A Reflection on NARPI’s 2016 Summer Peacebuilding Training
If you would create something, you must be something
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (shared by Hong Soek “Scott” Kim – NARPI Facilitator).
Being a peacebuilder goes beyond what position you have in your organization or in the community. It is important for everyone to understand what peacebuilding means and how each of us must be a peacebuilder.
That opportunity came to me in August of 2016 when I participated in the Summer Peacebuilding Training of the Northeast Asia Regional Peacebuilding Institute (NARPI). Forty-nine participants gathered in Taiwan for the training, most of whom came from Japan and Korea.
Because I am new to peacebuilding, I chose Conflict and Peace Framework for the first week. I learned that there are many faces of peace, conflict and violence. The definition of conflict we came up with during our discussions was “conflict is something that happens anytime someone is trying to protect or defend his/her vested interests.” Conflict will result in violence if you will not deal with it or if you will just let yourself be taken over by your emotions. We just need to reflect and put ourselves in other people’s shoes first before reacting to something.
I was really moved when I presented myself as one of the Comfort Women in an activity where we used Ho’o Pono Pono and Samoan Circle Process to discuss what happened during World War II. It was a powerful experience, with each of us giving our different points of views of what happened before, what could have been done to prevent it, and what we can do in the future so it will not happen again.
This course was really an eye-opener for me. I grew up with no knowledge of peacebuilding work and ignored the things happening around me. Now, I can say that I’m aware of what we are going through but still searching for the right way to achieve peace. The biggest question I still have in my mind now is, Can fighting with your own countrymen achieve lasting peace? I hope while I continue to learn about peacebuilding I can find peace.
In week two, I chose Conflict Transformation in Organizations because it could help me to be better in my work and further understand my colleagues. The purpose of the course was to develop healthy organizational culture through understanding organizational dynamics and developing conflict resolution systems in organizations.
We discussed the conflicts in each one’s respective organization and looked at how to deal with the conflicts that happen inside an organization. We also studied each participant’s family tree since part of a person’s attitude or characteristics comes from one’s experiences inside his or her family.
This course helped me realize the attitudes I bring to my organization. It gave me an opportunity to understand myself and gave me the chance to enhance my personal attitude towards the achievement of the organization’s goals with the help of other people. Everyone inside the organization plays an important role for it to be successful. Everyone should be a team player and not just work for his/her own accomplishments. We should explore ways to turn conflicts into “stepping stones” in order to develop ourselves as individuals and help the organization grow and achieve its goals.
This year, NARPI organized a three-day field trip to help the participants learn something about Taiwan’s history. The first resource speaker was from the Taiwan Alliance to End the Death Penalty (TAEDP) who talked about abolishing the Death Penalty in Taiwan. TAEDP is a coalition of various local non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and research institutes. The Alliance promotes the reform of Taiwan’s penal system and advocates the abolition of the death penalty.
TAEDP wants to abolish the Death Penalty because the majority of the inmates under the Death Penalty section are believed to be innocent people who cannot afford to have their own lawyers, cannot defend themselves in court and are victims of class discrimination. They believe that every person has the right to live.
We then watched the documentary on the Comfort Women of Taiwan during World War II. It was a very painful story that everyone should pray will never happen again. The comfort women only want Japan to apologize for what they did to all the women they abducted and enslaved for many years. But the government of Japan has never apologized and never accepted that their men did it. They claim the women who were abducted were paid for the services they did. From the stories I’ve heard and read about Comfort Women, I do believe that they are owed an apology from the government of Japan. Money can’t compensate for all the agony that the women experienced during the darkest days of their lives.
The second day was the most exciting day of the field trip. We visited two historical places in Taiwan. In the morning, we visited the National 228 Memorial Museum. The Museum was built in memory of the people who were victims of the government killings and the ensuing oppression and violence of anti-government protesters. The name for the 228 Museum is taken from the month and day of the incident, which was February 28.
In the afternoon, we visited Jing-Mei Human Rights Memorial & Cultural Park. This establishment was once a detention center for political prisoners during the white terror period. We met three survivors who had been detained during this period. They accompanied us in touring the facility where they had been imprisoned. Despite the pain, they survived and regained their dignity and personhood. They said that they will never get tired of sharing and educating other people about their history, especially the young ones.
I felt privileged that I was able to learn some of the history of Taiwan, but at the same time, I was a bit embarrassed because I was not that knowledgeable of the history of the Philippines. With the history I learned during the field trip, I realized that what they experienced was the same as what the Philippines experienced during Martial Law and even until now. We keep on fighting for our land and freedom, but we are still prisoners of the past. I admire Taiwan because they use their experience to educate others, but in the Philippines we don’t have the same.
In the morning of the third day, we went to the National Palace Museum. One day was not enough to tour the place. There are many items in this collection that are from over 10,000 years of Chinese history. You can see how they preserve their collections and how they really value their history. I’ve been to the Philippine National Museum, and I can really tell the difference between the two. Each section of the National Palace Museum is well organized, and they give a background history to each piece in the collection, which is not done at the Philippine National Museum. I hope someday our government would enhance our National Museum and give the historical background of each item in the collection, which would help us know where it came from.
Just like at MPI’s Annual Peacebuilding Training, NARPI had their Cultural Night that showcased the different cultures of each country. I was honored to represent the Philippines with my Filipino co-participant. As every Filipino loves singing, we performed a song by Regine Velasquez and Jose Marie Chan entitled Please Be Careful with My Heart. As part of the Filipino culture, I wore a Kimona and Patadyong during the cultural night, and my partner wore a Malong. It was a great night full of fun and enjoyment, a simple yet fantastic event.
I am grateful to MPI for giving me the chance not just to travel abroad but to experience and learn about peacebuilding. I will surely share these great experiences and learnings with others. At first, I was really hesitant to attend the training because, aside from the fact that I am not good in English, I do not have knowledge in peacebuilding. I also felt that my position does not fit the training. But the training helped me realize that nothing is impossible if you will just work hard for it. Language is not a barrier to communicate, express your feelings and achieve your goals. It will help you strive harder to prove that you are worth something. I hope this will not be the first and last training I will have in peacebuilding work.