23-26 November 2016, Roxas City – The Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community in the Province of Capiz is born! Fifty-six (56) community leaders – pastors, college counsellors, school teachers, entrepreneurs, civil society representatives, and various non-government organization personnel – participated in this three-day training and workshop dubbed as Peace Theology and Disaster Response.
PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) has been praying to start a PAR movement in Western Visayas for the past 5 years. Our first organizational contact with the community leaders here was during the 2013 Yolanda (Haiyan) disaster response when PBCI was asked by the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) to help assess and document the needs of communities that were hit hardest by Yolanda. PBCI eventually served as overall ground coordinator for the distribution of shelter repair kits (SRKs) given by all the organizations that served under the banner of Philippine Evangelical Disaster Response Network. Our field team leader then was Bennette Grace Tenecio-Maniulit. Later, Bennette was hired by the PCEC’s Philippine Relief and Development Services (PhilRaDS) as a full-time staff based in Quezon City.
Earlier this year, Bennette invited PBCI to join a consortium between PhilRaDS and International Care Ministries (ICM) to serve the people in Panay starting with a program called Capacity-Building for Humanitarian Initiatives in Capiz (CHIC). PBCI was asked to focus on providing a theological-ethical framework for these initiatives. It is in this logistical context that PBCI is able to reach out to these community leaders in Capiz.
PBCI assigned Twinkle ‘Tala’ Alngag Bautista as our lead person and field manager for the specific task of PBCI in this consortium. Tala is a seasoned field team leader who successfully established PAR communities in Bukidnon, Mindoro Occidental, and Kalinga. Because this is our first time to work in the context of a consortium, Tala’s networking experience with various civil society organizations – such as the Women Engaged in Action on 1325 (WE Act 1325) – is highly valuable. We Act 1325 is a national network of “women in peace, human rights and women’s organizations who actively collaborated with the government in the formulation of the National Action Plan (NAP) on UN SCR 1325”. PBCI is very sensitive and enthusiastically-supportive of women’s rights in all our field initiatives.
For us at PBCI, the formation of the PAR Community in Capiz is just a beginning of our long-term commitment to advance Peace and Reconciliation principles and practices in the whole island of Panay, and throughout Western Visayas.
This is a part of a protracted, active, nonviolent, revolutionary dream.
Imagine. By December 31st, 2020, each of our provinces will have a circle of leaders called Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Communities! They would serve as the catalysts to organize PAR Teams in their municipalities or cities. These PAR Teams, in turn, would serve as radical transformation volunteers in their respective families, churches, neighbourhoods, barangays, cities or municipalities. The PAR Teams would also get involved in PAR Programs that are relevant to their specific context.
We are now operating in 26 out of 81 provinces in the Philippines as of 31 July 2016.
These PAR Communities and the PAR Teams they have organized would be the backbone of a national PAR Movement. Then we can see, and we can count on, a well-equipped, efficiently-organized, and effectively-mobilized Peace and Reconciliation constituency.
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
For now, let’s work on how we can establish at least one PAR Community in each of the 81 provinces in our country.
So, how do we get there from here?
1. Find a Person of Peace in the province. Many would claim themselves to be the person of peace in the whole province. Beware of that person! He might want to use us in his or her personal interest, be it amassing material wealth or gaining political power. We are simply looking for a person of peace.
This principle is from Jesus’ instruction to the seventy people he sent out:
“When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If someone who promotes peace is there, your peace will rest on them; if not, it will return to you. Stay there, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.”
(Luke 10:5-7 NIV)
A person of peace must be discerned and would have the following characteristics:
- Prioritizes Kingdom values in her or his life. Righteousness, justice, peace, and mercy are very important to this person.
- Earns the respect of people. This person’s family and community regard him or her as trustworthy.
- Accepts and welcomes strangers. This person is hospitable.
- Cares about your safety and security. This person becomes your protector.
- Expands your connections to a network of key leaders. This person serves as your ‘public relations officer’.
The person of peace who practice a set of biblical leadership ethics must also be discerned communally. The discernment process will be done in consultation with each province’s fellowship of pastors and Christian leaders. PAR Leaders are respected women- and men-of-peace who are actively modelling a person who demonstrates
- a heart of a servant;
- a soul of a teacher;
- a mind of a manager; and,
- the strength of a leader.
2. Arrange an exploratory meeting with a group of leaders in a given province. These leaders must be endorsed and gathered by the PAR Leader who is also our trusted Person of Peace. The objectives of this meeting are:
- to present the Vision 2020 to the leaders in a given province
- to get a commitment from those leaders to organize themselves as a PAR Community
- to get a commitment from the new PAR Community to gather a minimum of 25 interested participants to go through PAR Seminar Series
3. Facilitate PAR Seminar Series among the leaders. The PAR Community will have to provide the food, lodging and transportation expenses for the PBCI training team of 3-5 people, the seminar venue, participants’ food and lodging, and the cost of training materials. Copies of the Peace and Reconciliation Resource Manual can be ordered from the PeaceBuilders Community by emailing our PAR Consulting Team (firstname.lastname@example.org).
4. Facilitate the organization of PAR Communities in every province under the leadership of the PAR Leader or the person of peace. These PAR Communities are groups 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 as a consulting and training team focused on Peace and Reconciliation, or as a training arm of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches’ PAR Commission (PCEC-PARCom);
- who have made a commitment to embrace 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 a catalyst group to organize PAR Teams in their particular province.
5. Assist the provincial PAR Communities in organizing municipal or city PAR Teams. PAR Teams are composed of local volunteers from various communities who are trained for 8 months to be an on-going, rapidly-mobilized teams who will implement their PAR Communities’ programs. The general objectives of PAR Teams are:
- 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
6. Develop PAR Program. PAR Communities are encouraged to discern — through prayer and research — the most important and urgent need of their province. This can be done consultation with the Body of Christ and local government units in their province. The output of this discernment process would be a project proposal that can be submitted to appropriate prospective funding partners from the donor community. Examples of PAR Programs include:
- Community Organization
- Peace Education
- Armed Conflict Area Survival Training
- Fact-Finding Missions
- Conflict Transformation
- Disaster Preparedness
- Trauma Healing
- Inter-Faith Dialogue
- Cross-Cultural Communications
- Fair Trade Initiatives
PAR Programs are best implemented by PAR Teams in their own local contexts.
7. Initiate field testing of the new PAR Teams. The PAR Teams will be deployed on the field to test their newly-acquired training. This will be done through the supervision of the the PAR Community. PBCI would serve as technical consultants.
8. Facilitate Training of Teachers to expand PAR Program. Based on the evaluation and learning from the field, PBCI would conduct a Training of Teachers’ Seminar.
9. Encourage the new PAR Community to start a PAR Community in a new province. We need to reach all 81 provinces in our country by 2020. We believe that through faith, prayers, dependence on the Holy Spirit, and exponential qualitative training of PAR volunteers, this will become a reality.
10. Repeat the above process 1-9 in each province. May God bless the spread and multiplication of this PAR Movement.