Australia is a nation of watchers. We love watching major events from the football to the cricket to the theatre. Some events take on a life of their own such that in the case of the Boxing Day Test Match at the MCG it is as if we are on sacred ground.
The last four days I have been watching some 40 people from various strata of society here in Josefina, Mindanao. They have gathered to participate in an intensive YAP workshop geared to build bridges, break prejudice, breed reconciliation but equally set loose in Mindanao an army of peacemakers.
I watched many moments I would consider sacred and whilst it is a privilege to be here on a DVD shoot for this program watching is perhaps overrated for those participating were experiencing the sacred and it is here that true transformation and change is at work.
What did it look like? It is a pretty hard call to describe it and in the months to come we will share the stories but let me say that in between much input, group work and learning there were a few special moments of what I know were sacred and transformative for the participants.
1. The sharing of stories.
Joy Balazo shared of her long held prejudice against Muslims until a marker event in her life during a human rights action in Mindanao. It was here that the kindness of Muslims saved her life and her prejudice was broken. Others then moved into groups of 3 and shared their stories of prejudice.
These stories were quietly written down on pieces of paper and then they moved in line down to the tennis court where each moved to the centre to burn their prejudice. This was for so many a letting go of a pain and hurt they have held for many years and thus cleared the way for a new way of being.
3. Mapping the Conflict.
The participants learn the art of conflict analysis and a major part of the process is for all to map the conflict geographically in their area. Conflict again and again came back to the reality of poverty faced by so many people in this area, in particular the now landless Sabanen.*
4. The Ending Ceremony.
Two nights ago the participants sat around in a large circle with only candles casting light and they moved into the centre to commit to enact the lessons of the workshop and various action plans in their communities. It was genuinely moving to see such resolve and clear evidence of reconciliation.
Today I am back in Manila awaiting a flight home. These now YAP members who in the months to come we will more fully introduce you to, are now back in their communities as transformed agents working for peace.
There is much for me to take on board from my watching. But it occurs to me we have enough people watching. We need more participants in sacred gatherings such as this YAP workshop where we let go of our stories of prejudice, learn to analyse conflict and the systems that surround us and are reconciled to one another so we can act as reconcilers to our world.
Let me ask you a question as I ask myself. When it comes to the challenge of working for peace in this world are you content to watch from the sidelines and just take the odd picture and make the odd observation….OR….are you open to move from the audience to the stage or from the grandstand to the pitch where indeed the sacred is fully in view and at work. It is a challenging place to be but as I think back to the ceremony last night and the various interviews I conducted with a range of those involved I heard nothing but excitement at the prospect of moving onto the main stage.
Come let’s applaud them but also lets join them.
* The Sabanen are an indigenous tribe who for decades have lived below the poverty line due to many outsiders who took their land and without means for income except through working as day labourers and tenant farmers.