBCI peace-building ministry is rooted in a Biblical Peace Theology.1 Peace Theology advocates has something to offer to the theological conversation within the Body of Christ in the Philippines. This is our time to share with our people what God has been teaching to the Historic Peace Churches2 in the past 500 years. We must understand what many Peace Theologians3 have been articulating and we must learn to contextualize those biblical principles in the historical setting where God has planted us.
The God of the Bible, who is also the God of justice and peace, is at work in the world and in our land! This is a great time for us, followers of Jesus Christ—the Prince of Peace, to advocate and practice biblical peacemaking4 where our ultimate loyalty is not to the state, such as the Republic of the Philippines, but to the peaceable kingdom of God.5 This is our moment to look at the political dynamics in our beautiful land, not merely through the lenses of our political interests, but through the lenses of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Gospels.
As biblical Christians who are committed to the non-violent transformation6of our land, it is time for us to apply biblical restorative justice7 beginning within the Body of Christ.
Through our life and witness, the people in our land would see the reality of the Peace of God in Christ. Many of us may have experienced being victims of violence by certain individuals, families, or groups belonging to those we consider as enemies; this is the time to show the love of enemy and non-retaliation as Jesus taught us in the New Testament.8
If we are truly the people of the Good News (Gospel), then it is time to demonstrate to all the people in this land the Gospel of Christ—the Prince of Peace—in its totality. As the Church of Jesus Christ in this new century, let us share with our lives and with our words the Gospel of the Prince of Peace—that is, harmony with God, harmony with our being, harmony with others, and harmony with the creation. This is the Shalom that we are building in the power of the Holy Spirit.
PBCI is working closely with many religious groups. The vision is to propagate peace-building ministries among the churches and civil society organizations through consultations, seminars, cell groups, seminary courses, and other modes of communication and education. More denominations and more congregations will be challenged to get involved in various conflict-transformation ministries in different levels of the Philippine society.
Central Luzon was the pilot region in the Philippines where bishops, pastors and other Christian leaders are being equipped to become PAR Community Organizing catalysts.9
Based on a Peace Theology, this initiative will be establishing a tandem of Peace Building Ministry and Leadership Development Ministry. These three factors would lead to a stable, sustainable Peace and Reconciliation Movement.
These various peace-building activities may seem unconnected. But it can be likened to separate rays of light passing through the convex lens, converging together, and reaching the right focal point.
PBCI can serve as the convex lens.
All of the above activities can eventually be harnessed to organize and develop communities that will have the same passion and focal point—to advance peace and reconciliation throughout our beautiful land.
We will invite church groups to work with us to train leaders who would advance locally-supported Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Communities in 81 provinces of the Philippines.
What will be the specific task of PBCI in this PAR Initiative?
PBCI will work with churches and Christian groups, civil society organizations (CSOs), and local government units (LGUs) in establishing PAR Communities where PAR Leaders and PAR Teams can be organized. PBCI will develop PAR Programs that meet the needs of the PAR Communities.
What is a PAR Community? A group of community leaders—church leaders, local government leaders, non-government organization leaders, or any mix of these—
:: who have expressed interest to have a working relationship with us, who have made a commitment to embrace our Peace Theology;
:: who have invited us to teach them our PAR Seminar Series;
:: who have a vision to work with us in developing a PAR Program needed in their area; and,
:: who have organized themselves as PAR catalyst group in their particular province in accordance with our Dreams, Values, and Team organizational standards.
Who is a PAR Leader? A respected woman or man of peace who is actively modelling a person belonging to a PAR Community, and who demonstrates a heart of a servant, a soul of a teacher, a mind of a manager, and strength of a leader.
What is a PAR Team? Peace and Reconciliation Teams (PAR-T) are composed of local volunteers from various communities who are trained for 8 months in the following areas: Armed Conflict Area Survival Training, Fact-Finding Missions, Conflict Transformation, Disaster Preparedness, Trauma Healing, Inter-Faith Dialogue, Cross-Cultural Communications, etc. Their mission:
:: to promote peace and reconciliation in our land by giving skilled, courageous support to communities experiencing various conflicts
:: to inspire various parties-in-conflict to discard violence in favor of nonviolent action as a means of settling differences
:: to provide various communities with first-hand information and resources for responding to situations of conflict, and to urge their active involvement
:: to interpret a nonviolent perspective to the media and to our nation as a whole.
What is a PAR Program? A project which is specifically designed based on the need of the area as perceived and defined by their community leaders, and based on our Peace Theology. Examples:
:: In Lanao del Norte, it’s Community-Based Health Care Program.
:: In Central Mindanao, it’s Civilian Protection and Ceasefire Monitoring.
:: In the Ancestral Domains of the Indigenous Peoples,10 it’s Fair Trade Farming.
:: In most areas affected by floods and super-typhoons like Ondoy, Sendong, Pablo, and Yolanda, it’s Disaster Risk Reduction Program.
With a clear theological framework, a peace building ministry specialization, a strong leadership development program, a set of systematic team formation procedures, and contextually-relevant development programs, organizing a PAR Community in each of the 81 provinces in this country is possible!
1. John Howard Yoder, The Politics of Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing, Reprinted 1995).
2. Fernando Enns, The Peace Church and the Ecumenical Community: Ecclesiology and the Ethics of Nonviolence (Kitchener, ON: Pandora Press, 2007).
3. Duane K. Friesen, Christian Peacemaking and International Conflict: A Realist Pacifist Perspective (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1986).
4. Glen H. Stassen, Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace (Louiseville, KY: John Knox Press,1992).
5. Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics(Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983).
6. Robert Herr and Judy Zimmerman Herr, Transforming Violence: Linking Local and Global Peacemaking (Scottdale, PA: Herald Press, 1998).
7. Howard Zehr, Restorative Justice (Intercourse, PA: Good Books, 2002).
8. Willard M. Swartley, ed. The Love of Enemy and Nonretaliation in the New Testament (Louiseville, KY: John Knox Press, 1992).
9. See http://peacebuilderscommunity.org/stories/par-ne.htm
10. Cordillera Mountains, Mount Matutum, Mount Kitanglad, Mount Apo, Lebak, etc.