Our team and overseas partners reflect on working for peace.

Peace Matters

Peter Keegan
By Peter Keegan

Mabuhay! Filipino for welcome and a lot more…

September 28th, 2011


For any of you who have travelled in the Philippines, this common greeting will probably be familiar. The dictionary translates it as ‘welcome’ but like so many words, the formal definition fails to do justice to the energy and spirit behind the word. Much more than a formal welcome, mabuhay conveys the wish that the hearer may experience longer and more life.

It’s a greeting that’s usually delivered with appropriate enthusiasm and warmth, and was commonplace at the Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP) workshop I attended in Mindanao a few months ago.

In Mindanao, the idea of ‘more life’ has real significance. As a region that has been affected by complex patterns of conflict for decades, ‘more life’ means peace – not just a surface veneer of stability but real, genuine, deeply-rooted peace. It’s the kind of peace that represents not just a passive submission to the status quo or a resigned acceptance of oppression, but dynamic engagement with the fullness of life – the kind of peace that moves communities a few steps closer to the Biblical vision of shalom. It’s the gritty peace of real life that the prophet Isaiah wrote about.

I will rejoice in Jerusalem, and delight in my people; no more shall the sound of weeping be heard in it, or the cry of distress… They shall build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and eat fruit. (Isaiah 65:19, 21)

What I saw and heard in Mindanao earlier this year, was a resolute desire to contribute to the emergence of this kind of peace. For almost a decade, UnitingWorld has supported peacebuilding efforts through YAP workshops in Mindanao. For the last couple of years these have focussed on the Josefina district.

No conflict is ever simple, not the least in Mindanao which remains one of the world’s longest running and most complex violent struggles. But in a place like Josefina, the concrete realities of life bring some clarity to the complexities of the broader conflict. Here the local Subanen population, the indigenous inhabitants of the land, have lived lives that are in many ways the opposite of Isaiah’s vision. After being disenfranchised from their traditional land, they have neither been able to inhabit their own homes nor to enjoy the full fruits of their labour.

As they have explored what it means to be peace and to bring peace in Mindanao, the local communities who have participated in YAP workshops have increasingly identified the need for peacebuilding efforts to address underlying injustices even as they continue to invest in relationship-building.

The new peace and development project seeks to do just that. It is a local initiative by the local community and for the benefit of the local community. It is a recognition that the kind of peace that brings ‘more life’ is about growing veggies and growing relationships, raising pigs and raising up leaders, accessing land and accessing tools for conflict resolution.

To learn more about this kind of peace in Mindanao and how you can support its emergence, click here.

Mabuhay Mindanao!

By unitingworld

Great food, growing peace & good development

September 26th, 2011

A guest blog from Hannah Ireland, who recently visited Mindanao as part of a Young Ambassadors for Peace workshop.

Almost six weeks ago my first niece was born.  One day old when I first went to visit her in hospital, she was very small, and extremely cute. I remember thinking, that evening, about the life she has before her as a girl growing up in Australia. She will be well fed, have an excellent education, probably go on to uni and be able to make choices about what she wants to do in her life. I also thought, that evening, about how different that life will be from so many of the girls growing up in countries where UnitingWorld’s partners work.

I reflected on this again the other day when I read an article about women’s rights and nutrition. It acknowledged the well known fact that educating women is the most important step to empowering women worldwide. However, it went on to say that before a young girl even enters a classroom the nutrition levels in her first 1,000 days of life are highly likely to predetermine her life’s potential (Nutrition: The Hidden Women’s Rights Issue, Huffington Post). Whilst I am aware of the importance of nutrition, particularly early in life, this statement surprised me in the huge significance it places on the importance of good food in the first three years of a child’s life. For my niece, obtaining good food is probably not something that will ever be an issue, particularly not before she’s three. But, as the article revealed, it can be the most significant issue for millions of children around the world.

Food, and food production, are important parts of the new peace and development project UnitingWorld is partnering with in Mindanao, the southern island of the Philippines. Through this program, Subanen (the Indigenous group local to the area) communities who traditionally experience higher levels of poverty than their non-Indigenous counterparts will have the opportunity to build sustainable livelihoods through participation in organic farming and livestock raising activities. These activities provide both income generation and a source of locally-grown nutritious food.

Initiatives like this one contribute to increasing food and nutrition security in the lives of Subanen families and giving children a healthy start in life. Initiatives like this have been built on the foundations of the peacebuilding program where communities have come together and chosen to precipitate positive social change in Mindanao beginning with the transformation of relationships and continuing on to healthy and peaceful futures.

To find out more about this exciting project and how to donate, click here.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in these blogs are those of their authors and do not necessarily represent the views of UnitingWorld or the National Assembly of the Uniting Church in Australia