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.
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.