We all smile in the same language – Unknown
In the hills of Mindanao, Philippines another significant peacebuilding initiative is taking place this week. I am on Day One of a DVD shoot with some 40 participants in a Young Ambassadors for Peace workshop with YAP founder Joy Balazo.
During this 5 day intensive live-in workshop participants who have known conflict in their villages, communities and tribes have come together for the first time to give peace a chance. And in Mindanao it needs to be given a chance.
The southern island of Mindanao is home to one of the longest lasting conflicts in the world. The contemporary conflict is mainly concentrated in the central and south-western areas of Mindanao. Whilst the conflict seems to be organised around religious orientation (Muslim vs Christian) the causes are much more concerned with a clash of interests concerning land and natural resources. Additional to this there is conflict amongst Christian groups and also amongst Indigenous clans who have been repeatedly pushed aside by the myriad of settlers over the past centuries.
So given such a picture why after Day One are we smiling?
With armed security from the local police in our midst the day centred around breaking the ice. And the Filipinos do breaking the ice so so well. Even when there are police all about.
Today the highlight for me was meeting Yogi (pictured above with cymbals). Yogi comes from the indigenous clan here who have been dispossessed of land and life in the forest. We visited a village with Yogi and we got a real sense of the object poverty faced by his people. But despite having much cause for anger and revenge Yogi works for peace. His facilitation of various ice breaking activities had me in awe. After all but two hours people were no longer names but real people. The laughter and celebration of each person in the room was real and refreshing. And it was Yogi and others who had me smiling. He had all in the room today smiling.
And I love this image. Yogi is preparing to bring an exercise to conclusion and what we see in the background is embrace. What we see is people facing one another and seeing the things we share rather than what divides and I for one think our world needs a dose or two more of that.
So smile with us today but also spare a thought for the day ahead as the smiles may well turn to tears as participants look within. In the day ahead we move into the sharing of stories of how each has experienced prejudice against them and perhaps responded in a way that has only escalated the cycle of conflict. But that is for tomorrow. As the clocks strikes midnight here and I post this on a rather dodgy internet connect I am smiling.