This article was originally published on the Elizabethtown College blog of MPI Facilitator Jon Rudy.

The Republic of Bendora is an island nation surrounded by lesser islands like Renbel, Kula, Papua New Guinea, Australia, Laos and Canada to name a few. Fictitious of course, Bendora is the name of one of the case study scenarios we used in the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) Human Centered Security course. Our training design was hands-on and used made-up scenarios with real-world challenges. Newly designed to help those seeking to reframe security paradigms in their countries, this course tasked work groups to use conflict analysis and mapping skills. One starting assumption in Human Security include that nations are most secure when the needs of people (freedom from fear, freedom from want and respect for dignity) are the reference points (click on image for a larger map).

Bendora Island Map

This year at MPI we had a major delegation from the Ministry of National Unity, Reconciliation, and Peace in the Solomon Islands. During group work participants from five other countries tackled the Bendoran security issues which included clan tensions, an earthquake, outside meddling by foreign powers and weak governance. I observed that, in the minds of the participants, Bendora was imagined as an island nation among many other islands. The Bendoran mapping exercise proved the truism that our world is shaped by our perspective.

Pier at the beach of Mergrande Ocean ResortSitting daily beside the sea for three meals a day, our MPI venue on the Philippine Island of Mindanao provided a tactile reminder of our geographic location. I have often thought about how the environment around us is but one influence that shapes our perception and experience. These filters, when applied unconsciously, are often a detriment to building peace. I wonder if art is the best medium to reveal hidden perspectives and once exposed these biases can be harnessed for peace. That was certainly the case for Bendora revealing its island nature.

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