In one rare occasion, in conjunction with the university’s observance of the Mindanao Week of Peace (MWOP) 2014, the Arrupe Office of Social Formation’s Communications & Advocacy Program brought together a group of student leaders in an afternoon conversation on peace, held on 3rd December 2014 at the “Pakighinabi” Room of the Community Center. The student leaders were in the company of two prominent peacebuilders on the ground who shared their respective experiences in grassroots peacebuilding: Mr. Mike Alon of IMAN, Inc. and Mr. Orson Sargado of Peacebuilding program of Catholic Relief Service (CRS). Entitled “Pakig-ambitay para sa Kalinaw sa Mindanaw:” An Afternoon Conversation on Peace, Part 1, this modified round-table discussion (RTD), conversation style, is a derivative of the “Pakighinabi” series where discussants were asked to lead discussions on a specific topic, and where members of the audience freely interact not only by asking questions but also by offering their own reflections, sharings, insights and learnings, addressed to the lead discussants as well as to the rest of the audience.“Papa” Mike—as addressed by co-discussant Mr. Sargado—a veteran peace warrior, presented some personal insights on grassroots peacebuilding based on his experience as a Muslim working in war-torn communities in Pikit, North Cotabato. He conveyed how he worked among Muslims, Christians and Lumads through the peace zone which he and Fr. Roberto “Bert” Layson, OMI, created in Pikit. He highlighted the importance of respecting culture and religion among the different stakeholders that live side by side amidst a volatile situation. He also underscored the fact that peacebuilding efforts alone are not enough if they are not accompanied by the delivery of basic social services to communities that are plagued by poverty and a lack of socio-economic opportunities.Mr. Sargado, a program coordinator of Peacebuilding at CRS, offered important markers on peacebuilding by capturing succinct “lessons” in doing peacebuilding in Mindanao—lessons which not only demonstrate his personal experience in peace advocacy, but also lessons which also reflect the common sentiments of fellow peace workers on the ground, such as: Bridging people’s relationships and transforming structures, understanding the “other,” identifying peace champions in groups and structures, learning peace together, developing conflict-affected communities to peace communities, promoting respect and tolerance, embracing dialogue as a way of life, accompanying local partners and communities, creating multi-sectoral partnerships at different levels, and envisioning peace together, among others.
The RTD was moderated by the president of the SAMAHAN Central Board, Regel Kent Asuero, as well as by an Arrupe Vol, Batch 42, Kahlil Denise Alcomendras. The general audience constitutes student leaders representing different constituencies, as well as members of the corps of student volunteers of the Arrupe Office. Some faculty members were also on hand to listen to the sharings of the two lead discussants.
The Arrupe Office will do a reprise of this conversation in “Padayon sa Pakig-ambitay para sa Kalinaw sa Mindanaw:” An Afternoon Conversation on Peace, Part 2, on Monday, 15th December 2014, 3:40 p.m., at the Pakighinabi Room, 3rd Floor, Community Center. This time, it will feature both Fr. Bert Layson, OMI, parish priest of Sto. Niño in Kulaman, Sultan Kudarat and, again, Mr. Mike Alon. In this second part of the conversation series, faculty and some members of NGOs will be invited. (By M. Isabel S. Actub, Arrupe Communications & Advocacy)