Nanjing, China – Attending the 4th Summer Peacebuilding Training of the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI) was both an insightful and exciting experience for me, someone who was actively involved in organizing the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) 2014 Annual Peacebuilding Training. I was afforded a rare opportunity to be a participant, not the organizer of the training or a member of the Secretariat. It was hoped that I would be able to bring home new ideas and perspectives that would help in MPI's 2015 Annual Peacebuilding Training. The experience, however, proved to be not only advantageous to my current position in the institute, but also to my professional development as I become more engaged in peacebuilding.
NARPI is a partner institute of MPI and similarly, is a training institute that provides peace education and conflict transformation training to peacebuilders with a focus on Northeast Asia. It was established to create space to build networks and relationships, share stories and experiences and bridge differences among Northeast Asian countries. This year's training, which ran from the 8th to the 22nd of August, was hosted by one of the most prominent and oldest universities in China, Nanjing University, in a city that had once been the capital of the country and a place rich in history and culture—the city of Nanjing.
The 2014 Summer Peacebuilding Training of NARPI brought together 52 participants, most of whom were from Japan, Korea and China, as well as Canada. I found it remarkable to be the only Filipino—in fact the sole Southeast Asian—in the group. I was amazed how similar Northeast Asians are, especially their language, the use of characters and even eating with chopsticks (I had to learn to eat with them for the two weeks, but they were kind enough to teach me how to use them). At times I felt like an outsider, but more often I felt like a long lost relative at a warm family reunion.
NARPI offered six courses with three different courses concurrently held each week for two weeks. I took the Restorative Approach to Historical Conflict in the first week and Peacebuilding Skills: Transformative Mediation in the second week for two reasons. The first is that these courses are not offered at MPI's Annual Peacebuilding Training. The second, and more importantly, I saw both as relevant to what is happening now in my country, particularly in Mindanao. I believed that they would certainly contribute to deepening my understanding of issues that surround the peace process.