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Alma “Kins” E. Aparece at table with two other participants and facilitator Mike Alar

MPI 2022: An intentional act for peace

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Attending the MPI 2022 Annual Peacebuilding Training in person was an act of faith and courage. When I received the invitation, I wondered if this was the right use of resources. COVID-19 was still spreading. The disturbing war in Ukraine and local issues demanded time. I spent a long time discerning whether to participate. Will it be worth the time and energy? Is this the correct use of resources? What can I contribute to the life and spirit of this event? Other peace advocates helped clarify my intentions, while former participants encouraged me to attend.

I decided to attend MPI’s Annual Peacebuilding Training with three goals: connect with other participants, learn from each other, and explore the terrain of peace work in the region. Peace work entails working with others, building friendships, and offering solidarity. I was very touched that some peace advocates offered to sponsor my travel and training costs.

I appreciated the diversity of participants in terms of age, experience, and cultural background. Many were from Mindanao. I was the only one from the Visayas. Many of them represented Philippine national government agencies mandated to do peacebuilding, such as the Office of the Presidential Adviser on Peace, Reconciliation and Unity (OPAPRU) and the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao’s Youth Desk. Other participants were community leaders, academics, and representatives of global and local NGOs. For some, it was their first time joining an in-person peace training, while others have had long-standing relationships with MPI.

Participants from Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Timor Leste, and elsewhere shared how even the word peace could be threatening in their areas. Some would not be allowed to leave their country for peace work. I also appreciated the openness and curiosity of those who listened and shared at the nightly country-in-focus presentations and learned that challenging different forms of violence in their places is of great concern.

Participants looking on as one participant leans chairs back against one another so they do not fall overI was amazed at how the facilitators remained faithful to the core topics while listening and responding to the feedback and needs of the participants. I valued the time given for creativity, interactions, and reflections that the facilitators, Wendy Kroeker and Mike Alar, created in their Introduction to Conflict Transformation (ICT) course. Having facilitated together for 10 years, they moved easily between the practical and theoretical aspects of peace work. I appreciated how we revisited different concepts of and approaches to peace from various languages and cultures. I cherish the reminder that peace is not an introduced colonial concept.

Towards the end, we considered power and where we were on the power pyramid where the top belongs to the key decision makers and leaders and the base belongs to the community leadership. I could not place myself in a set area because my work at the Friends Peace Teams allows me to cross ties with the different players in society. I look forward to the day peace players can fluidly move in different places of the continuum without the need for qualifications and titles. Simulation exercises pointed out patterns of oppression, power dynamics, and peace initiatives across timelines. They highlighted some of the oppressive practices in which we may have participated. I wish we had spent time experimenting with ways to interrupt those patterns.

Four participants working at a table on their activity with two on laptops and one on the phone.Peacebuilding needs all of us. For peace to be possible, we must be intentional in our actions. We need friends to work together for peace given the forces against it. This was highlighted in the other course I joined titled Conflict-Sensitive Journalism and Content Creation: Theories and Practice (CSJ) in the second week. As people of peace, we must side with truth and justice. To speak truth to power, we must be equipped with the essential tools of communication. In small groups, I enjoyed double-checking facts, sharing information, and exploring different modes of writing. Facilitators Fritz Silvallana and Veds Kali guided us in crafting our content and in planning how our story-report unfolds. We worked on sharing our stories in ways that explore and explain the bigger picture. Today, our audiences are rarely consuming mainstream media.

My work with different communities and peace teams in the region convinced me that peace is not a foreign concept popularized on a Hallmark card. It is a very ordinary way of living in a community. Achieving this, however, requires working together for personal and social transformation. Though one may aspire to have peacebuilding as an established professional commitment, personal dedication and practice drive the work. In the case of the 2022 MPI Training, I gained new friends, who intentionally choose peace over conflict, and more skills and knowledge that I can share with my team. Yes, it was a training worth joining.

Alma “Kins” E. Aparece, Initiative Coordinator for Friends Peace Teams-Asia West Pacific from Tagbilaran City, Bohol, Philippines. She has dedicated 36 years of her life to social development work and firmly believes that peace is possible. For her, addressing the gaps in cognitive development is crucial to justice and peace work. She is a people’s lawyer, an educator, and a champion for the environment, women, students, and youth.