As the PeaceBuilders team embarks upon another year of ministry, many projects and needs call for our attentions. In order to practice good stewardship of the talents and resources that God has entrusted to us, it is necessary for us prayerfully to evaluate which of all these potential projects requires urgent and immediate action. We must also endeavor to determine where our efforts will make the greatest long-term impact, and which projects will further our broader mission to establish and nurture PAR communities all across the Philippine archipelago, and thus to create a profound legacy and a tangible contribution to the ultimate realization of God’s peaceable kingdom on Earth.
Yesterday morning we held our annual planning meeting to strategize the allocation of our time, treasure, and talents in 2015. As we reviewed the needs and requests of peace workers on the ground in the various fields where we have been active in past years, as well as in new venues where our services have been requested, we reached consensus on a plan of action for at least the first quarter of this year. Experience has taught us to not to make firm action plans farther than a quarter-year ahead, since situations on the ground often change quickly, and our priority lists will almost certainly be reshuffled as events progress.
As a team, we determined that, at present, our paramount opportunity to foster the long-term development of our Peace And Reconciliation goals is in Bukidnon Province, at the heart of the Island of Mindanao. Here, in the last few years, a busy and vigorous PAR community has been mentoring and ministering to the students of Central Mindanao University, engaging in many conflict resolution projects, and expanding Coffee For Peace’s fair-trade farmer-empowerment mission through coffee cultivation and processing workshops and by purchasing coffee directly from the farmers at prices which help farmers improve their quality of living and hold onto their farmland.
Next to Bukidnon, we decided, a large portion of our resources should continue to be allocated to the Eastern Visayas region, where the new normal of our changing global climate means that deadly and devastating typhoons seem to accompany every year’s stormy season. To minimize the recurrent disruption and loss of life in this region, and in order that residents of the Eastern Visayas can maintain a measure of self sufficiency without a perennial dependence on national and international relief organizations, PeaceBuilders and its mission partners have been organizing and training the Peace And Reconciliation Disaster Response Networks (PAR-DRNs). PeaceBuilders has high hopes for the expansion of this local people-empowering initiative, and for the positive impact it will have on general well-being and peace in the Eastern Visayas.
As we work with the PAR-DRNs to promote safety and peace in the midst of the Visayas frequent natural disasters, we also turn our attention just north of the Visayas, to the Bicol region which for decades has been the focal point of the armed struggle between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). As 2015 begins, we are hearing encouraging reports that the Philippine government and the NDFP may be returning to the negotiating table to resume their long-stalled peace talks. As the peace process moves forward, we will be doing all we can to support dialogue between these long-time adversaries. We will be carefully listening to the narratives of both sides and sharing their concerns with our supporters all over the world. It is our sincere hope and prayer that the Philippine government and the NDFP can reach a level of mutual understanding similar to the trust which has recently been achieved between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).
In northern Luzon’s Kalinga Province, just as in Bukidnon, we are excited to see a PAR community taking shape, thanks largely to the vision and the tireless efforts of PeaceBuilders missionary and Kalinga native Twinkle Alngag Bautista. In February we will again be visiting Kalinga to provide PAR training and to share fellowship with all of our new partners and friends.
At the same time, PeaceBuilders’ services are urgently requested by both Christian and Muslim leaders in the southern Philippine regions of Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. And additionally, what is perhaps the most urgent and immediate of our current advocacies concerns the conflict between the Dulangan Manobo tribe of Sultan Kudarat Province and a corporation which is operating within the tribe’s ancestral territory. This coming week we will be responding to the call of the tribe’s leaders, who have asked us to walk with them in their time of crisis and to help them make their predicament known to the nation and the world. We also hope to hear the company’s testimony regarding their own concerns and motivations, and at all events we hope and pray that we will be used by God to promote His peace and to avert the shedding of blood in this volatile situation.
As PeaceBuilders undertakes this year’s many projects, we humbly acknowledge our dependence on the prayer and financial support of our sisters and brothers throughout the Philippines and around the world. We thank you, and we praise the Lord for your continued faithfulness and for your belief in the vision of God’s peace coming to fruition in the Philippines. Please continue to pray that PeaceBuilders will always be used according to the Creator’s purposes in this new year of hope and opportunity.