Joji Pantoja leads a Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) coffee farming workshop in an armed-conflicted area in Mindanao. A livelihood program is a critical component of PAR Seminar. In this case, Peacebuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) trains the farmers on how to grow and care for their coffee trees, how to process their coffee beans in accordance with global quality standards, how to market their products with justice and dignity, and how to develop themselves as coffee entrepreneurs. PBCI’s sister organization, Coffee For Peace, buys their Arabica coffee beans at fair prices.
Our dream is to see one Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community in each of the 80 provinces in the Philippines by the year 2020. This dream is spiritually motivated and is technically planned. We call this dream Vision 2020.
The dream was borne out of a spiritual realization that the church can, and must, be an effective agent of peace in the face of a post-911 global realities. This prompted my husband, Dann, to reflect on a biblical peace theology that can be applied in the historical context of the Philippines.
In January 2006, the Peace Mennonite Church in Richmond, British Columbia commissioned us as peacebuilding missionaries to Mindanao, Philippines. We were sent with their love for God and for the people in this land, along with their prayers, pastoral care, and finances.
After several years of working in the field as conflict transformation missionaries, the local leaders began asking us to train them to form local community-based peace teams that would help in the on-going work of reconciliation within their respective areas of responsibilities. Out of necessity, a local peace team started organizing another peace team in the next village or in the next municipality. Thus, we thought of forming a province-wide leadership community who would coordinate the organization of local teams. We started referring to this provincial group as Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community.
Here’s an example of PAR growth in one of the provinces in Mindanao: In the early months of 2011, a group of bishops, pastors, business executives, academicians, and local government administrators invited us to conduct a series of PAR Seminars among them. After three consecutive months of training, the Region 10 PAR Community was organized. One of the graduates invited us to train the members of the Council of Evangelical Churches in Bukidnon (CECB). CECB in turn shared the PAR principles among the members of the Valencia City Evangelical Ministerial Association, Inc. (VCEMAI). Both CECB and VCEMAI decided to make PAR to be a major component of their ministry in the province. In partnership with PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee For Peace (CFP), they have started organizing PAR Teams in several municipalities and villages in Bukidnon like Dominorog and Manalog. They also helped PBCI to organize PAR Communities in the provinces of Maguindanao and Davao del Sur.
A PAR Community is an initiative to organize a group of local leaders—church leaders, local government leaders, non-government organization leaders, business leaders, academic leaders, or any mix of these—
- who have expressed interest to have a working relationship with us, who have made a commitment to embrace our Peace Theology;
- who have invited us to teach them our PAR Seminar Series;
- who have a vision to work with us in developing a PAR Program needed in their area; and,
- who have organized themselves as PAR catalyst group in their particular province in accordance with our Dreams, Values, and Team organizational standards.
Today, PAR Communities have been established in 19 out of 80 provinces in the Philippines. But we still have to nurture, stabilize, strengthen and facilitate the sustainability of these PAR Communities. A few weeks ago, PBCI appointed Tala Bautista, one of our newly-trained field workers, to be the PAR Mobilization Coordinator. Her overall job objectives are:
- to coordinate, monitor, and evaluate all activities and resource appropriation to reach the monthly, quarterly, and yearly objectives that would lead towards the realization of Vision 2020; and,
- to assist PBCI in establishing one PAR Community in each of the 80 provinces by 31 December 2020.
Imagine. By December 31st, 2020, each of our 80 provinces will have a circle of leaders called Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Communities! They would serve as the catalysts to organize PAR Teams in their municipalities or cities. These PAR Teams, in turn, would serve as conflict transformation volunteers in their respective families, churches, neighbourhoods, barangays, cities or municipalities. The PAR Teams would also get involved in PAR Programs that are relevant to their specific context.
God willing, by January 01, 2021, the 80 PAR Communities in the Philippines would advance as a Peace and Reconciliation Movement with an integrated framework for peace-building, who are organized in partnership with various parts of the People of God, who are mobilized to do ministries of justice and peace in the name of Jesus, and who will lovingly serve all the peoples of our land unconditionally regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political ideology, to the end that our land will experience holistic transformation!
With the power of the Holy Spirit, Dann and I are more energized and motivated to surf God’s waves of peace and reconciliation in this beautiful land.
Thank you, our partners, for being with us through your prayers and support.