On November 8, 2010, PeaceBuilders Community Inc (PBCI) Field Operations Team traveled to Cotabato City to explore the possibility of organizing a Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Community in this area. The team met with 15 participants from various Churches and Christian organizations to discuss and reflect on PAR ministries.
The meeting began with a presentation of PBCI’s vision to establish at least one PAR Community in each of the 81 provinces in the Philippines. Rev. L. Daniel Pantoja, Founding President of PBCI, shared the sad realities we are currently facing: “Unjust Globalism—poor countries are oppressed and suppressed by powerful nations and multinational corporations. Conflicted Land—our government is wasting huge amounts from our scarce resources due to armed conflicts against our own people. Violence of Injustice—our people are enslaved in poverty while warlords run many of our local governments.”
But he also emphasized the fact that God is at work in our land and we are in a crucial time when God’s waves of grace and mercy are sweeping our land towards a taste of God’s shalom: “This is a kairos-moment for the Church in the Philippines. We, at PeaceBuilders Community, sense that the Spirit of God is prompting the Body of Christ to be a mediator among various conflicting groups in our land. What would be your response as Christian leaders in Cotabato City?”
An open forum followed.
During the forum the pastors expressed their reactions about PAR ministry. They confirmed that PAR ministry is needed in the area both within the church and with the greater community. Generally, the participants felt that PAR is both important and time sensitive for the area. They acknowledged their need to come together to have a voice in the conflict situation in their province.
It was also mentioned that getting involved in PAR ministries will require a change of mindset among the Christian community regarding their Muslim neighbors. They are aware of the gap between these two communities due to Christian prejudice against Muslim, and the need for efforts to be made to overcome this.
During our time together, we observed that the Christian community is confused about what some Muslim groups are fighting for in terms of territory and how that would affect their lives. Therefore, more dialogue between the Muslims and the Christians is required to build mutual understanding.
The pastors in Cotabato City and surrounding areas embraced the idea of peace building and PAR ministry during this exploratory meeting. As one participant put it, “I am so happy! With all my heart, this is the kind of peace building that I long for. This is concrete.”
The participants have confirmed, through the chairman of Cotabato City Ministerial Fellowship, Pastor Valentin Juan, that they are interested in training and will begin PAR Seminar Series in January of 2011.