7-9 November 2011—Midsayap, North Cotabato.
PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) staff participated at the Ecumenical Peacebuilding Training conducted by the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP). The Peacebuilding training aimed to analyze the root causes of conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), as well as to provide biblico-theological reflections of peace on the said issues.
On the first day, the Lumad (Indigenous People), Bangsamoro (mostly Muslims), and Migrants (mostly Christians) presented their analysis of the root causes of conflict based on their own perspectives. The Lumads aspire for sovereignty of their ancestral lands, restoration of self-governance, and assertion of their understanding of development based on their right to self-determination. Unless these aspirations are not yet reached, they will continue their struggle to exercise their rights. The Bangsamoro representatives, on the other hand, emphasized that deep structural reforms in the government are needed. They feel that the Bangsamoro people are “heard by the government,” but they were “never listened to.” The Christians acknowledge their contribution to the root causes of conflict, and are committed to help solve the issues of conflict in a peaceful and non-violent way.
On the second day, the GPH and NDFP Peace Panels updated the public about the current status of the peace talks. The NDFP presented updates and prospects of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms and Political Reforms (CASER). Both the GPH and NDFP want to continue the peace talks, but the NDFP has a precondition for the GPH to release the thirteen personalities they believe are covered by the Joint Agreement on Safety and Immunity Guarantees (JASIG). The GPH, however, stated that they will not submit to this precondition.
Bishop Efraim Tendero of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) gave a theological reflection on the Characteristics of the Triune God – God the Father as the Author of Peace, Jesus Christ as the Agent of Peace, and the Holy Spirit as the Advocate of Peace. Rev. Dann Pantoja presented a lecture on biblical peace building and reconciliation. Dr. Muriel Montenegro facilitated a bible study on peace. Several discussions went around the character of God as a just God and at the same time as a God of peace.
In the evening, a Focused Group Discussion (FGD) was conducted, and most of the participants aired their emotions and respective sentiments regarding the GPH-NDFP issue. A few hours of discussion was spent in tackling issues of the Lumads, issues of the Bangsamoro people, and the issues of the NDFP and the GPH themselves. PeaceBuilders Community helped in the facilitation of the conversation and in the documentation of the whole FGD.
The FGD ended with a tri-people prayer for peace, recognizing the hope for peace between the GPH and NDFP, and peace for the whole country through the help of the Creator and the Holy Spirit.