Posts Tagged ‘Peacemaking’

By Bruce Mullan

Australian South Sea Islander celebrations at Beaudesert

September 5th, 2013

A Shared History of Beaudesert and the arrival of South Sea Islanders 150 years ago: August 1863 – August 2013.

A community commemoration was held at the original Townsvale Plantation (now Gleneagle) 24th August 2013 the date 150 years ago when South Sea Islanders were first bought to Queensland under a system of indentured labour. They were bought to work the cotton plantation of Robert Towns.

This is Our Story was an historic event with Australian South Sea Islanders, Vanuatu Chiefs, descendants of the Walker Family and current landowners walking together down Walker Road to be met by Mununjali elders and community and seeking permission to walk on country.

There followed a community picnic with official commemoration ceremony, traditional Mununjali dance, Kustom dance, choral performances, music, workshops, market stalls, picnic games, historical displays, arts activities, yarning circle and elders tent.

This day made history: a community walking together in grace.

You can see a short video of the event at

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.

By unitingworld

Confronting cultures of hatred and violence

March 30th, 2011

During Lent we will be reflecting on the five program areas supported through Lent Event, and why they are vital for good development. Today, Hannah Ireland (Young Ambassadors for Peace project assistant) considers the role of Peacemaking in sustainable Development.

Over the last few months I have had the privilege of working with Joy Balazo in UnitingWorld’s Peacemaking program, Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP). As part of my work here I have become quite familiar with the eight peacemaking centres across the Asia-Pacific region. Through this experience I have learnt a great deal about the necessity of peacemaking and the challenges and opportunities it brings.

I have learnt about the longstanding conflicts that continue to break communities apart: violent conflicts between tribes in the Southern Highlands of PNG, complex conflicts on the Mindanao islands of the Philippines where the original causes have long been forgotten and tragic conflicts that have sprung from the oppressive regime in Burma, just to name a few.

I have learnt about the far reaching consequences of the conflicts. Many of the young people in these communities have grown up knowing only violence as a means to resolving disputes. A culture of violence has become the norm and pervades the lives of these people for whom peace is a seemingly impossible option. Beyond the very visible bloodshed and violence, conflict brings with it significant instability. Many of the conflicts that YAP works within have resulted in large numbers of displaced people; some who now live in refugee camps and some who have had to build their lives and livelihoods from scratch in new and unfamiliar places having been forced out of their homelands.

But I have also learnt about the women and men who are committed to building a movement based on a culture of peace. The YAP program, run by Joy and many, mostly volunteer, local members, aims to help participants gain an understanding of the nature and causes of conflict and methods of peaceful resolution. Recently I got to meet Esther, the YAP Burma coordinator. She is a Karen woman who grew up in Burma amidst the violent uprising and is now committed to building peace in her nation and amongst the Karen people. I was moved and inspired as I listened to Esther, a humble and quiet woman, tell stories of the powerful peace workshops she has helped run. She told of one particular workshop last year with a group of Karen community leaders who experienced great personal transformations. As a result of the workshop some of them were able to overcome the hate they had previously felt towards the leaders of the military regime in Burma and went and talked with the local military leaders about the issues they are facing. This seemingly small step represents a huge change in the hearts of the Karen community leaders and Esther related this story with a sense of great joy.

It is through hearing about stories like this, and people like Esther, that I have come to understand the importance of peacemaking as a part of the journey of empowerment for communities living in poverty around the world. Conflict goes hand in hand with poverty. Without peace and stability there is little room for cooperation and for working together – some of the mechanisms through which communities can lift themselves out of poverty. Peace is not just a luxury item for conflicting communities; it is a crucial step on the road to a fair and equitable world.

To find out more about Lent Event and resources available to encourage you on the journey, visit

By UnitingWorld

No.13 – Lent Event as creating Peace

March 1st, 2011

with guest blogger Mrs. Margaret Reeson MA (National Committee Member, Relief and Development) on reason no. 13 of 21 to register now for Lent Event 2011. Check out the Act Reflect Connect blog for the full series.

It was a clue. A notice taped to the door of the waiting area at a small regional airport in Papua New Guinea instructed us as passengers to book through our weapons and ammunition at least 30 minutes before boarding our flight. Right…

In January 2011, three generations of our family visited the Highlands of Papua New Guinea to the area where the grandparents had worked in the 1960s and 70s and the mothers had been young children. All ten of us had a wonderful time, with a loving welcome and exceptional hospitality from our Highland friends.

There was a darker side.

First, the people of the highlands face any number of social issues such as poverty, ill health as well as a lack of infrastructure for clean water and education. Similarly access to health care in PNG is very limited and as a result HIV/AIDS is a major issue with the World Health Organization categorizing the situation in PNG as epidemic. The Church Partnership Program website lists some concerning statistics:

  • PNG ranks 139 out of 177 on the UN’s Human Development Index, the lowest score of Pacific countries.
  • around 49% of the population live in poverty on less than $US1 a day.
  • life expectancy at birth is 56.4 years for males and 57.5 years for females
  • adult rate of illiteracy (ages 15 and older) is 37% for males and 49% for females
  • only 39% of people have access to an improved water source
  • under 5 mortality rate per 1000 live births for males is 82 and females 93
  • maternal mortality rate per 100,000 live births is 300
  • HIV prevalence (15-48 years) for males is 1.4% and females 2.9%

Second, and more to the heart of my blog today is that in the Southern Highlands tribal violence continues to cause death and destruction of property as unresolved conflicts escalate out of control. This tribal fighting has forced many trained teachers to leave their positions in United Church schools in the region and a number of the schools have been burnt down.

Days before we arrived in Mendi serious tribal fighting had broken out in another place in the Southern Highlands Province. One armed group had attacked a United Church community in the middle of the night, burning buildings and sending frightened people fleeing. Their church, all the school buildings, minister’s house, teachers’ houses and many private houses in the area were left in ashes. When our group arrived, we learned that our hosts, Bishop Wesis Porop and his family, were sheltering the traumatised minister and his family as well as finding beds for our tribe. They had been evacuated from the troubled area after their house was burned down.  The trouble was very close to Bishop Wesis. Not only was the attack on a United Church community under his pastoral charge, but it was also his own home area, and those under attack were his own tribesmen. One of the burnt houses belonged to him, and another to his brother.

How should he respond? He asked, ‘What is the biblical basis for right action now?’ He pointed out that although he has done helpful courses on peacemaking in the past, they did not give much guidance about how a Christian leader should act when the ashes of your church and school are still smouldering and your relatives fear that their enemies will return at any moment to kill their family. He had already told his tribesmen not to retaliate, but how could they protect their families? By running away? By being armed? Would a police presence help? A police mobile squad would only wait for a limited time, just in case something more happened, but most signs of active fighting had evaporated and it was almost impossible to know who they might arrest. Compensation for a prior problem had been offered and rejected. What was going to happen now for the congregation without a church building and a school without classrooms, let alone so many families without houses?

Why this fight, and why now? When we asked questions, it was like peeling the proverbial onion. There is always the story behind the story and it will be complex. Conflict has been going on in the region in one form or another for years. Tribe against tribe, church denomination against church denomination, potential owner of a valuable resource against another, disputed ownership of property, and suspicions of sorcery. Almost certainly we as outsiders did not hear the whole story, nor understand it.

It was too easy to offer simplistic solutions. Any genuine resolution will need time and care. This is a scene where UnitingWorld and its Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP) program may have an important role. Indeed in parts of PNG YAP has played a key role in building peace between conflicting communities that has paved the way to significant development activity. The peace process in Tari that culminated in an historic peace agreement in 2009 is a prime example. Without such action for peace sustainable development that tackles the wide range of social issues and alleviates poverty will not be possible.

So you can imagine how I am delighted to see Peacemaking integrated into Lent Event in 2011. Not only will funds raised support programs such as Water and Sanitation, Economic Empowerment & Livelihood, Education & Vocational Training and Health and Nutrition but also from this year Peacemaking and the YAP program will benefit. And this is crucial in a place like PNG.

So as Lent Event has embraced Peace and the YAP program and my family was embraced in the highlands earlier this year -  join me in an embrace of Lent Event.

So with just 9 days until the beginning of Lent Event 2011, we send out the call. Sign up now for Lent Event via or call 1300 536 838. Check with your Church leaders that they have the material and a Lent Event Coordinator is ready to roll. If not, call us, get the resource kit which gives full directions, a copy of the 2011 video and get down to it. The journey begins on Wednesday March 9.

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