We join the Christians around the world in celebrating the Advent or Coming of Jesus. During the four Sundays preceding Christmas, we lit the candles on our Advent wreath. Hope. Love. Joy. Peace. Then on Christmas Day, we lit the Christ candle. For us, this progressive lighting of candles symbolizes our journey in Christ-centered peacebuilding. This expresses our sense of expectation. This is our witness and a declaration of the coming of the Prince of Peace – Jesus Christ!

We were at the waiting area at the office of Kapiid Ka Banua, Inc., Aplaya, Digos City to meet with the Hon. Datu Rogelio B. Manapol, the Provincial Tribal Chief of Davao del Sur. A year ago, the PBCI-CFP Tribe was welcomed by Datu Manapol, along with the provincial officials of NCIP when we went through the process of Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) as required by law. The municipal, provincial, and national authorities protecting the Indigenous Peoples’ rights gave their respective affirmations and blessings to our inclusive development partnership with local IP communities.

For Indigenous Peoples in Mindanao whose ancestral lands are being grabbed by powerful politicians and extractive corporations, these virtues – hope, love, joy, peace – are psycho-spiritual energizers to pursue justice-based peace that can be immediately and ultimately experienced in Jesus Christ. This set of divine provisions – hope, love, joy, and peace – is also the source of our courage in walking and working side-by-side with Indigenous Peoples in this political condition wherein working for justice and peace can be dangerous and even deadly. Our legislators have passed the Anti-Terrorism Act. The term terrorism in this law is so broad that anyone criticizing the government can be interpreted as a ‘terrorist.’ And so, while doing justice-based peacebuilding, we have to establish a working relationship with government authorities to avoid being ‘red tagged’ – that is, being declared as communists and become a target of the National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict (NTF-ELCAC).

During these weeks of Advent, we visited the leaders of the Bagobo Tagabawa tribal elders. They told us that elements of the military and police forces ‘secured’ 100 hectares of land within their ancestral domain. Some 50 farming families were displaced. They asked us to help them get the support of the church and the media. We promised to do our best to help amplify their voices and their cries for justice.

We also engaged with local government officials through dialogues on peace and development. A key municipal mayor expressed her support by issuing a Certification that PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee for Peace are partners of her office to conduct community organizing activities, inclusive development initiatives, and entrepreneurial trainings in strategic villages within her municipality. We’re still waiting for other mayors and for the provincial governor to respond to our request for a dialogue.

On 11-15 January 2021, our PBCI-CFP Inclusive Development Team will begin conducting farmers’ organizing and training in a key community. Please pray for safety, spiritual energy, and effectiveness as we share Christ’s hope, love, joy, and peace.

The government’s intensified anti-insurgency drive and the strict public health safety protocols could totally paralyze our justice-based peacebuilding operations. We prayed for God’s wisdom on how to do our ministries in these contexts. We perceived God’s answer to our prayers through the two persons of peace we have encountered.

Mayor Querina Sarte. We are grateful to God for her support. In her Mayor’s Certification issued to PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. and Coffee for Peace (PBCI-CFP), she said that we are “partner of this municipality, conducting specific trainings and livelihood programs in several barangays” or villages. She also clarified in the said Certification that PBCI-CFP is free “to conduct their programs and projects” in strategic communities in her town.

Mayor Sarte also endorsed PBCI-CFP to the strategically-selected barangay leaders in Bansalan.

Because of this local government support, we would not be a ready target for ‘red tagging’ by the military and the police.

Datu Rogelio B. Manapol. Our meeting with the Hon. Datu (Chief) Rogelio B. Manapol, Provincial Tribal Chief of Davao del Sur, was a blessing from God. We met at his tribal office, Kapiid Ka Banua, Inc., in Barangay Aplaya, Digos City. It was a pleasant, productive, relationship-enhancing time. We’re grateful to the Creator for him.

Datu Manapol issued a Certification stating in part that PBCI and CFP “are permitted to conduct their inclusive development initiatives among the Bagobo Tagabawa communities in the Province of Davao del Sur.”

We gave him a 2020 year-end report of our activities and an advanced information on our 2021 programs within the Ancestral Domain of the Bagobo Tagabawa Tribe

Your love — our partner individuals, families, and congregations with Mennonite Church Canada — have been a big encouragement to us. Your prayers for us and for our ministry are being answered. For all these, we are grateful to God and we are thankful for your partnership.

We hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

We pray that you experience God’s peace within you and around you in the year 2021.

Happy New Year!

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