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Celebrating 20 Years of Peacebuilding - Africa and the Greater Middle East

MPI Celebrating 20 Years of Peacebuilding Globe with diverse characters and MPI logo some Africa and Greater Middle East countries highlighted It is now 2020, and the world is still struggling to achieve peace. But, a small yet committed and dedicated group of peacebuilders envisions having just and peaceful communities in Asia-Pacific and beyond. For two decades, the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) from Davao City, Mindanao—their island home in the Philippines—has been gathering together peacebuilders from all corners of the globe. MPI does this so that these peacebuilders can become empowered as catalysts, bringing about positive change and social transformation in their communities. Today, MPI stands fast in creating safe spaces for mutual learning and exchange, opening more and more hearts and minds to the possibility of peace in our lifetime throughout the world.

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” – Martin Luther King, Jr silhouette

The Gift of Hope

The year 2020 is coming to an end, and yet we are still facing the struggles and difficulties brought about by this pandemic. The pandemic that divides the people and the nation. The pandemic that gives us fear, anger, hatred, and escalates conflict around the globe. At the same time, this pandemic gathers us together to help, share, and to continue to give hope to people.

On November 16, 2020, MPI celebrated 20 Years of Peacebuilding. Hearing and reading the life-changing testimonies and messages from our MPI facilitators and alumni gave us the feeling that small things matter. They affirmed that the efforts we extend to people in helping them build peace, the smiles we share with the people we meet every day, and our giving people the feeling of belongingness helps them feel that there is still hope in the midst of these chaotic times. Let us all continue to help, share, and hope that things will be better.

Happy holidays, friends!

Desterlyn Allen with Babu Biko (class assistant)

Concepts of Peace

For those living in Liberia, a country in West Africa that experienced 14 years of civil war, most of the time peace has been perceived as the absence of the sound of guns and rockets. On the other hand, it has also been considered a time when we have food on our tables and can go to sleep without going out at night to watch for our safety. This has all been perceived as PEACE.

Shecku Mansaray with wife and peacebuilders in discussion around table in Cotabato

MPI – A choice for a life-changing Pilgrimage

In the summer of 2011, Sierra Leone was in the eighth year of its post-war era. Ours was widely described as a fragile peace as broken infrastructure, legislation, and attitudes that anchor peaceful co-existence were still being put in place. The culture of violence was fading away into insignificance but only gradually, with its effects still visibly lingering in our communities and homes. The war victims—wounded/displaced—were slowly settling down in their new homes and to do whatever could piece together their broken livelihoods.

Sierra Leoneans were gleefully basking in the joys of our first post-war election resulting in a smooth and peaceful transfer of power from an incumbent to the opposition. It was time for peacebuilders to catch up with the dynamic paradigms that contemporary peacebuilding work demands. In Asia-Pacific, in faraway Philippines, the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) was beckoning and whispering “ … Space for mutual learning? No one serves you better.”

Jana Alloush writing on a flip chart with young woman looking on

MPI: A Turning Point

My learning journey with the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) started 5,315 miles away from the Philippines, in Syria. Through all the difficulties of obtaining the visa and getting to the Philippines, MPI's staff was there emailing and contacting the authorities and trying their best to facilitate the process. I was curious about those people who seemed to be so sincere in their mission. The number one lesson I learned was that of "not giving up." I could not wait to meet them and see the power that lies within this group of people and what drives them to maintain such a mindset.

Latifa Nawroozi facilitating session at white board in front of six men

Dimensions of Peace

It was an incredible experience for me to attend the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) 2018 training. I was the first Afghan woman to participate in this training despite the difficulties of getting a visa for Afghans. I learned many things from each small thing that we did at MPI. This training showed me a new dimension of the world! I realized we can live in peace despite having different identities and cultures if we want. Being together at lunch or whenever we could be together and talking about ourselves, our family, our culture, and our lives has taught me that we have many similarities despite differences, and we can use each other's experiences to make our lives better.

KAICIID Team and Fellows posing for picture

Interfaith Dialogue as a Tool to Build Peace and Cohesion

Above: Group Photo with KAICIID Team and Fellows from the African Region during Orientation and Capacity Building Training in Ethiopia in February 2020.

My experience at the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) was transformational in my career as a peacebuilder and shaped my world view. I participated in MPI in 2018 where I first attended an Islamic and Interfaith dialogue-reflection and three-weeks peacebuilding training. The Islamic and Interfaith reflection brought together peace actors from Mindanao from different faiths including Muslims, Christians, and indigenous communities, also known as lumads. There were also participants from India, Kenya, the Netherlands, and Uganda. The reflection’s main goal was the sharing of insights and experiences that would provide pointers for an interfaith toolkit.

Multi-Ethnic Group in Elmentaita Kenya

PEACE: The Commitment of Our Time

Photos above: Multi-Ethnic Group in Elmentaita Kenya meet to highlight Community Peace Pillars and how they facilitate community peace in contested land and indigenous ancestral land heritage where peace has been realized.

Twenty years ago, the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) was launched, and who could tell how long the journey would be and the route and places it would take those inaugural personalities? The vision was peace, and MPI continues to strive to strengthen and train peacebuilders, linking and networking them together, keeping friendships and collaboration alive.

Peace has multicultural and cross-cultural dimensions. For me who works in Africa, I encountered and attended the MPI training in 2013. The experience in the community organizations working among the Bangsamoro*, Philippines, opened my mind in new ways. I gained insights that have helped me engage and address peacebuilding better. From my perspective, I recognize the impact of MPI as having created opportunities for peacebuilders from different parts of the world to not only train in a multicultural context but also reflect with cross-cultural content. Peace has multicultural and cross-cultural dimensions.

Tamim Ebrahimi with mountains in the background

My Journey Towards Personal Peace

Afghanistan has been in a state of war and conflict off and on for centuries. Over the last 40 years, violence and conflict can be seen as multi-layered and extraordinarily complex. The peace process in Afghanistan clearly needs individuals with long-term commitment.

As an Afghan millennial and someone committed to life-long learning, I have always challenged myself to learn from all aspects of life. I learn to serve people and bring positive change. Unfortunately, my generation has been raised experiencing conflict and violence of all kinds. Afghan society needs opportunities for people to connect on a human level. These new connections enable changed perceptions towards peace, especially for youth. However, in a traditionally elder dominated culture, this is challenging because issues of learning and perception are culturally linked. Despite the cultural challenges as a “young” Afghan, I have committed myself to this path. I believe as human beings we need to reflect on what we have learned in our lives, unlearn some of it, and then relearn the right knowledge and practice to bring change. The Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute supported me to exactly do this.

Cliff over the ocean with small torch to the side

MPI

If there is one place
That threw my passion to frenzy
If there are days
That ran unending
Where from some higher cliff
I jumped into oceans unwinding
It would be MPI.

Birth, the birth of building
Death, the death of quarreling spirits
Deceits, and warring
This place taught better, shines brighter
And I am the torch.

Yes, a torch in a deep of torches
Lighting peace candles and lamps
That shine today and forever
From Mindanao to Bakweri town
From Davao to the world over
This place taught me so,
And I am not one but many.

Nohman with local peacebuilders in South Sudan outside and posing for picture

From Mindanao to South Sudan

Why South Sudan? Where is that? Are you not afraid? Is it safe? What are you going to do there? These are just a few of the questions people asked me upon learning that I would be working in South Sudan. I am still being asked the same questions, especially by people who do not understand my work. It was never an easy decision to make, especially leaving my family behind. I did not know what was awaiting me in South Sudan, but I was determined.

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