Manjula with three other participants in peacebuilding training holding hands

My Journey as a Peacebuilder

My journey in peacebuilding began through the initiative of Mennonite Central Committee (MCC), which believes in responding to the biblical call to peace, justice, and nonviolence in everyday life and service. I did not realize that there was so much depth in the word “peace.” It was only after attending several in-house peacebuilding trainings organized by MCC that I began to realize that the word “peace” is an abstract form of internal wellbeing.

There were times in my personal life when I was going through difficult patches or situations, and I had no clue how to overcome the trauma that kept haunting me. I felt that I must find ways to handle those situations and not to give in to stress and allow trauma to rule my life. I began exploring myself, and I realized I needed a foundational training if I wanted to pursue ways of handling difficult situations through peacebuilding.

Manjula behind participant in chair with a ballThe Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) and MCC were pioneers in establishing the MPI Annual Peacebuilding Training. Fortunately, I had the opportunity, sponsored by MCC, to attend intensive courses at MPI’s 2002 and 2006 Annual Peacebuilding Training. The courses were so creatively organized, with simulation activities by competent facilitators, that I began grooming myself by imbibing in me the facilitation skills in facilitating peacebuilding workshops for MCC project partners, churches, and communities.

Manjula explaining an activity with participants holding balloonsSlowly and gradually, by myself, I began facilitating two-day peacebuilding workshops titled “Basic Skills in Peacebuilding.” I touched on Conflict Resolution, Trauma Resilience, and Arts in Peacebuilding through activity-based simulations. I have facilitated approximately 25 workshops and had the privilege of having four of the MCC India Directors, both former and present, attend as observers to critique my performance. Though they were jolted by seeing simulations, they realized that it was part of the training. This is just the tip of the iceberg that helped participants truly understand the difference between “conflict” and “peace.” Conflict is a natural part of our lives, but we need to find ways to internalize peace within ourselves, in others, and all around us.

Participant standing on chair holding down participant standing holding down participant sittingMany of the participants who have attended the workshops facilitated by me have kept in touch by sharing their thoughts through their feedback. Most of them said, when they had initially signed up to attend the workshop, they thought it would be like any other lecture or seminar. The two-day workshop made it more realistic to them. Many have been able to change their attitude in addressing conflicts and resolving them in a meaningful way. Credit goes to MPI.

Manjula holding optical illusion diagram for participantsMy journey did not end here. I had the privilege and another great opportunity with MPI to attend the Grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors Training Program in 2019. MCC again fully encouraged me to accept this invitation and participate. The program was an eye-opener for me as I learned that mentorship is all about connecting people, who have specific skills and knowledge with individuals who need or want the same kind of skills. We mentors can help the mentees improve their work, skills, or organizational performance. This journey of mentorship made me realize that dreams can be achieved through constant guidance from a mentor to a mentee. I have been constantly learning on my peacebuilding journey.

I take this opportunity to thank MPI and MCC for molding me into a peacebuilder. The ripple effect of peacebuilding continues to spread from me far and wide, bringing hope and touching people’s lives.