It was a return to form for the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute as 2022 heralded in the Institute’s 21st Annual Peacebuilding Training held October 10 to 21, 2022, at Mergrande Ocean Resort in Davao City, Philippines. The modified two-week training brought together old and new faces and even saw international participants despite the COVID-19 restrictions.
Adapting to the COVID-19 Reality
There were significant changes made to the training in order to accommodate the restrictions brought about by COVID-19. Cultural performances were eliminated in favor of more simple opening and closing ceremonies and weekend activities were organized by the participants themselves.
The usual three-week training was scaled down to two weeks, with only three courses per week. In addition, there were no field-based courses as the Institute chose to focus on Foundation and Thematic courses.
A Mix of Old and New
This year brought about the return of four courses and the development of two new courses. Back with their usual flair, Wendy Kroeker and Mike Alar facilitated Introduction to Conflict Transformation. Deng Giguiento and Deddette Suacito teamed up for the Introduction to Peacebuilding Theory and Practice while Ned Bible facilitated Understanding Grassroots Environmental Peace, both courses that had previously been offered virtually. Ashok and Florina Xavier came all the way from India to once again help peacebuilders explore Dealing with Trauma in Times of Crisis.
Fritz Silvallana and Veds Kali were the facilitators for the new course Conflict-Sensitive Journalism and Content Creation: Theories and Practice, a course exploring storytelling and the use of media for peacebuilders and journalists. Ned Bible was joined by Gabs Sagaral in the second week for the other new course, Theory and Practice of Peace Advocacy, giving the participants the opportunity to create their own “peacebuilding toolkit.”
We initially thought that COVID-19 restrictions would mean having no international participants when we were going to return to in-person training in 2022, but MPI was able to welcome attendees from Lebanon, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Timor-Leste, and other places, Out of these delegations, three countries gave presentations about their work during the open sessions that were held in the evening. The participants from Timor-Leste spoke about the peace process as the country gained its freedom from Indonesia and their ongoing work that is being done by the truth and justice commission of their country.
The participants from Papua New Guinea spoke about their engagement in the remote mountainous areas of their country. These delegates were either working as part of the United Nations Development Programme – Papua New Guinea or had partnerships with them.
The Sierra Leone participants focused on critical issues that Sierra Leone is currently facing. They spoke about the land-grabbing issues that continue to plague the country, as well as disinformation that is being spread through the media and their efforts to counter such messages. They also shared about the value of working as a network of organizations with different expertise and foci to address the issues of conflict.
MoA with JPIC – Timor Leste
One of the highlights of the first week of the training was the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) with Justiça, Paz e Integridade da Criação de Timor-Leste (JPIC-Timor Leste). MPI Director Christine Vertucci signed the document on behalf of the Institute, while JPIC was represented by Executive President Fr. Julio Crispim Ximenes Belo.
After the simple ceremony, representatives from MPI and the facilitators from Week 1 were given traditional woven tais cloth to be worn around their necks. This served as a token of friendship and unity from the Timorese.
The Future of MPI
2022 proved to be a groundbreaking year for the Institute, with hosting both a Virtual Peacebuilding Training and the 21st in-person Annual Peacebuilding Training. This was also the first year where courses designed for online were adapted for in-person training.
Adapting to the changing times and allowing for new technology to be utilized have proven to be fruitful for MPI. These elements, and the relatively smooth conduct of the 21st Annual Peacebuilding Training, are only a sample of what is to come in 2023.
Alumni Tell Their Stories
In this edition of the MPI Newsletter, participants from the 21st Annual Peacebuilding Training share their unforgettable experience and learnings during the training. Adenike Cole from Sierra Leone writes about the fruitful experiences she gained from the training after an arduous journey from her home country. Alexandre Pinto from Timor-Leste discusses the relevance of the Conflict-Sensitive Journalism (CSJ) training to his peace education work. Ambrosio Amper reflects on the importance of engaging with communities and building networks while maintaining authenticity in one’s advocacy. Irish Calungsod from Cagayan de Oro shares how she can use the CSJ tools in her advocacy. Alma Aparece from Bohol and the only participant from the Visayas region writes why the MPI training is worth joining. Finally, Queenilyn Liwat, one of this year’s class assistants, reflects on the realities that peace and development workers have to overcome in order to promote justpeace.
We have also included some special feature articles in this edition—the MPI Roundtable Conversations with MPI training participants conducted by MPI’s Marlies Roth and Anna Gingco and the Grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors Training Program Midterm Workshop reflection written by one of this year’s mentors, Gail Galang.
Kristelle "Telly" Rizardo served as MPI's Peacebuilding Training Program Office for MPI's 2022 Annual Peacebuilding Training.