What is Peace and why is it important in the Philippine context?
The history of our country is just like any colonized countries. The voices of the people are decapitated to express their desires and the will to dream for the future. The soul of peace is silenced. What shows, are the feelings of distrust, the lack of hope, and the lack of will.
The work of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) started with a heavy burden in our hearts — a missionary couple sent by our home congregation, Peace Mennonite Church, in partnership with Mennonite Church Canada. The burden turned into a passionate vision that grew out of a God-given desire to bring the Gospel of Peace in a conflicted society of the Philippines.
But how? In what form?
We started reflecting on the word of Christ saying: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27)
Jesus — the Originator of Peace — is leaving His Peace to us. We have to acknowledge it first and harness it, so that we can pass it to others. That means, we needed to do a self-assessment and learn self-mastery to harness the Peace that was given to us.
One manifestation of Peace is Relational Harmony. My experience of peace will affect others and how I view the world. It starts with:
- Relational Harmony with the Creator — Spiritual Transformation
- Relational Harmony with Self — Psycho-Social Transformation
- Relational Harmony with Others — Sociopolitical Transformation
- Relational Harmony with the Creation — Economic-Ecological Transformation
PBCI started working with the people who are in conflict for almost 30 years. Just like Columbia, people from Mindanao were hoping to see peace to happen. Conflict causes death, displacement, and starvation. Conflict disrupts any development happening in the country.
As PBCI immersed in the dialogue, the common drink served was coffee. Coffee became the vehicle for the peace messages they wanted to promote. In 2007, Coffee for Peace was born. They wanted to promote quality coffee as part of continuity of carrying the message of the Culture of Peace.
The farmers that reside in the highland were trained to produce quality coffee that brought income to the community. Suddenly, for those communities, peace is now tangible! It has economic expression. It is not merely an idea that they cannot touch.
How do I see peace applied in the Philippine context?
For a country that has been through so many wars and colonization, experiencing a kind of peace that is close to their basic, daily struggle is very important. The message ought to be closer to their heart, closer to their stomach.
It did not happen overnight, though. It started with relationship-building with the community. Active listening and constant motivation were needed. We started by identifying the person of peace in the community. We walked with the community and listened to their dreams. We helped facilitate the visualization of their dreams.
After 9 years, we’re now working with 570 well-trained farmers in 13 communities from the northern part to the southern part of the Philippine archipelago. 7 communities are already selling their own coffee and are able to send their children to school, and build a more stable house for their family. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP), through Impact Investment Exchange in Asia (IIX-Asia), documented our journey and gave Coffee For Peace, Inc. the 2015 N-Peace Award. 6 more communities are looking forward, and working hard, to experience the same.
So, how do we want to see the Anabaptist theology and ethics in the context of the Philippines?
We want to see the people of our country to be full of hope and dreams using a framework that manifests all the aspects of relational harmony. We want to see creative Filipinos. We want them to have Hope! We want to see a people with self-mastery that could assert their desire towards peace, characterized by harmonious relationships.
We cannot give what we do not have. When we want to give peace, it starts from the Originator of Peace, who is Christ; then it will grow in us as we nurture such Peace. Embracing this peace that transcends understanding is a choice that we must cultivate moment by moment. We choose to live the Peace of Christ consciously.
We want to see communities practicing and living the Culture of Peace in the midst of a growing culture of violence and an imposed legislation of death which are perpetuated by global and local powers.
We use coffee as a medium or vehicle to educate people to actually experience relational harmony — with the Creator, with their being, with others, and with the creation. Coffee is just one of the media we use. There are other possibilities to continue spreading the Culture of Peace.
Let us continue to articulate the Peace of Christ. Let us be more creative in bringing the Peace of Christ into an actual experience of holistic, harmonious relationships, as Mennonites often do — From the Ground Up.
The Peace Commission offers MWC member churches a wide array of support: enabling talk about the peace issues facing individual churches, countries and continents; providing a conversation forum in which churches can consider together peace-related questions and issues that they would otherwise face alone; strengthening the common peace identity through mutual reinforcement and discussion; and further enabling cooperative efforts on select peace initiatives.
Joji Pantoja, Chair (Philippines), Andrew Suderman, Secretary (South Africa), Namshik Chon (South Korea), Garcia Domingos (Angola), Antonio González Fernández (Spain), Kenneth Hoke (USA), Jenny Neme (Colombia), Robert J. Suderman (Canada)