I first heard of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) in 2012. I was encouraged by my mentors, the people I look up to in the field of peacebuilding, to explore and volunteer as part of the Secretariat Team for that year’s Annual Peacebuilding Training. At that time, I was still finding my “vocation,” whether or not I wanted to be involved in peacebuilding or if I wanted to pursue something else.
Without having anything to lose, and the potential to gain much, I tried out my luck and was invited. Being in the secretariat team was probably one of the most rewarding experiences I had that year. Not only did I feel I helped make the participants and facilitators’ lives easier during the training, but I also learned much on many different levels in the field of peacebuilding. Somehow, that experience transformed me into what and who I am now.
So, what is it that calls me back to MPI’s Peacebuilding Training every year? Why is this important to me?
Sense of belongingness with a community of practitioners. Peace work is exhausting—physically and mentally. Let’s start with that. Contrary to common perceptions I encountered about peace work that it is just all about being “goody-goody,” peace work is very demanding, just like all the other vocations. It takes a toll on a peace worker because more often the different dynamics and the constant changes in the spaces where we work become overwhelming and therefore demand constant creative re-strategizing. I think one of the many things that sustains my commitment to this field is this sense of being part of a community of practitioners—that I am not alone in transforming the world! Each year at MPI, I get to meet a lot of peacebuilders from different parts of the world—each one bringing their contexts and their practices; each one bringing their gifts and stories; each one reminding me that somewhere around the world a peacebuilder encounters the same challenges but have overcome them in inspiring ways. And these are truly valuable experiences I take as inspirations.
Opportunities for personal and professional growth. Each annual peacebuilding training has offered different opportunities for both personal and professional growth for me. I started with assisting classes, then was involved in documenting courses, and was eventually offered to facilitate a course. To me, it was the most promising experience MPI offered me—not because I did it with flying colors, but because it made me reflect and realize that, while I am capable to doing things I never thought I could, there was still really so much more to learn and to strive for in this field. I realized I could never go places if I just stay within my comfort zone and never deal with the eventual “what-ifs.” Of course, we can learn from a lot of experiences and books, but without these opportunities for practical applications of knowledge and skills, they might be lost in hindsight.
Self-reflection and reevaluation. I have this habit of asking myself every once in a while, the questions: “what now?” and “what else?” Each time, I am brought back to that crossroad where I decided to commit myself to peace work. I find it important, for mental and self-care, that my conviction towards this decision is maintained because this is the exact inspiration, not pressure, that keeps me going. These questions never fail to make me situate myself in the moment and see what I have accomplished (and failed to do) so far, and what else there is for me to do. Every MPI annual peacebuilding training offers me opportunities to harvest innovations, new approaches, new experiences that have eventually molded my future decisions and direction. My experiences at MPI continuously remind me of the right decision to pursue this commitment on the one hand and offer me a variety of new learning experiences, ideas, and tools to improve myself on the other hand.
A space for renewed commitment. Every annual peacebuilding training has been a safe space for me to renew my commitment. When I come to these trainings, I bring with me my battles, challenges, and quest for clarity. Here I don’t always find all the answers and solutions. Instead, I find inspirations—to learn how to face my battles through the shared wisdom from the facilitators; to take on the challenges through the experiences of other peace workers from other parts of the world; to realize that my quest for clarity lies at the very foundation of my commitment to peace work. This opportunity to constantly renew this commitment is an important factor that pulls me back and to be part of the MPI trainings.
To sum it all up, I could say that my commitment to peace work, and how I carry this forward, have been greatly and positively impacted by my engagements with the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute. And I am grateful that I am always welcomed by this organization.
Bobet Dimaukom is presently the project manager of Forum Civil Peace Service/forumZFD – Cotabato Project Office. He has been working with forumZFD since 2014 in the field of Nonviolent Conflict Transformation. His work focuses on ensuring public awareness and participation in different decision-making processes in the Bangsamoro Region.