Lakan Sumulong

Dann Pantoja is beginning to use his Tagalog indigenous name -- Lakan Sumulong. This is a statement that our indigenous identities can be a redeeming factor in healing our 'being' (that is, who we are as a people); help symbolize our determination to contribute what we ought to be 'doing' as a nation (that is--active, non-violent, radical transformation); and, determine how we will prioritize what we will be 'having' (that is, inclusive growth and national development based on justice and peace). Asked what fuels his positive outlook in life: “It’s the influence of Jesus, a first century Palestinian carpenter who was executed by the imperial power of his time. He said: ‘Whoever tries to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.’ Jesus defied the ultimate negative factor in our cosmos--death.”

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While praying for peace, I joined the civil society organizations in Davao City who gathered together to publicly support the Bangsamoro Basic Law. Here, I was responding to a couple of interview questions by a local television reporter. 11 July 2018.

Between the 9th and the 13th of July 2018, the Bicameral Conference Committee of the Philippine Congress will finally decide on the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL). The state of the Peace Process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be determined by the final version of the BBL that will be approved by the BiCam Conference. The report on the BBL will be submitted for ratification by Congress in their respective plenary sessions on 23 July 2018.

During these days, I am in a mode of confession, thanksgiving, and prayers specifically for BBL.

I confess the historical fact that injustices were committed by the majority Christian population against the minority Muslim Bangsamoro. In the past 100 years, the American and Philippine government initiated resettlement policies wherein Christians from other parts of the country were sponsored by the government to resettle in Muslim Mindanao. Such policies made the Indigenous Peoples, both Islamized and non-Islamized, become minority in their own land and brought the war to Mindanao as explained in this 5-minute animated video. Also, the map below illustrates how Muslim Mindanao lost a greater part of their homeland:

I offer thanksgiving for the Creator’s mercy, as well as the mercy of the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao, both Islamized and non-Islamized, that made possible to seek the settlement of these historical injustices through peaceful negotiation. The MILF-GPH Peace Process is an active non-violent approach to correct such historical injustices. I will continue to support this process despite the setbacks along the way.

I’m praying for justice while working with our peace network to advocate for the implementation of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). I’m convinced that the Bangsamoro Transition Commission’s draft of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, with the inserted provision to protect the right to self-determination of the non-Islamized Indigeneous Peoples, along with the passing of the law that would establish the Transitional Justice and Reconcilation Commission for the Bangsamoro, would significantly advance the justice being sought by the Bangsamoro and the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao.

Finally, I’m praying that the Christians, in the Church and in the three branches of the government — executive, legislative, and judiciary, would act in love as they practice stewardship of the influence and powers entrusted them. May the Church, who have significantly benefitted from the land-grabbing by the Spanish and American imperialist invasion of the ancestral domains of Indigenous Peoples, truly repent by returning the lands they appropriated through colonialism back to the Indigenous Peoples. This act of love by the Christian institutions would initiate the correction of historical injustices in this country. Along with the Church, I pray that the Philippine government, through the Bicameral Conference Committee would pass a BBL that is CAB-compliant, consistent with what the BTC drafted, and affirming the right to self-determination of the Indigenous Peoples.

I believe in the ultimate justice of the Great Creator. I believe in the resilience of the people to continue the journey towards genuine liberation from all forms of violence and oppression.

This story is not finished yet.

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A day before our 39th wedding anniversary, we travelled from Davao City, Mindanao Island to Manila, Luzon Island after a few days of field work. We left Davao airport at 2300PHT (a flight that was supposed to leave at 2100PHT). We arrived in Manila at around 0100PHT the next morning. We were so tired. But we were reminded, “It’s all about attitude.” We had this ‘selfie’ at La Taza Coffee Shop in Manila, owned by Maria Theresa B. Alparas, Joji’s sister. 0130PHT. 30 June 2018.

A celebration of marriage

30 June 2018, 1400PHT. This morning, Joji and I celebrated our 39th year together as UnifiedBeings doing our purpose-of-existence in the context of 21st century realities in this planet. 39 years and she’s still my fantasy. And for the past 39 years, I’ve been allowed to hold her hands and kiss her lips.

We have three adult children who incarnated the essence of our love-union and who extrapolated the possibilities of the various convergences of our being — beyond our imagination. And our 6-going-7 grandchildren seem to repeat the same processes exponentially.

I’ve been working with this woman in the same office since 2006. Professional. Efficient. Effective. Smart. I’ve been living in the same house with her since 1979. Clean and orderly enough to be healthy and sane; dirty and messy enough to be carefree and happy. On top of all her creative characteristics, technical skills, and many other personal qualities that make her great on her own merits, she’s also very, very beautiful!

We see places together. I get high by taking her photos.

LifeSurfers. PeaceBuilders. FairTraders. BestFriends. GrandParents. DancePartners. VisionCasters. MissionWorkers. BusinessTeam. ThirtyNineYears.  | CPLA Camp Conrado Balweg, Kalinga  |  June 2018  |  Photo by AJ Moldez.

39 years together here on Planet Earth. And with all the new lovely discoveries I enjoy about the essence of her being, I’d choose to be with her for a couple more eternities — in a new, yet unknown, plane of Existence and Being.

We’ll keep hanging on these promises of the Creator to a people, which we also claimed, by faith, for our marriage and the future of our children and their children’s children: “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord , “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.” [Jeremiah 29:11‭-‬12 NIV]


A celebration of life

01 July 2018, 1000PHT.  Last night, Joji’s parental family had a public celebration of the life of Mrs. Aurora Francisco Bautista. She was born in 25 October 1935 and passed away last 27 June 2017. Joji’s mother had a colorful life on earth for 82 years. Her passing away was natural and peaceful.

During the series of funeral services celebrating the life of Mrs. Aurora Francisco Bautista, Joji’s mother, we were asked by her father, Mr. Armando Salazar Bautista and the rest of the family, to help in the program. Hall C, Arlington Memorial Chapels, 12 G. Araneta Ave., Quezon City.

I won’t forget what Joji’s mother told me when my mother and I asked her permission for marriage: “I have been telling Joji not to look for a rich man but to look for a man who loves God and a man who will truly commit to that marriage vow that says, ‘Until death do us part.’ Will that be you?”

At her funeral, I thanked God for the wisdom she showed me and Joji through her prayers, counsel, and ministry partnership. During the celebration of her life, Joji publicly affirmed the respect and the honour due her.

Just before we returned to Davao, Joji’s father and siblings planted a Mangosteen tree with the ashes of Mommy Auring. I offered to capture those sacred moments through this two-minute video:

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Seeking to engage UNDRIP in our peacebuilding work: Bennette Grace Tenecio-Mañulit, Vice President for Public Relations at CoffeeForPeace.Com and member of the Board of Trustees at PeaceBuildersCommunity.Org, hikes up to the home village of the Sumacher Tribe in Kalinga. She was a part of our Inclusive Development Consulting Team who was invited by the tribal elders in Sumacher. Our mission trip there is part of an already decade-long relationship-building with the Kalinga people and a segment of our long-term commitment to support the Indigenous Peoples in these mountain ranges of the Cordillera in their struggle to protect their ancestral domain and to walk with them in their journey towards achieving their right to self-determination. 03-09 June 2018. Tinglayan, Kalinga, Cordillera Mountains.

Justice-Based PeaceBuilding


Joji and I are constantly faced with enormous instances of social injustices. Indigenous Peoples are being pushed out of their ancestral domains by state and non-state armed forces. Local farmers are pushed deeper into poverty due to unjust trading manipulations by the rich and powerful. Government promises of autonomy and right to self determination are constantly broken. We could tell endless stories of broken families, wasted lives, and devastated communities as direct and indirect results of historical injustices.

Because of these, we are challenged daily to critically-look at the overwhelming historical facts when Christian institutions and Christian empires misused the name of Jesus in the advancement of their greed for wealth and power. As a beneficiary of such religious imperialism, we’re facing the realities of the present conflicts it caused — in many parts of the world and in our country — with a repentant heart and a proactive ministry to help, even in our small contribution, to correct those historical injustices.

The corrective measures have to start with our exclusivist theology. The Roman Catholic doctrine extra ecclesiam nulla salus is a classic summary of the exclusivist approach to truth. Protestants expressed it in a different way: Outside Christianity there is no salvation. For example, a definition of missiology reads: “That branch of theology which in opposition to the non-Christian religions, shows the Christian religion to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life; which seeks to disposses the non-Christian religions and to plant in their stead in the soil of heathen national life the evangelic faith and the Christian life.”

This view of truth among Christians worked hand in hand with Western colonialism. The British East India Company and its evangelical business leaders, for example, helped in the “evangelization” of India in the early 19th century. In James Morris’ book, Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (p. 74), he reports: “The Indian territories were allotted by providence to Great Britain, wrote Charles Grant, the evangelical chairman of the British East India Company’s Court of Directors, ‘not merely that we might draw an annual profit from them, but that we might diffuse among their inhabitants, once sunk in darkness, vice, and misery, the light and benign influence of the truth, the blessings of a well-regulated society, the improvements and comforts of active industry…'”

Until now, for many Christians who describe themselves as ‘conservative evangelicals,’ the Gospel is often reduced to the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). Christianity is then perceived as an exclusivist faith against all other religions condescendingly-tagged as ‘pagan.’ Many years ago, Christoph Schwöbel, in his article “Particularity, Universality, and the Religions” (published in a book Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, p. 38), made a profound warning on the kind of Christianity where the modern West was going: “The question that arises when God is presented as being exclusively at work in Christianity is whether this does not reduce the universality of God to such an extent that God is made to appear as the tribal deity of a rather imperialistic form of Western Christianity.” The present misuse of Christianity by the Trump regime in the United States of America is a clear demonstration of this tribalized god and its imperialistic, war-mongering religion.

All these imperialist and colonial misuse and abuse of the Gospel of Jesus Christ became a global-historical curse and it started way back in the 1400s — with the Doctrine of Discovery, which needs to be repudiated.


Repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’. One of the highlights in our journey as members of Mennonite Church Canada, and as field staff members of its International Witness, was the day we received the news that our sending church actually did repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Here’s the actual content of the document:

A Resolution to the Mennonite Church Canada Delegate Assembly July 2016: The Church and the Doctrine of Discovery

It is the recommendation, supported by the individuals, congregations and Area Churches below:
1. That Mennonite Church Canada repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as it is fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent dignity and rights that individuals and peoples have received from God.
2. That a working group be formed by representatives of Mennonite Church Canada and Area Churches to begin by reviewing the church related recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, make the appropriate study material available to congregations, and make further periodic recommendations to the General Board/Area Church Boards on steps along the path of reconciliation.


As Canadian citizens who originally come from the Philippines — a nation that had been colonized by the Spaniards and the Americans, sanctioned by the Doctrine of Discovery — we read about, and have directly witnessed, the marginalization of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We heard testimonials on the abuse of children in the residential schools. We saw the racial discrimination against the Indigenous Peoples in various sectors of the Canadian society — academic, business, church, government, police, and military. Regrettably, I kept my silence for most of my years in Canada. Like most immigrant families, my wife and I had to establish our respective means of income to provide a decent upbringing for our children in a stable home. And, as a burnt-out revolutionary going through a process of healing, I avoided getting too involved in any activism.

Then we followed the journey of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada from June 2008 to June 2015 even as Joji and I kept busy in our peacebuilding mission in Mindanao. When I read the TRC Reports, I personally experienced a sort of theological-ethical crisis for a couple of months. How could the Christian Church, to which I belong, intentionally and significantly contributed to the oppression of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, specifically in destroying generations of children’s lives by uprooting them from their families and communities?

This 30-minute video talk by Jennifer Henry of Kairos Canada resonated exactly what went through my heart and mind during those weeks when I was struggling with the Doctrine of Discovery and how it corrupted the practice of my Christian faith. Jennifer Henry’s talk also helped me process what it means to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as a Canadian Christian.

In the context of the Philippines, the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery includes a radical transformation through active non-violence.

We see the violent system of patronage politics of the oligarchies, supported by global economic-political-military powers, as the historical effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. The instinctive response of many against the violence of patronage politics would be violence. But responding to the oligarchs with violence only increases their power because they thrive on violence. The violence of injustice will only be exacerbated by the injustice of violence. Violence begets violence.

The best approach to respond to violence is through active non-violence. Through this approach, we take the oligarchs outside their sphere of power. A radical, active non-violent transformation is what we need to really empower our people and thus liberate our nation. This is what Peter Ackerman and Jack Duval pointed out in “Victory without Violence,” A Force More Powerful, p. 505: “The power of active nonviolence has been shown in recent history. People power in the twentieth century did not grow out of the barrel of a gun. It removed rulers who believed that violence was power, by acting to dissolve their real source of power: the consent or acquiescence of the people they had tried to subordinate. When unjust laws were no longer obeyed, when commerce stopped because people no longer worked, when public services could no longer function, and when armies were no longer feared, the violence that governments could use no longer mattered — their power to make people comply had disappeared.”

But because there is so much fear of the unknown in the path of non-violent radical transformation, many Filipinos would rather stay in the familiar state of their slavery rather than to cross, by faith, the yet-to-be-parted, uncertain waters toward liberation. Some, who are comfortable in their current privileges, would rather maintain the status quo of injustice. Their self-interest is their god. They need to realize that the present system of injustice is violence. Some, who are blinded by false sense of peace, that of seeming calmness brought about by anti-insurgency, will hang-on tightly on the present system.

Many Filipino Christian leaders are afraid of chaos. But there will be no genuine change without chaos. And chaos does not necessarily mean violence. The birth of a child is a painful chaos in the life of a mother. The coming of a baby is chaos in the journey of a family. Chaos must not be violent. Chaos may bring life!

The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery may bring uncertainty and chaos.

Yet, we believe that the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery may also bring order and system as an expression of active, nonviolent radical transformation. Every day, we interact and work with the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao. The ancestral domains of these peoples are being encroached by multinational corporations, using the legal processes based on the Regalian Doctrine, which is the face of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Philippines. The respective leaders and mass bases of these peoples have been struggling to protect their ancestral domains and to assert their right to self-determination. This has been their way to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. As peacebuilding missionaries, we have been called and sent to listen, to learn from them, to affirm them, to walk with them, and to help amplify their voices in their struggles.

There’s a viable way towards a peaceful, orderly, and systematic repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery. That is to help in the advocacy to adopt and to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in various contexts we are called to serve.


Supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 13 September 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). A majority of 144 states voted in favour. But Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against it, while Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine abstained.

Just recently, however, Joji and I celebrated online with Steve Heinrichs of the Indigenous Relations at Mennonite Church Canada when he “gave thanks to the Creator for the countless Indigenous peoples who prayed for decades.” And their prayers were answered last 30 May 2018 when Canada adopted on Third Reading Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Along with Steve and his team, we expressed our gratitude to the Great Creator for the Indigenous peoples who “travelled to the UN tirelessly with the support of home communities, lobbied State powers persistently for the recognition of their rights, went on hunger strikes to move hardened hearts…” As a result, the Government of Canada, according to the adopted Bill, will be required “to develop and implement a national action plan to achieve the objectives” of the UNDRIP, “in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples.” Along with Mennonite Church Canada’s Indigenous Relations team, Joji and I will continue to join Steve on our bent knees as Bill 262 “is now off to the Senate with prayers and more action to come,” as indicated in his post.

In this book ‘Wrongs to Rights,’ over 40 authors from diverse backgrounds – Indigenous and Settler, Christian and Traditional – wrestle with the meaning of UNDRIP for the Church. With a firm hold on past and present colonialism, the authors tackle key questions that the Declaration and the TRC’s call to “adopt and comply” raises: What are its potential implications? How does it connect to Scripture? Can it facilitate genuine decolonization, or is “rights talk” another form of imperialism? And what about real life relationships? Can the Declaration be lived out – collectively and personally – on the ground?

The Republic of the Philippines is a signatory to the UNDRIP. But Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Indigenous Peoples representative from Ifugao Province, questioned the consistency of the Philippine government in implementing UNDRIP. In a 2011 statement, he said: “Even with UNDRIP and our very own Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 or IPRA, the implementation of policies protecting the rights of IPs in the country is quite weak. Conflicting laws and policies and the priority economic development strategy of the government are among the many hindrances to the full enjoyment of the indigenous peoples of their rights due them.” Baguilat also said that on top of these policies is the “liberalization of the mining industry that led to the increased displacement and human rights violations against indigenous communities which includes manipulating the requirement for Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in favor of mining companies.”

Speaking boldly as an advocate for the Indigenous Peoples’ rights in this country is also dangerous to one’s security. In March 2018, Front Line Defenders condemned the Philippine government’s inclusion of human rights defenders when the Department of Justice (DoJ) included them in a petition, tagging them as ‘terrorists’. Even Victoria Tauli Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was included by the DoJ in the said list, along with 648 others who are working for the rights of indigenous people.

Both Canada and the Philippines still have a lot of work to do in implementing UNDRIP in their respective contexts. It is our commitment at PeaceBuilders Community Inc. (PBCI) and at Coffee For Peace (CFP), being Canadian-supported peacebuilding organizations in the Philippines, to design and strategize our work to contribute to the realization of UNDRIP. For PBCI-CFP, this is the new ethical-legal framework for a more just interaction with the Indigenous Peoples. For the Filipino just-peace activists, UNDRIP must replace the current ethical-legal framework of the Doctrine of Discovery. We have to work for the harmonization of our Regalian Doctrine of land ownership with that of UNDRIP.


Supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Philippines. Our support to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is based on our view of peace and reconciliation in the context of the historical injustices committed by the majority of the Christianized Filipinos against the Bangsamoro or the Moro Nation — the Islamized tribes in the southern islands of the Philippines.

The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a peaceful, nonviolent path to correct the historical injustices of the past. This is a means towards peace and reconciliation based on justice. Reconciliation, in the words of John Paul Lederach, includes “innovative ways to create a time and a place to address, to integrate, and to embrace the painful past and the necessary shared future as a means of dealing with the present.”

In 27 March 2014, PeaceBuilders Community, celebrated with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Along with our partners in the civil society, we travelled from Davao City to the Malacanang Palace in Manila to mark this occasion in our shared journey in peace-and-reconciliation work.

Civil society organization leaders pose for picture with the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process after the signing ceremony of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro. L-R: Gus Miclat (Executive Director, Initiatives for International Dialogue), Bishop Efraim Tendero (National Director, Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches), Sec. Teresita Quintos Deles (Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process), Dann Pantoja (President, PeaceBuilders Community, Inc.), and Carol Arguillas (Editor-In-Chief, MindaNews). 27 March 2014, Kalayaan Gardens, Malacanang Palace, Manila.

We were so excited about the fact that the GPH-MILF peace negotiation has reached a stage when a politically negotiated agreement, CAB, can be implemented through an enabling basic law which was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).

In 17 July 2017, the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL 2017) was submitted by the BTC to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the Malacañang Palace in Manila. This CAB-based, BTC-drafted BBL, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), is “a more inclusive law that would replace the junked Bangsamoro Basic Law as it hopes for a comprehensive enforcement of the peace agreement without leaving any sector behind.”

Last 31 May 2018, the Philippine Senate approved on third and final reading the proposed Senate Bill 1717 or An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro and Abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. But Gazali Jaafar, BTC chair, was not very happy with the diluted version of the bill that was approved, according to a report posted on the official website of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In front of an audience that included Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Jaafar reportedly said: “We are revolutionaries. We are not trained to talk much, but we are trained to do more. If there is no BBL,” he was further quoted, “there is no decommissioning of troops.”

This 2-minute video summarizes the concerns of the Bangsamoro as they journey through the Philippine government’s promise of autonomy through the BBL:

On 09-13 July 2018, the Bicameral Conference Committee of the Philippine Congress will finally decide on the BBL. The state of the Peace Process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be determined by the final version of the BBL that will be approved by the BiCam Conference. Their report on the BBL will be submitted for ratification by Congress in their respective plenary sessions on 23 July 2018.

We, at PeaceBuilders Community, are praying that the Bicameral Conference Committee would pass a BBL that is CAB-compliant, consistent with what the BTC drafted, and affirming the right to self-determination of the Indigenous Peoples.

From our point-of-view as peace-and-reconciliation workers, this will determine whether the Christian majority in the Republic of the Philippines is ready, or not ready, to correct the past historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro. The readiness, or not readiness, of those claiming to be Christians would depend on how they understand the Peace of Christ. Their level of understanding of the Peace of Christ would also help us locate where we’re at in our work of peace and reconciliation.


Supporting the Struggle for the Cordillera Autonomous Region. In February 2017, I led a Peace and Reconciliation Team trip to Kalinga to listen to the elders of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA). My friend and soul-sister, Ka Chupan Chulsi, then Chief of Staff of the CPLA, arranged a meeting between us and the CPLA elders in her home at Camp Conrado Balweg. Ka Pablo, the Camp Commander, spoke for the CPLA elders.

There, we learned first hand that in 1986, Ka Chupan and Ka Pablo joined a splinter group from the CPP-NPA which was formed to struggle for the autonomy of the Cordillera people. Led by Father Conrado “Ka Ambo” Balweg, the CPLA was strengthened to stand against the internal colonialism of the Manila-based Philippine government. The CPLA was joined by the Montanosa National Solidarity and the Cordillera Bodong Administration. In 13 September 1986 the CPLA and the Government of the Philippines made a “sipat” or ceasefire at Mt. Data Hotel, in Bauko, Mountain Province. The agreement is now known as  the 1986 Mount Data Peace Accord.

In 1999, Father Balweg was assassinated by the NPA.

In 15 July 1987, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order 220. The provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao were formed together that became the new Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). In 14 February 1995, through the enactment of Republic Act No. 7878, Kalinga-Apayao was split into two separate provinces of Apayao and Kalinga. This was consistent with the 1987 Philippine Constitution provision for two autonomous regions in the country — the Bangsamoro and the Cordillera.

Then in 23 October 1989, Republic Act No. 6766, took effect. But the majority did not vote for it during a plebiscite held in 30 January 1990.  According to the key people who worked for the bill on autonomy, the version passed by Congress was significantly diluted that even the proponents voted “No.”

After that, the Congress of the Philippines passed Republic Act No. 8438 in December 22, 1997. Again, the people of the Cordillera did not approve it during a region-wide referendum in 07 March 1998. This time, the bill passed was generally accepted by the proponents. However, its passage was delayed and the advocates did not have enough time to campaign and to properly disseminate information. Meanwhile, anti-autonomy forces took advantage of the delay to campaign against the ratification of the Act. One message that confused the voting public was the false information that all government employees who were under the national payroll would be fired.

In 04 July 2011, a “closure agreement” between the Humiding Faction of the CPLA and the GPH was signed at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace. Part of the agreement were: (a) the disarmament of the group; (b) the reintegration of the militants into mainstream society; and, (c) the conversion of the militant group into a socio-economic organization. However, the original members of the CPLA told us that, as far as the wider constituency of the Cordillera People is concerned, there was no CPLA-GPH closure. For them, the so-called closure of July 2011 was hastily done by GPH with a small faction of CPLA for the purpose of political image-building. Moreover, the concept of ‘closure’ in this agreement is not contextually sensitive to the Cordillera culture of “bodong” which was the basis of the agreement. In the “bodong,” closure is tantamount to war.

In 20 March 2017, House Bill 5343 “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)” was officially filed during the First Regular Session of the 17th Congress. A month after, in 24 April 2017, some leaders of the CPLA invited representatives of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) to observe the dialogue between them and Sec. Jesus Dureza, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process under the current administration. PBCI sent Joji and a PAR volunteer, Maimai Lim, to this key event in the Cordillera Peace Process. The dialogue, dubbed as Pioneer Cordillera Champions Coming Together, was held at Mount Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain Province. There were more than 200 participants including representatives of various Cordillera revolutionary and political groups:  CPLA and Cordillera Bodong Association (CPLA-CBA); Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA); Cordillera Broad Coalition (CBC); Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission (CRCC); and, the North Luzon Coalition for Good Governance (NLCGG) among others.

Along with our PBCI-CFP Inclusive Development Team, I had the privilege of being with Ka Chupan Chulsi, my soul-sister, at the CPLA Camp Conrado Balweg in Kalinga last 03-09 June 2018.

“Even though we have factions,” said Ka Chupan Chulsi, “we are united in our stand in supporting autonomy towards federalism.”

And so, we will continue to walk with the Cordillera people in their peaceful struggle towards genuine autonomy.


Supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks. Our support to the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is framed in a Peace Theology, specifically in our commitment to active non-violence in the pursuit of justice.

The Christian churches in the Philippines are active in the peace talks between GRP and the NDFP through the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP). PEPP is composed of official leaders and representatives from the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Ecumenical Bishop’s Forum (EBF), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP). The purpose of PEPP is “to have a compelling united voice of Church leaders, clergy and laity that will push GRP and NDFP into a continuing substantive peace dialogue.” PEPP specifically aims “to articulate the urgent call for the resumption of the peace talks between the two parties focused on providing concrete and comprehensive solutions to the primary causes of the problems and renewed by the visions of a just peace which resonates among the various religious communities.” There were instances when PeaceBuilders Community was sent by PCEC to be a part of their delegation to the PEPP activities.

Our present involvement, as far as the GRP-NDFP Peace Process is concerned, is focused on the emerging voice of the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao) who are now pushing for an independent, inclusive platform called Lumad Husay Mindanao (LHM).

In 22 June 2018, we were invited to listen to the LHM leaders as they express their hearts and minds on their engagement in the GRP-NDFP Peace Process. Tagged as “Asoy Sa Kalinaw: Lumad Appeal in the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations”, they made specific policy proposals on how the said peace negotiations would be more effective. The forum was organized by the Convergence of Indigenous Peoples Civil Society Organizations. It was facilitated by one of our partner organizations — Initiatives on International Dialogue.

Three major IP networks in Mindanao have come together to form an intertribal solidarity that offers an independent “voice” for IPs involved in the ongoing peace process between the GRP and the NDFP. These networks are the Lumad Mindanao Peoples Federation (LMPF), Katawhang Lumad Council of the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (KL-MPPM), and the Mindanao IP Peace Forum (MIPPF).

Here are the key messages they want us to hear and to amplify:

LHM asserts the centrality of the IP Agenda in the peace process and offers ‘indigenous peacemaking’ (Husay) as a complementary guiding framework and process. The word “husay” roughly translates to “settlement based on restoration,” and is shared among local Mindanaoan languages. It also refers to the process of community mediation and conflict resolution facilitated within their territories and guided by an indigenous justice system that paves the way towards a more sustainable peace.

In asserting their right to self-determination as part of the peace process, LHM  believes that “only a united IP constituency can meaningfully translate an IP agenda into action and concretize meaningful self-governance.” An independent Lumad peace panel was formed by the LHM in order to articulate the IP agenda as they represent their communities in the peace talks. They also aim to initiate public participation processes that will integrate the IP agenda into the substantive agenda of the talks while building a Lumad peace constituency in various arena of engagement.

While IPs have been oft represented in both of the panels representing the parties in conflict, they are usually pitted against each other as their ancestral domains are turned into battlegrounds as state forces clash with armed insurgents. Decades of conflict has taken its toll on IP communities, but they remain steadfast in asserting their rights.

LHM is part of a continuing “consensus building process” among IP leaders to negotiate for peace with the key actors and other multi-stakeholders especially at this critical juncture in a peace process laden with setbacks after a period of accelerated talks. They presented key policy agenda for inclusion in the draft agreements on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), ceasefire and amnesty proclamation during the peace forum on June 22, 2018 entitled “Asoy sa Kalinaw : Lumad Appeal on the GRP-NDFP Peace Process” – organized by the IP-CSO Convergence at the Ateneo Community Center in Davao City. Consequently, they have formally turned over these proposals to the representatives from the office of Usec Allen Capuyan, under the Office of the President as well as shared to Atty Reuben Lingating, Chair of the IP Peace Panel – OPAPP during a separate meeting. The IPs called for both parties to resolve the ‘kinks’ and appealed to stand the peace ground with dialogue in mind and work towards greater public support to the process itself.

For inquiries: Email at
IP-CSO Convergence

IP leaders of Lumad Husay Mindanaw (LHM) along with civil society and media supporters had a forum to present their policy proposals on the impending drafts on socio-economic reforms, ceasefire and amnesty protocols of the GRP-NDFP peace negotiations. 22 June 2018. Davao City.

For Joji and I, listening to, and working with, the Indigenous Peoples are crucial aspects of our mandate here in the field as peacebuilding missionaries sent by Mennonite Church of Canada. The Peace Commission of the Mennonite World Conference have proposed a Declaration of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. It was approved during the General Council meetings last 23–26 April 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya. The organizations we represent, PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee For Peace, are committed to help implement the said declaration in our various contexts here in the Philippines, especially in amplifying the voice of the LHM.

In all our interaction and relationship-building with the Indigenous Peoples, we always seek to start by listening — thorough, active listening — and respectfully focusing on their worldview (what for them is final reality), value system (what for them is important), and behavior patterns (what for them is right and proper).

Supporting the IP agenda in the GRP-NDFP Peace Process is our own way of advancing an active non-violent, radical transformation in our land.

As we think of the plight of the Indigenous Peoples in our land, we’re also thinking about, and praying for, the Palestinians’ struggle for justice and peace as Indigenous People of Palestine. Often, we are being asked by our peacebuilding colleagues among the Indigenous Peoples and the Bangsamoro why most Christians do not care about the Palestinians’ struggle to protect their ancestral land? They are confused why there’s not much support from Christian peace-and-reconciliation advocates for the Palestinians who are being killed while asserting their right to self-determination in a land considered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as holy. To share my heart with my Muslim and Lumad sisters and brothers, I wrote a personal reflection on this issue during the time when the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Here, I’m expressing my support specifically for my Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ.


Supporting our Palestinian Sisters and Brothers in Christ. My main source of knowledge and wisdom in plunging into this discourse are my sisters and brothers at the movement called Christ at the Checkpoint. They started as a conference then evolved into a movement. Their mission is fourfold: (a) Empower and encourage the Palestinian church; (b) Expose the realities of the injustices in the Palestinian Territories and create awareness of the obstacles to reconciliation and peace; (c) Create a platform for serious engagement with Biblical Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum; and, (d) Motivate participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church in Palestine/Israel and its ramifications for the Middle East and the world.

PeaceBuilders Community wholeheartedly resonate with the mission of Christ at the Checkpoint.

Here, I want to echo the message of my Palestinian evangelical brother, The Rev. Dr. Jack Y. Sara to fellow Christians, especially to fellow evangelicals in the West and around the world: “We are not ashamed that we are Palestinian, even if our existence is an eschatological annoyance to some. We are not ashamed that we are Palestinian, even as some of our brethren try to deny our history, our identity or our nakba; the trauma that we collectively experienced in 1948 and continue to experience to this day. We’ve heard the lies that our land had no people living in it; but the ruins of our villages and the ancient olive trees we tended for centuries testify otherwise. Some of our families can trace our lines here as far back as such lines can be traced. Whether one day we were called Jordanian or another day Assyrian, doesn’t change the fact that for a very long time those who lived in this land were called Palestinian — whether Muslim, Christian or Jew.”

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre is another source of inspiration. I support their vision for Palestine: “Our vision involves two sovereign states, Palestine and Israel, who in the future may choose to enter into a confederation or even a federation, possibly with other neighboring countries and where Jerusalem becomes the federal capital. Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel where people are free and equal, living under a constitutional democracy that protects and guarantees all their rights, responsibilities, and duties without racism or discrimination. One state for two nations and three religions.” This vision statement is based on a healthy theological frame, moral principles, legal arguments, and justice-oriented political perspectives.

The best way for me to support my Palestinian sisters and brothers right now — in the limitation of space, time, and resources — is to join them in their 21 June 2108 Wave of Prayers:

:: The “Great March of Return” continues in Gaza.  Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended morning prayers for Eid-el-Fitr, the celebration which marks the end of the month-long Ramadan fast.

Lord we continue to pray for the Palestinian demonstrators and their commitment to non-violence. We pray that the Israeli government would abide by international law and would allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Lord in you mercy… Hear our prayer.

:: Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) objected to the Israeli forces ‘repeated use of lethal forces’ in the Gaza Strip’ against Palestinian demonstrators who ‘posed no imminent threat to life’ and stated that these actions ‘may amount to war crimes’. The Middle East director at HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson, went on to say that Israel should not be allowed to ‘conduct investigations which mainly whitewash the conduct of its troops’. She also stated that the US should not be allowed to block international accountability with its Security Council veto.

Lord, we cry to you and ask that the eyes of the powerful may be opened to the pain and suffering of the Palestinians in this troubled land. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

:: It gives us hope that the UN General Assembly approved a Palestinian-backed resolution blaming Israel for violence in Gaza and deploring its ‘excessive use of force’. Since March 30, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed and over 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire along the Israel-Gaza border.

Lord we are thankful that the U.N. representatives have spoken out for the protection of Palestinian civilians and are investigating human rights violations. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

:: On Wednesday night a peaceful demonstration was held in Ramallah to call on the Palestinian Authority to lift the sanctions it has imposed on Gaza. These sanctions are further exacerbating the suffering caused by the Israeli siege of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority sent in the riot police to disperse the protest. They fired tear gas and arrested a number of protestors.

Lord, we pray for the Palestinian Authority that it would exercise its authority in a just and righteous way. May those who call out for justice for the oppressed remain steadfast.  Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

:: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser, Jared Kushner, who is expected in the region this week. President Trump is bullying an already oppressed people into an agreement that deprives them of their basic rights

Lord, be with us in the time ahead that we remain steadfast with regards to our Palestinian rights. Make us strong to stand firm for Justice for all that are oppressed in this land. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

:: On Tuesday June 12 the Israeli forces ordered a Palestinian farmer, Ahmad Assi Damra, in the Jordan Valley to evacuate his land. They plan to destroy his six acres of palm trees. A similar order was reportedly made to another Palestinian farmer, Suleiman al-Zayed, who had planted his smaller plot in the village of Nuwei’meh, north of Jericho, with olive trees.

Lord, we continue to pray for the Palestinian farmers as they witness the Israeli forces uproot their trees and deprive them of their only source of income. We long for the  time when the words of your prophet Micah are fulfilled, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid…” Micah 4:4. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.

:: More than 700 Palestinians in the neighborhood of Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem are awaiting a decision from Israel’s High Court, which could determine their right to live in their own homes. They are challenging a ruling that transferred ownership of the land on which their homes stand, to a Jewish trust more than a decade ago.

Lord, we pray that the Israel government will abandon its strategy of forcing the Palestinians out of their homes. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.


Being Jesus’ Witnesses in the Context of Historical Injustices 

I am a follower of Jesus. I am a church-based and a church-sent peacebuilding missionary. My view of Ultimate Reality of life and of existence has been transformed because my experience of The Christ became my understanding of God’s self-disclosure in the particularity of my historical context.  I experienced transformation in the context of a community of faith called church. My transcendental understanding of the God that I encountered in the person of Jesus Christ is the mystery of the Triune God. I love the God who is Just, Gracious, and Merciful Creator-Parent. I love Jesus who is Love-Incarnate and whose unconditional love radically transforms lives and communities. I submit my whole being to the leading and comfort of the Holy Spirit who, to me, is Ultimate Life-Energy.

Because of this existential encounter with the Creator-God, I can face the challenges brought about by historical injustices as we love the Creator and as we serve the people.

Joji and I are inviting our fellow Christians to seek becoming dialogical witnesses for Jesus in this pluralist world marred by historical injustices. May we invite you to journey with us as we seek to be funnels of God’s love by humbly practicing and respectfully demonstrating what we understand to be the Peace of Christ? Here’s how we understand the Gospel of Peace:
:: Harmony with the Creator (spiritual transformation);
:: Harmony with our being (psycho-social transformation);
:: Harmony with others (socio-political transformation); and,
:: Harmony with the creation (economic-ecological transformation).

In the midst of historical injustices still happening around us, may we genuinely live and practice our faith in accordance with the character of Jesus of Nazareth — the Incarnation of Truth & Love, Justice & Peace.




Part 1: Being Jesus’ Witnesses (08 June 2018)
:: Jesus–Our Justice and Peace
:: Being Martyr-Witnesses for Jesus

Part 2: Historical Injustices (18 June 2018)
:: The Doctrine of Discovery: Misusing the Name of Christ
:: War Crimes: Historical Injustices in the Philippines
:: Bangsamoro: Historical Injustice in Mindanao
:: Cordilleras: Historical Injustices in the Northern Mountain Ranges
:: Nakba: Historical Injustices in Palestine

Part 3: Justice-Based PeaceBuilding (28 June 2018)
:: Repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’
:: Supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
:: Supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law
:: Supporting the Struggle for the Cordillera Autonomous Region
:: Supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks
:: Supporting our Palestinian Sisters and Brothers in Christ

Permanent link to this article:


Datu Blag of the Dulangan Manobo Tribe addresses an environmental forum about the encroachment of a big mining corporation into their ancestral lands. This is part of the Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) program of PeaceBuilders Community Inc. (PBCI) as a contextual application of the principles being learned from the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). 04-05 August 2016, Davao City. PBCI-ICT Photo.

Historical Injustices


The present armed-conflicts in the Philippines, along with many wars and violence in the global realities of the 21st century, are rooted in various historical injustices that have traumatized various nations, especially many Indigenous Peoples, over several generations.

Historical injustice, according to Encyclopedia Britannica, is “past moral wrong committed by previously living people that has a lasting impact on the well-being of currently living people. Claims to material reparations for historical injustices are typically based on the nature of the lasting impact, and claims to symbolic restitution are often grounded on the moral quality of the wrongs committed.” The Encyclopedia of Genocide and Crimes Against Humanity includes “episodes of genocide, slavery, torture, forced conversions, and mass expulsions of peoples” in its definition of historical injustice. It can be motivated by “political, economic, religious, or ethnic reasons” and that “states often abused or allowed the abuse of specific minorities or foreign populations.”

My reflection on historical injustice starts with the misuse of the name of Christ that sanctioned the colonial and genocidal policies of the European empires against the Indigenous Peoples around the world.


The Doctrine of Discovery: Misusing the Name of Christ. In the 1400s, a series of Papal Bulls were declared and sanctioned explorers to invade, colonize, and exploit lands and peoples around the world. The Doctrine of Discovery is the unsound theological basis for the colonialism and imperialism that still oppress many Indigenous Peoples today. These were done by the European imperial monarchs in the name of Christ.

The following 45-minute video explains how this doctrine affected the Indigenous Peoples of the Turtle Island (North America) and other IPs around the world:

The impact of the Doctrine of Discovery on Indigenous Peoples was addressed during the concluding session of the 11th UN Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues 18 May 2012 in New York:

Legal and political justification for the dispossession of indigenous peoples from their lands, their disenfranchisement and the abrogation of their rights such as the doctrine of discovery, the doctrine of domination, “conquest”, “discovery”, terra nullius or the Regalian doctrine were adopted by colonizers throughout the world. While these nefarious doctrines were promoted as the authority for the acquisition of the lands and territories of indigenous peoples, there were broader assumptions implicit in the doctrines, which became the basis for the assertion of authority and control over the lives of indigenous peoples and their lands, territories and resources. Indigenous peoples were constructed as “savages”, “barbarians”, “backward” and “inferior and uncivilized” by the colonizers who used such constructs to subjugate, dominate and exploit indigenous peoples and their lands, territories and resources…

According to the text, signs of such doctrines were still evident in indigenous communities, including in the areas of:  health; psychological and social well-being; conceptual and behavioural forms of violence against indigenous women; youth suicide; and the hopelessness that many indigenous peoples experience, in particular indigenous youth.

Until now, the Regalian Doctrine, which is the face of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Philippines, is operational in justifying and legalizing the destructive mining operations of multinational corporations in the Philippines. The devastation of our land and the oppression of our people still are the continuation of this doctrine.

The historical injustices by the Spaniards were something I have read and have studied in academic classrooms. I still see the residual effects of Spanish oppression against our people in the present.

My personal experience and observation of historical injustices happened while living near an American military base during the Vietnam War.


War Crimes: Historical Injustices in the Philippines. I grew up surrounded by American baptist missionaries and was raised up in a very conservative evangelical religious community. As a brown Malay child, I really believed that the Americans were sent by God to the Filipino people to liberate us from the Spaniards through democratic ideals, to bring the Gospel to us, and to educate us.

Then I saw how the U.S. military personnel treated my Filipino sisters and brothers in Olongapo City, an urban center adjacent to the Subic Naval Base, where the officers and rank-and-file men and women of the 7th Fleet spent their rest and recreation time during the Vietnam War. As a teenager trained to do critical thinking through Inductive Bible Study, I questioned the incoherent presence of the Americans in our country. The well-meaning missionaries were teaching us how to go to heaven, while their military protectors were sending my peers to hell by treating those local economically-impoverished folks as $10-per-night sex slaves.

That was the circumstance when I decided to join a revolutionary youth movement to fight against US imperialism and the Marcos dictatorial regime. After graduating from a Bible college, I went to the Asian Center at the University of the Philippines and completed a master’s degree program in Asian Studies. I went back to Olongapo City and worked as a college instructor — teaching history, political science, and sociology — and organized a community.

Recently, more and more researches are surfacing that reveal the war crimes of the United States against the Filipino people. When I saw the video below, I identified with the young story-teller.

I could have been that boy. But unlike that boy, it was only during my university years when I realized the sad realities behind the official narrative of American presence in the Philippines — as told by the missionaries who ‘discipled’ me.

The sad thing is that, the Philippine government is still subservient to US foreign policies. Under the current defense agreement our government has with the US, American armed forces can legally do military “training; transit; support and related activities; refueling of aircraft; bunkering of vessels; temporary maintenance of vehicles, vessels and aircraft; temporary accommodation of personnel; communications; prepositioning of equipment, supplies and materiel; deploying forces and materiel; and such other activities” as the US and Philippine governments may agree. Through onerous agreements like this, the on-going train of historical injustices continues.

The historical injustices brought about by the Spanish and the American colonial presence in the Philippines caused deep wounds in our journey as a nation. This is significantly being felt by the peoples of two regions who were able to preserve their respective Indigenous identities — the Bangsamoro and the Cordillera People.


Bangsamoro: Historical Injustice in Mindanao. “Bangsamoro” is the name which the 13 Muslim tribes of the southern Philippines use to refer to themselves collectively. Bangsa is a Malay word meaning nation. Moro is the name which the Spanish colonizers used to denote the Islamized peoples of the southern islands of the Philippines, and is derived from the Spanish name for the Muslim Moors who dominated the Iberian Peninsula until late in the 15th Century. Thus, the term Bangsamoro literally means “Moro Nation.” The tribes which comprise the Bangsamoro are the Iranun, Maguindanaon, Maranao, Tao-Sug, Sama, Yakan, Jama Mapun, Ka’agan, Kalibugan, Sangil, Molbog, Palawani, and Badjao.

The roots of the Bangsamoro conflict are the historical injustices which are summarized and illustrated in this four-minute animated video:

The conflict in this land was exacerbated by a number of historical and social factors. One of them is a strong anti-Muslim bias by the majority Christian population of the Philippines. When Joji and I were beginning our work here in 2006, we learned that 57% of the residents in Metro Manila, according to the 2005 Philippine Human Development Report, will opt for residency in a place with higher rent so long as it is far from a Muslim community. Also, the government failed to deliver basic services and the needed development to Moro communities. The same 2005 Human Development Report showed that Muslim areas like Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi and Basilan continue to suffer the highest poverty incidence.

At present, the Christian majority of the Philippine population still looks at the Mindanao conflict from the perspective of the colonial lenses, falsely justified by the Doctrine of Discovery. One of the most painful challenges we’re facing as PeaceBuilders Community is the accusation of some American missionaries and American-trained Christian pastors and leaders that we’re “siding with the enemy”.

Our response?

We say, “We’re seeking to love the so-called enemies in the name of Jesus.”

Then we were led, I believe, by the Creator’s Spirit, to listen to the Indigenous Peoples in the northern mountain ranges of Luzon.


Cordilleras: Historical Injustices in the Northern Mountain Ranges. In 15 February 2015, I had the privilege of interviewing a Kalinga elder, Andres B. Ngao-I, who was then the President of the Cordillera Bodong Administration (CBA). He shared the journey of the Kalinga people and the whole Cordillera region which was passed on to him through oral tradition. He explained that the term Cordillera was used by the Spaniards to describe the mountain ranges in Northern Luzon with its “breath-taking plateaus and valleys.” According to Ngao-I, their consciousness and awareness of their “being a people in these rich system of mountain ranges have been alive through their cultural values and customs.” His series of stories gave me glimpses of their deep conviction of who they are as a people and how that “strong sense of being” sustained their struggle against the Spanish and American invasion.

The Cordillera Region is composed of 6 provinces — Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao, Kalinga, and Apayao. The region’s capital, which is also considered as the Summer Capital of the Philippines, is Baguio City.

My friendship with Madam Juanita Chupan Chulsi, Vice Chairman of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA) gave me a deeper understanding of the experiences of historical injustices committed by the Manila government against her people. During a dinner conversation in her home at the the CPLA’s Camp Conrado Balweg last 01 February 2017, Ma’am Chulsi told me the story of her revolutionary journey. Her words seem to jump out of my field notebook: “The peoples of the Cordilleras have always been protective of our identity and land. We were never subjugated by the Spaniards and by the Americans. We fought with the CPP-NPA (Communist Party of the Philippines and their armed wing, the New People’s Army) during the Martial Law when the government tried to dam the Chico River.”

With us in that dinner was Ka Pablo, the Camp Commander. He shared his memories of being “discriminated by the lowlanders” as a young man. He narrated how he joined the revolutionary movement because he saw “the representatives of the central government merely regard our lands, waters, and minerals as something to offer to foreigners.” Both Ma’am Chulsi and Ka Ambo felt that the indigenous governance, conflict resolution processes, and cultural values were generally disrespected by the Filipino majority and by the Manila government.

L-R: Aiza Baluyan (PBCI Kalinga Staff), Ka Pablo (Commander, CPLA Camp Balweg), Juanita Chupan Chulsi (Vice Chair, CPLA), and Lakan Sumulong (PBCI Philippines): After a dinner conversation on Cordillera autonomy. 01 February 2017. CPLA Camp Conrado Balweg, Kalinga.

The personal narratives of historical injustices I heard from Chupan Chulsi and Ka Pablo were consistent with what the Cordillera Peoples Alliance summarized in their website as National Oppression:


As indigenous peoples, we additionally suffer a distinct problem of national oppression and ethnocide at the hands of foreign colonial powers in earlier times, and presently by the present Philippine state and its foreign masters. Our people have been forcibly integrated into the dominant social system and prevented from seeking our own way to development. At the same time, the system subjects us to various kinds of discrimination and inequalities.

As a violation to our inherent right to self-determination, ethnocide and national oppression as directed against our peoples have the following forms and manifestations:

• State denial and non-recognition of our rights of collective ownership, priority use and management over our ancestral lands and resources
• Development aggression (imposition of destructive socio-economic projects in the name of “national development” or “national interest” such as megadams, large-scale mines, megatourism, NIPAS, etc)
• Militarization
• Political misrepresentation
• Commercialization of indigenous culture 
• Institutionalized discrimination
• Violation and non-recognition of our indigenous socio-political systems and processes
• Government neglect of basic social services to indigenous peoples

The Doctrine of Discovery and its negative impact in the history of the Philippines is still being perpetuated, wittingly or unwittingly, by the government, by the church, by the school, by the media, by the military, and by the police.

The historical injustices continues.


Oligarchy and Patronage Politics: Historical Injustices in the Philippine Society. I’m praying for a radical transformation in our land. Our people are stuck in a system that perpetuates the violence of injustice. We are deeply mired in a socio-political system that enslaves our people and devastates our land for so long. This inherently corrupt system is called oligarchy. We are being run and enslaved by our country’s oligarchs.

In this 2016 video, academic scholars and political analysts share their thoughts on the characteristics of the oligarchs in the Philippines.

Even strong, popular politicians can be eaten up, so to speak, and swallowed by oligarchy. For most of them, getting corrupted by this unjust system is just a matter of time and enormous taste of wealth and power through graft-and-corruption.

Oligarchies are mostly remnants of former colonial families and their cronies who maintained their ownership of the best lands in our country based on the Regalian Doctrine. These elite families made sure that the laws of the land, especially those laws about land ownership, are not changed. To protect their interests, they made sure they control the executive, legislative, and judicial processes in our country. Their land capital was extended to commercial-industrial capital, merged with global capital.

These national-global mergers of mega-capital are protected by the laws of the land. Since the interests of these elite families and their global partners are legal, they are then protected by the armed forces and the police forces of the land, with the support of the global military powers operating in our land.

Some of these colonial families inter-married with certain landed, traditional leaders in many indigenous communities. These inter-married clans of colonial families and tribal royalties brought vast areas of lands within their ancestral domains under the Regalian system. When the new elites opened their lands to modern agri-business corporations, many indigenous clans outside these mixed marriages were pushed up to the mountains. Their traditional livelihood began to disintegrate along with their indigenous governance, culture and identity. Meanwhile, the new elites morphed into local oligarchies. Soon, they sent their children to senate and congress to join the national oligarchies.

The big media, which are owned by these oligarchies, are the narrators of the story. The story, as they tell us, is that some oligarch families are more benevolent than others. The Filipino middle class and the masses must learn to discern which of the oligarch families are best suited to rule over them. And the story sounds so true! Actually, there’s truth that oligarch families try to annihilate each other, through violence and other means, just to be on top of other oligarch families. What the big media do not tell us is that, these oligarchies will always maintain their class dominance over the middle class and the masses.

Through the big media narratives, the oligarchies maintain a system in which the majority of the professionals would manage the oligarchies’ interests for them. And surely, those professionals get rewarded enough to be controlled by the oligarch master.

Also, through the big media, the masses are lulled into a kind of entertainment that paralyzes their analytic capabilities. They are also pushed into an economic state that made them easy targets for financial manipulation especially during election time. A dumbing media and an unjust economic system create and sustain a people of mendicants who are easy prey for patronage politics. And true enough, the masses indeed reelect the oligarchies. The price for each vote? Perhaps from 100 pesos to 1,000 pesos. Then as soon as the oligarch-politicians assume power, they would immediately get their money back through various forms of pork barrels.

As a system, patronage politics is rooted in greed, historical injustice, blatant deception, violence and impunity. Although the oligarchies may be bloody competitive against each other regarding issues of wealth-and-power-distribution (what election has been all about), the threat of dismantling their system of patronage politics will surely bring them together to protect their interests as a class. In the face of this threat of losing their corruption-based wealth and power, especially from people outside their network of elite families, these self-righteous, church-going, charity-donating, descent-looking elites will join together into a phalanx-like cohesion against the outsiders.

The outsiders are the common people. The outsiders include you. The outsiders include me. The outsiders include anyone who will stand up for, and with, the common people. The oligarchies would ‘neutralize’ or ‘pacify’ the outsiders who would challenge to dismantle their base of wealth and power—which is patronage politics.

Would there be oligarch politicians who would join the people in dismantling patronage politics? Of course. Those are the exceptions though. As a class, these greedy clans will continue to be the perpetrators of patronage politics. They will have so much difficulties turning away from this system. It’s their source and base of wealth and power. Through many decades, these amassed wealth and established clan power have corrupted them and have become their gods. Within their realm of power, many of them have even manifested their view of themselves as gods. Impunity is one of such manifestations.

Our people and our land need radical transformation.

As I pray for radical transformation, my heart resonates with the words of Ella Baker: “In order for us as poor and oppressed people to become a part of a society that is meaningful, the system under which we now exist has to be radically changed… I use the term radical in its original meaning — getting down to and understanding the root cause. It means facing a system that does not lend itself to your needs and devising means by which you change that system.”

The injustices committed against the Filipinos by their fellow Filipinos and by foreign forces make us sensitive to the injustices done outside the Philippines. As a witness of Jesus working among Muslim peacebuilders and human rights workers, I’m often confronted with the justice issues when talking about the plight of the Palestinian people. For me and my Muslim partners in interfaith justice and peace advocacy, the Zionist occupation of Palestine is all at once theological, spiritual, political, ethical, and moral concern.


Nakba: Historical Injustices in Palestine. As a young conservative evangelical, I was trained to read Israeli-Arab conflict through the lenses of Dispensational Theology. “Israel, as a chosen people, must be supported or else we’ll be cursed,” my Bible teachers emphasized. The dispensational eschatology allows a Zionist view of looking at the plight of the Palestinian people. Such perspective made me ignore the just character of the God of Israel.

I was doing a research on West Asia at the University of the Philippines in 1981. I met a group of Arab Christians and they invited me to their fellowship. I started reading the Bible from the perspectives of my Arab sisters- and brothers-in-Christ. It was also the time when I heard of Nakba or “Catastrophe” which refers to the 1948 expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their land and the subsequent destruction of their communities. My Arab sisters and brothers shared with me how their people, both Muslims and Christians, lost their homes, their loved-ones, their communities, their lives. That was the time when I renounced dispensationalism and its Zionist biases on Arab-Israeli conflict.

In 2013, Al Jazeera released a series of special documentary on Al-Nakba. I started sharing this perspectives among evangelical leaders in the Philippines, framed in a peace theological perspective. A few changed their views. Most condemned my position as “unfaithful to God’s plan for the future.” Last month, I reiterated my conviction to stand in solidarity with Palestine while praying for the peace of both the Palestinians and the Jews during the 70th year of the commemoration of Nakba.

This hour-long video documentary on the 70th year of Nakba helped me understand better the impact of this historical injustice against the Palestinians:

I’m learning a lot from Palestinian Christian voices like Sabeel. According to their website, “Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them and lead them to act for justice and peace.”

It’s also good to listen to young Palestinian Christian theologians like The Rev. Dr. Munther Isaac. His writings on issues related to the theology of the land, Palestinian Christians, and Palestinian theology influence my thinking about Middle East issues. I especially recommend his book, “From Land to Lands, from Eden to the Renewed Earth: A Christ-Centered Biblical Theology of the Promised Land“.


May the Spirit of God liberate our hearts and minds to see all sides of the narratives we listen to. May our liberated hearts and minds free us from the ‘official narratives’ that perpetuate historical injustices.



Part 1: Being Jesus’ Witnesses (08 June 2018)
:: Jesus–Our Justice and Peace
:: Being Martyr-Witnesses for Jesus

Part 2: Historical Injustices (18 June 2018)
:: The Doctrine of Discovery: Misusing the Name of Christ
:: War Crimes: Historical Injustices in the Philippines
:: Bangsamoro: Historical Injustice in Mindanao
:: Cordilleras: Historical Injustices in the Northern Mountain Ranges
:: Nakba: Historical Injustices in Palestine

Part 3: Justice-Based PeaceBuilding (28 June 2018)
:: Repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’
:: Supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
:: Supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law
:: Supporting the Struggle for the Cordillera Autonomous Region
:: Supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks
:: Supporting our Palestinian Sisters and Brothers in Christ


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Christian farmers from an armed-conflicted area in Southern Philipiines learn Christ-centered justice and peace advocacy at PeaceBuilders Community Centre. They are expected to help in a long-term, community-based peace and reconciliation processes between pro-government and anti-government parties-in-conflict. CFP Photo.

Being Jesus’ Witnesses


Jesus—Our Justice and Peace. When peace theologians and church leaders taught me to read and interpret the Bible through the life, character, and work of Jesus, I felt so liberated! Being raised up in the midst of the violent context under the dark years of Marcos’ martial rule in the Philippines, my violent tendencies began to heal as I re-read the Word through the person of Jesus in the Gospels.

The life, character, work, and teachings of Jesus ignited a transformation process in my life, in my marriage, in my family, in my understanding of community, and in what I might humbly contribute for the good of our land, our people, and the rest of humanity. Out of this process and through this transformation journey, a peacebuilding community and an inclusive development advocacy were born as Joji and I seek to follow Jesus of Nazareth.

With so many philosophical, spiritual, and religious frameworks in the ‘cosmos’ of peace and justice advocacy, Joji and I were prompted to search deep in our hearts with regards to the ultimate source of our energies that would sustain the peacebuilding and inclusive development tasks we were called to do.

It became clear to us.

Our justice-based peacebuilding advocacy is centered on Jesus, who is Shalom personified! Jesus, the Prince of Shalom, is the center of the Good News (euanggelion).  From the New Testament perspective, it is absurd to talk about “witnessing to the world” without “peacemaking in the world.”  Our understanding of biblical peace is based on the unequivocal declaration that Jesus Christ is the center of life and reality, and that Christ brings the whole creation intact!

We will seek to be dialogical witnesses for Jesus in the context of a pluralist world of the 21st century. While being true to our faith, we will respectfully and humbly share what we understand as the Good News of Jesus, the Prince of Peace. Here, we understand the Peace of Jesus as:
:: Harmony with the Creator (spiritual transformation);
:: Harmony with our being (psycho-social transformation);
:: Harmony with others (socio-political transformation); and,
:: Harmony with the creation (economic-ecological transformation).

Sihaya Ansibod, Values Training Technician of Coffee For Peace (wearing black shirt, middle) and Tala Alngag Bautista, Senior Vice President of Coffee For Peace (blue shirt, middle) meet with community leaders in one of the armed-conflicted areas in Southern Philippines. Both Sihaya and Tala belong to the Indigenous People in the Philippines. They are part of the next generation leaders at PBCI and CFP. CFP Photo.


Being Martyr-Witnesses for Jesus. Being Jesus’ witnesses and doing justice-based peacebuilding is inherent in our calling. We cannot separate being Jesus’ witness and doing justice-based peacebuilding.  They both demonstrate and proclaim the Prince of Shalom through actions and words.

We are both energized and overwhelmed by our understanding of “being Jesus’ witness”. We learned that the term “witness” comes from the New Testament word martyría — that is, martyr-witness. This is not about having a messianic complex. This is not about mere adventurism in a place of danger. This is not a search for an extreme religious experience. This has been the discipleship legacy of the followers of Jesus in the past 2000+ years. This is the kind of discipleship we need in our beautiful, but conflicted, land. This is the kind of witness we need in our globalizing and conflicted world.

Being martyr-witnesses, first of all, means that we will love all people unconditionally and we will practice selfless love to the point of offering our lives to the people with whom we are called to live and to serve. This is exemplified in the humble life of Jesus of Nazareth whom we follow in response to His sacrificial love. Secondly, it means that, by God’s grace, we will not lie. As witnesses to the truth we have experienced in Jesus Christ, we will initiate transparent and honest interaction with all the people concerned as we relate with them and as we formulate and implement our organizational policies. Thirdly, being martyr-witnesses affirm that Justice is an attribute of God. As justice is an attribute of God, our tasks will be implemented in accordance with what is just and equitable among all people concerned. We will listen to, and suffer with, those who have been oppressed because of historical injustice. Because of the redemptive nature of Jesus’ Way, we will act justly as we peacefully seek the healing of the nations from all forms of injustice. Finally, it means incarnating God’s peace in our lives. We will seek harmony and reconciliation with the Creator, with our being, with others, and with the creation. We believe in solving problems through non-violence. By God’s grace and mercy, we will not use weapons to hurt or to kill people as a means to accomplish our dreams, mission, and objectives.

We have been applying these witness-principles in our peacebuilding field operations since 2006. This file video — taken by Gerd Bartel during the height of the 2008 armed conflict around Ligawasan Marsh in Central Mindanao — illustrates our desire to understand those outside our Christian community based on these theological-ethical values.


May we, who profess to follow Jesus of Nazareth, demonstrate what it means to be true witnesses to his character — through our life of justice and peace.




Part 1: Being Jesus’ Witnesses (08 June 2018) 
:: Jesus–Our Justice and Peace
:: Being Martyr-Witnesses for Jesus

Part 2: Historical Injustices (18 June 2018)
:: The Doctrine of Discovery: Misusing the Name of Christ
:: War Crimes: Historical Injustices in the Philippines
:: Bangsamoro: Historical Injustice in Mindanao
:: Cordilleras: Historical Injustices in the Northern Mountain Ranges
:: Nakba: Historical Injustices in Palestine

Part 3: Justice-Based PeaceBuilding (28 June 2018)
:: Repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’
:: Supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
:: Supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law
:: Supporting the Struggle for the Cordillera Autonomous Region
:: Supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks
:: Supporting our Palestinian Sisters and Brothers in Christ


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My peacebuilding colleague seems to have lost his confidence in non-violence. In an online conversation, he said: “Kaka Lakan, we have tried applying active non-violent approaches. Ten years. Ten long years… They’re killing us slowly… We might as well die fighting. Sorry, I’ll have to pick up my equipment again…”

Such were the words of Hassan (not his real name), a 29-year old Bangsamoro male from Central Mindanao. I assume he meant M16 automatic rifle and its accessories when he mentioned “equipment.”

I first met him when he was in high school. He used to accompany us around Ligawasan Marsh while distributing relief goods among his village folks in the midst of escalating armed skirmishes. Hassan actively participated in our peacebuilding training and completed the course with much enthusiasm. I saw him grow from being a responsible 19-year old peacebuilding volunteer into a young Moro intellectual who articulated and struggled for the liberation of his people from historical injustices. He was then convinced that Bangsamoro autonomy was possible through active non-violent means.

I immediately invited him to travel to Davao. We had a couple of days sharing hearts and minds like true brothers.

Just before his trip back home, we had coffee together. We gave each other a brotherly hug after a couple of hours of conversation. I said, “See you again.”

He replied with a sad smile: “Bye, Kaka.”

It was then that I posted a quote on social media. It served as a humbling, soul-searching note to myself:

“I want to sound a note of caution amidst any celebrations of Mennonite peacebuilding about the pitfalls of Christian pacifist triumphalism—and with it make a plea for a measure of humility regarding the power of nonviolent alternatives to war…

But Christian pacifists would do well, I suggest, to recognize that in some situations they will have no clear peacebuilding options to advance, no obvious nonviolent alternatives to offer—and that recognition can and should drive them to prayerful silence.”

~Alain Epp Weaver, Strategic Planning, Mennonite Central Committee

I kept silent for a couple of days. In my bedroom. Alone. Humbled.

A few days later, I found out that Hassan blocked me from our social networking connection. His friends told me that he joined a “violent extremist” group.

The language of Violent Extremism has become a popular term here in Mindanao. In most of the seminars and discussions I’ve attended, the definitions used were somehow similar to what Wikipedia posted: “Violent extremism refers to the beliefs and actions of people who support or use ideologically motivated violence to achieve radical ideological, religious or political views. Violent extremist views can be exhibited along a range of issues, including politics, religion and gender relations. No society, religious community or worldview is immune to violent extremism.”

Most of us in the civil society refer to this simply as VE. I like how Andrew Glazzard–a security consultant, and Martine Zeuthen–an anthropologist, examine this ‘VE category’. I resonate with their questions: “Is violent extremism, by definition, something carried out by non-state actors? In conflict situations, how can we differentiate violent extremists from other, more legitimate conflict actors? Does violent extremism always have to be ideological – can it, for example, be criminal, or even purposeless? Is ‘violent extremism’ merely a synonym for ‘terrorism’? More fundamentally, are terms like ‘extremism’ relative – in which case does ‘violent extremism’ mean different things to different people? These are not merely academic questions: what we call a phenomenon helps determine how we see it and what we do in response to it.

Personally, I don’t like this term. There’s so much confusion in the use of this language. Jason-Leigh Striegher, in his 2015 study at the Australian Graduate School of Policing and Security at the Charles Sturt University in Sydney, Australia, said: “By reviewing some of the current definitions of radicalisation, violent-extremism and terrorism in policy documents and academic literature, pertinent points within each have emerged… although the processes of radicalisation, the ideology of violent extremism and the act of terrorism have interdependent relationships, they are in fact three distinct terms that must be clearly understood. By examining each term and its definitions in isolation, a palpable distinction for each was evidenced and a revitalised definition for violent-extremism was proposed. Though acts of terror are not solely a derivative of the radicalisation process, understanding the relationship between the two is paramount to successfully countering violent-extremism. In isolating the three terms we are able to reduce misrepresentation; appreciate and successfully address root-cause issues; devise more pointed policies and programs for intervention; and cope with relevant legal statutes more effectively.”

My readings also brought me to the thoughts of Prof. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou. He mentioned that violent extremism is fueled by three key factors, namely: alienation, retribution, and dispossession.

I saw some aspects of Hassan’s journey through these lenses.

Alienation. Hassan felt judged after the death of the 44 police commandos during the 2015 Mamasapano debacle. Being a young rural Moro who is committed to the liberation of his people primarily through the Peace Process, he worked alongside with non-Moro peacebuilding volunteers. Many of his friends in the civil society questioned the sincerity of the Bangsamoro after Mamasapano. Hassan felt left out in a number of meetings among peace advocates after Mamasapano: “Kaka, they forgot to invite me again. This is the fourth time they have forgotten to send me invitation. Am I still part of the committee?”

His Moro friends in their original hometown started expressing their doubts in the effectiveness of the peace process. They challenged Hassan if he was “with them” or “with us”. He was pretty sure that “them” — the Indigenous People and Christian peacebuilding volunteers — were “with us.” But more and more, he felt the gap between his Moro community and his non-Moro civil society colleagues in that particular town where he lives.

During our last coffee meeting, he felt the Mindanao Peace Process as merely the government’s way to appease them into inactivity while they perpetuate the historical injustices against the Bangsamoro. “I don’t believe they will really pass the BBL in Congress,” he said. The BBL is the Bangsamoro Basic Law which is now facing tough challenges in the Philippine House of Representatives. “It seems,” he continued while pointing his cup of coffee at me, “nothing will happen in your active non-violent approach.” I was feeling his angst even as he did his best to show respect with his naturally-meek personality.

Retribution. Seven of Hassan’s clan members have been killed in this armed-conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Philippines (GPH). Two of them were his male, combat-aged cousins. They grew up and played together as children. During times of escalated armed skirmishes, they learned together how to survive weeks, and even months, in evacuation centers.

The death of his cousins prompted him to question the effectiveness of armed struggle. That was the main factor why he volunteered as a peace worker and decided to proceed with a college education.

Right now, he seeks justice. He clarified to me that he understands “the difference between seeking revenge and seeking justice.” But this time, he will seek justice “within Islamic processes”.

“The Philippine justice system,” he complained, “is for the rich and for the powerful families only, Kaka.” And I agreed. I just don’t know what he exactly meant by “Islamic processes.”

Dispossession. Hassan also saw the loss of their family’s source of livelihood. Because of the cycle of armed skirmishes since his childhood, his parents were not able to sustain their rice farming. They lost their rice fields to money lenders who are based in a nearby city — mostly Christians. His parents now subsists through various seasonal employment with local business families.

Hassan’s friends told me that his family received financial assistance from a local Islamic organization. The same organization invited Hassan to join them in a renewed struggle that is “more Islamic.”

When I asked them what they meant by “more Islamic,” they simply said, “Extremist. What else?”

“Extremism,” according to Prof. Mohamedou, “is often the failure of a society, or indeed the acts of a state that can create the conditions for the ill to materialise or persist.”

The story of Hassan, however, may not be the big picture in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). A recent study conducted by the Institute for Autonomy and Governance (IAG) presents a more hopeful horizon. Their research findings are worth noting here in full:

  • There was no large-scale radicalization of young Muslims in Mindanao.
  • Almost all Muslim young people had at least a basic understanding of mainstream Islamic principles, but there was very limited understanding of the concepts used by extremists.
  • Overall, young people knew little about specific VE groups beyond the Abu Sayyaf (70%) and ISIS (51%).
  • In all four provinces, there was a minority of young people who expressed sympathy for VE groups believing they were “fighting to defend Islam” and “fighting against oppression.”
  • Youth respondents affirmed the presence of recruiters of VE groups in their community who drove people to being radicalized.
  • There was not a single type of individual that VE groups targeted for recruitment.
  • The survey respondents in all provinces believed that education was a key solution to the problems brought about by VE.


I also appreciate the recommendations listed in the said study:


There is no single panacea to prevent the spread of a violent ideology or prevent people from joining extremist groups. However, considering the findings of this research, the following responses are suggested:
1. Adopt a comprehensive policy framework to prevent and counter violent extremism upon which national, regional, and local government units can develop and coordinate long-term programs on prevention and short-term programs on mitigation. This policy framework should guide the action of international donors.
2. Mainstream the value of Islamic moderation (wasatiyyah) in Muslim communities. The Government of the Philippines should cooperate with civil society, educational institutions, and religious networks to spread messages of inclusive Muslim beliefs to young people.
3. Develop materials so that leaders in formal and informal education system can ensure that all young people understand how extremist groups operate and the negative effects of joining extremist groups on themselves, their families, and their communities.
4. Promote a high-quality and moderate Islamic education sector. This should include facilitating the adoption of common supervision, accreditation, and standardization of curricula to ensure that the teaching and learning is consistent with mainstream Islamic philosophy.
5. Keep the public school system secular and use it and the informal education system as a platform for building inclusive culture, mutual trust, and understanding of unity in diversity.
6. Provide young people with genuine opportunities for accessible quality education both in the basic and collegiate levels for them to get jobs and employment here or abroad.
7. Provide avenues for young people to express their grievances in a nonviolent manner through various forms of peaceful processes.
8. Provide programs for people who show signs of post traumatic syndrome after exposure to violence and conflict.
9. Invest in high-quality and contextually-appropriate delivery of government services in areas at high-risk of extremism, particularly education and health services.
10. Fast-track the passage and implementation of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL)/Enabling Law/New Autonomy Law that would address poverty and the lack of development through the efficient, effective, and responsive self-governance by way of implementing peace agreements with the MNLF and MILF.
11. Increase public and private investments with programs to attract business towards job creation in areas at high-risk of extremism.
12. Ensure all government jobs are provided in a meritocratic and nondiscriminatory process.
13. Ensure that all young people understand, both in school and out-of-school, how extremist groups operate as well as the negative effects of joining extremist groups on themselves, their families, and their communities.
14. Facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of the people who were previously involved in extremist groups.

While there is an important role for Government, the Muslim community itself can be at the forefront of developing solutions to extremism. Through a process of collective reflection and leadership, it is possible to pursue the many solutions to violent extremism that are rooted in traditional institutions and practices fundamental to well functioning Muslim communities.

I hope to meet Hassan again and continue our decade-long relationship as peacebuilding brothers. I pray for his safety. I pray that even in our differences in pursuing justice and peace, we would still seek to continue our interfaith dialogue and cooperation. My faith-based non-violent approach and his faith-based armed-struggle approach may be considered by many as two extremes in a wide spectrum of approaches towards radical transformation. But I’m determined to continue connecting with Hassan, and many of those like him, by building bridges of genuine relationship which is characterized by transparent communication, that would lead to empathy, and then eventually lead to mutual trust.

Because of Hassan and others like him, my commitment to this faith-based, active non-violent approach to peacebuilding is more strengthened in the midst of this discourse on a construct we refer to as violent extremism.


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Palestinians protesters, including women and children, run for cover from tear gas fired by Israeli forces near the border between the Gaza strip and Israel east of Gaza City on May 14, 2018. The Israeli military forces killed 58 Palestinians. More than 1,100 were wounded by the Israeli military using superior deadly weapons. (Photo by Morocco World News)

This is where I part ways, theologically and ethically, with many of my Christian Zionist friends, many of them happen to be my ministry colleagues in the evangelical community.

Standing up with the Palestinians. This is also a proper time to reaffirm my solidarity with my Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ who are suffering under the oppressive policies and practices of the Zionist enterprise. My heart resonates with the voice of a Palestinian brother in Christ, The Rev. Dr. Jack Y. Sara: “It seems that evangelicals in the US are ignoring the existence of their evangelical brethren in particular and Christians in general in the Middle East. It is almost as if we don’t exist. They don’t want to listen to our advice, which is born out of the reality on the ground. Often, our opinions and experiences are dismissed as merely ‘politically’ motivated. I wonder at their reactions and I cannot help but marvel at how they call themselves promoters of unity within the body of Christ.”

I’m also listening to Palestinian biblical scholars and theologians who are faithfully voicing out their hearts and minds along with their people. In his book, A Palestinian Theology of Liberation: The Bible, Justice, and the Palestine-Israel Conflict, Naim Stifan Ateek insists: “Justice is foundation for the resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.” And yet, he advocates “a plea for a strategy of nonviolence.”

Meanwhile, the Zionists state and its armed forces continue to abuse their military superiority against civilians, causing the perpetuation of Nakba — a 70-year catastrophic sufferings among a displaced people. I strongly condemn these oppressive actions of the Zionist forces against the Palestinians. Along with many voices of justice-and-peace advocates around the world, I shout “FreePalestine!”

Renouncing Zionist Theology. I grew up within that faith group that blindly embraced an American theology that justifies the oppressive actions of the Zionist State against the Palestinians. It is a sad reality that this American bigotry, wrapped in religious language, is still being perpetuated by many preachers.

I renounced this religious perspectives early in my theological journey. I repented that I embraced it as a young Christian under the influence of American missionaries.

I have deep respect and a sacred view of the biblical term ‘Israel’ (יִשְׂרָאֵל) and I cannot, by conscience, use it to describe the present state that occupied Palestine. Here, I’ll refer to this occupying force in Palestine as the Zionist State — as described by a number of Orthodox Jews.

The United States moved their embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Many Zionist Christians celebrate this as part of biblical prophecy, thinking that this would open the way towards the rebuilding of the Jewish temple. But there is no such prophecy. In 2012, I shared with the evangelical pastors and bishops that Israel is not the sole focus of God’s blessings among Abraham’s children and that followers of Jesus must work towards peace between the Jews and the Palestinians. In 2014, I shared with the same Christian leaders that the God of Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob is a God of justice and righteousness and demanded that Israel practice justice and righteousness more than mere religious rituals and activities.

Repudiating the Oppressive Zionist Enterprise. While I seek to be objective, listening to the narratives of both Israel and Palestine, my ethical convictions mandate me to question how the current discourse among Zionist politicians are driven by fear and how their policies are unjustly imposed against the Palestinians despite their noble statements in their website.

The Zionist enterprise, which is understood to attract world Jewry to build “democracy, solidarity and equality,” is doing exactly the opposite. As a peacebuilder, I try to look at current events with an awareness that present behaviors and attitudes of conflicting parties are best seen through historical contexts. The Zionist enterprise’s current violence against the Palestinians bring shame to those Jews who suffered and died under Hitler; the Zionist enterprise today acts like her past Nazi oppressors. The Jews were an oppressed, displaced, unarmed people in the past; and yet, today’s Zionist enterprise have become militarized oppressors of a displaced, unarmed Palestinian civilians.

This Zionist enterprise even persecutes their own religious minority who resist being drafted into the Zionist armed forces.

Peace between the Palestinians and the Jews is possible. I still believe peace is possible between the Israelis and the Palestinians because of the hope expressed by Palestinian Christians like the Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Center in Jerusalem. “Sabeel is an ecumenical grassroots liberation theology movement among Palestinian Christians. Inspired by the life and teaching of Jesus Christ, this liberation theology seeks to deepen the faith of Palestinian Christians, to promote unity among them and lead them to act for justice and peace.”

Sabeel’s statement of hope is worth noting here:

“This scenario envisages the total withdrawal of Israel from all the occupied territories including East Jerusalem according to United Nations resolutions 242 and 338. The Palestinians will establish their sovereign state on the whole of the 23% of the land of Palestine. One way to redeem the settlements is to make them the new towns for the returning Palestinian refugees. This can constitute a part of Israel’s reparations to the Palestinians. Israel must compensate the owners from whom the land was confiscated. The Jewish settlers who choose to remain in Palestine can become Palestinian citizens and live under Palestinian sovereignty.

As to Jerusalem, it will have to be shared. The city must remain open to all. A peace treaty will be drawn up and the two countries will become inter-dependent economically and will help each other develop their resources for the well being of both their peoples.

This is the formula which the Palestinians have been hoping and working for. Indeed, it is not the ideal solution, but it carries within it an acceptable justice which most Palestinians are willing to live with for the sake of peace and prosperity. Furthermore, as this scenario agrees with United Nations resolutions since 1967, it will ensure the support of the international community of nations. This formula gives the Palestinians a state as sovereign as Israel, rids them of the Israeli occupation, and restores to them the whole of the occupied territories of 1967. Indeed, a state within the West Bank and Gaza, composed of only 23% of Palestine instead of the 43% allotted by the UN in 1947, is already a very signficant compromise by the Palestinians. The Palestinians would have to give up their right to most of historic Palestine. Obviously, Israel, with the help of the United States and the international community, will have to compensate the Palestinian people.”

Last year, if my understanding serves me right, Hamas seems to have declared a new political program by opening themselves with the idea of a Palestinian state in territories occupied by the Zionist State in the six-day war of 1967. In Article 20 of the New 2017 Hamas Charter, it states: “Hamas believes that no part of the land of Palestine shall be compromised or conceded, irrespective of the causes, the circumstances and the pressures and no matter how long the occupation lasts. Hamas rejects any alternative to the full and complete liberation of Palestine, from the river to the sea. However, without compromising its rejection of the Zionist entity and without relinquishing any Palestinian rights, Hamas considers the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state, with Jerusalem as its capital along the lines of the 4th of June 1967, with the return of the refugees and the displaced to their homes from which they were expelled, to be a formula of national consensus.”

The response of the Zionist State, sadly, was negative according to CNN: “Hamas is attempting to fool the world but it will not succeed,” said David Keyes, a spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. As a Filipino who have embraced a peace theology, I’ll be waiting for the Zionist State to respond positively.

Prayer for Salaam-Shalom for all. I’m hopeful because there’s a new generation of Jews and Palestinians whose hearts and minds are open for a more just-oriented dialogue about their mutual peace. The mission of the Jewish Voice for Peace, for example, needs to be heard: “Jewish Voice for Peace opposes anti-Jewish, anti-Muslim, and anti-Arab bigotry and oppression.  JVP seeks an end to the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza Strip, and East Jerusalem; security and self-determination for Israelis and Palestinians; a just solution for Palestinian refugees based on principles established in international law; an end to violence against civilians; and peace and justice for all peoples of the Middle East.”

My prayer is that the new generation of Palestinians and Jews would strengthen their resolve as they pursue justice-based peace in their determination to plot a common future.

“Our vision involves two sovereign states, Palestine and Israel, who in the future may choose to enter into a confederation or even a federation, possibly with other neighboring countries and where Jerusalem becomes the federal capital. Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel where people are free and equal, living under a constitutional democracy that protects and guarantees all their rights, responsibilities, and duties without racism or discrimination. One state for two nations and three religions.”

Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre


What actions can we do together as Canadians?

We can support the campaign of the Mennonite Central Committee in Canada.

Urge your MP to show compassion for Gaza! Ask him or her to:

  • Call for an end to the use of violence by Israeli forces against the protesters;
  • Insist on humanitarian relief for the people of Gaza and an end to the blockade;
  • Support policies in keeping with Canada’s official commitment to promote the human rights of all people including Palestinians and Israelis


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This mountain bird seems to be so friendly. There’s no fear in his or her eyes. My taichi master once told me that when we are so relaxed and no toxic smell emanates from our body, we can project our feelings to animals and they’d feel our honest intentions. Well, I took my master’s words. I placed a small piece of bread on my hand and projected my feelings to the bird: “Here’s my offering to you, friend. I am your friend. I will not harm you.”

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34 NIV)

The Big Brother, the Big Media, the Big Business, the Big Cop, the Big Gun, and the Big Religion all want us to live in fear. That’s how they multiply their wealth and power exponentially.

I suggest we resist that. By looking at reality through an alternative worldview, by embracing an alternative value-system, and by living an alternative lifestyle.

Kingdom and Righteousness. These terms represent the values of truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy that are inherent in God’s character through which God rules. These are better understood as “God’s governing principles” — the bases of what is ethically right.

No human individual, no human family, no human institution, and no human power could claim direct representation of God’s divine rule and impose such representation on the people. This is not a basis for the historically-unjust concept of the ‘divine rights of kings’ that became the religious basis of colonialization and other forms of social-political oppression done in God’s name.

We can only submit to these principles of truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy and apply them to our inner lives. As a result of our personal-spiritual commitment to these values, our public behavior and decisions then would reflect truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy in public policies within our respective spheres of influence.

The bird perceived the message. When we project fearless energy, those around us would respond positively, without fear.

Do not worry. A lifestyle that is truly governed by truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy is liberation from fear-oriented outlook.

Truth. Authentic living—that is being truthful before the Creator, being truthful with our being, being truthful with others, and being truthful with creation-care—free us from all forms of ‘fake news’. The worst kind of ‘fake news’ is the witting or unwitting habit of lying to ourselves. Authentic living liberates us from worries that ‘people might find out the lies we might be perpetuating.’

Love. Being the Creator’s love-funnel liberates us from worries. Loving one’s self with self-love leads to selfishness. One must learn to love one’s self with the unconditional love of the Creator. Offering our being as a funnel of the Creator’s love frees us from proving to others that we love them based on our selfish, conditional, limited source of love. Loving our neighbors as we love ourselves means being a funnel of the Creator’s love.

Justice. Living a life characterized by what is just and equitable to all frees us from worries. Treating others unjustly is like spitting upward; the spit inevitably returns to one’s face. A social activist claiming to be an advocate of justice must show proof-of-concept before the household, before the neighborhood, before the town or city, before the province, before the region, and before the nation. Unjust lifestyle at home would be reflected in one’s justice advocacy for the nation. A person’s justice-oriented lifestyle multiplies exponentially into various segments of the society. This is the basic foundation of any genuine, peaceful, radical social transformation.

Mercy. This gives us freedom to let go of the ‘knives and daggers of betrayal’ that have been thrust into our being. Mercy is a decision ‘to get hold of those knives and daggers off our backs.’ Mercy is first of all being merciful to ourselves. Mercy is being merciful to ourselves and being forgiving for our own sin of allowing someone to abuse us—that is, for letting others to continually hurt us by allowing their knives of betrayal to stay thrust in our being. Mercy is getting rid of those knives and not using them back against those who hurt us. Mercy is allowing our wounds of betrayal to heal. Mercy is allowing those who truly love us, those whom we trust, to embrace us again and not pushing them away because of too many knives thrust in our being that cause us to hurt when others touch them by embracing us. Mercy is being worry-free. Mercy is freedom!

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:33-34)

Being liberated from a fear-oriented lifestyle one day at a time is what Jesus expects of us. The way of truth-and-love, justice-and-mercy is best practiced on a daily basis.

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As early as September 2013, PeaceBuilders Community have expressed our voice against the US intervention in Syria. This banner was published in our online communications outlet when the war in Syria was just beginning.

As I worship the Great Creator today, my main prayer is for justice, protection, and peace for the civilians in Syria. I cry for the 500,000+ who died in these conflict. I cry with their families. I lament the fact that majority in the West are supporting the lies that are being fed through the Big Media. I cry in prayer against the current actions of the governments of the United States of America, United Kingdom, and France to advance their greed for wealth and power — that is, petrodollar hegemonism.

I’m aware of the danger of a polarized understanding of this very complicated armed conflict. But then, in the final analysis, I have to listen to the discerning voice of the segment of the global Body of Christ in Syria. I also respect the witness of my fellow Christian peacebuilder on the ground, Rev. Fr. Andrew Ashdown, who is also a priest at The Church of England.

And so, at the height of the debate on the ethics and legality of the recent air strikes by the governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and France, I’m expressing my solidarity with the leaders of various Christian churches in Syria.

A Statement Issued by the Patriarchates of Antioch and all the East for the Greek Orthodox, Syrian Orthodox, and Greek-Melkite Catholic

Damascus, 14 April 2018

God is with us; Understand all ye nations and submit yourselves!

We, the Patriarchs: John X, Greek Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, Ignatius Aphrem II, Syrian Orthodox Patriarch of Antioch and all the East, and Joseph Absi, Melkite-Greek Catholic Patriarch of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jerusalem, condemn and denounce the brutal aggression that took place this morning against our precious country Syria by the USA, France and the UK, under the allegations that the Syrian government has used chemical weapons. We raise our voices to affirm the following:

  1. This brutal aggression is a clear violation of the international laws and the UN Charter, because it is an unjustified assault on a sovereign country, member of the UN.
  2. It causes us great pain that this assault comes from powerful countries to which Syria did not cause any harm in any way.
  3. The allegations of the USA and other countries that the Syrian army is using chemical weapons and that Syria is a country that owns and uses this kind of weapon, is a claim that is unjustified and unsupported by sufficient and clear evidence.
  4. The timing of this unjustified aggression against Syria, when the independent International Commission for Inquiry was about to start its work in Syria, undermines of the work of this commission.
  5. This brutal aggression destroys the chances for a peaceful political solution and leads to escalation and more complications.
  6. This unjust aggression encourages the terrorist organizations and gives them momentum to continue in their terrorism.
  7. We call upon the Security Council of the United Nations to play its natural role in bringing peace rather than contribute to escalation of wars.
  8. We call upon all churches in the countries that participated in the aggression, to fulfill their Christian duties, according to the teachings of the Gospel, and condemn this aggression and to call their governments to commit to the protection of international peace.
  9. We salute the courage, heroism and sacrifices of the Syrian Arab Army which courageously protects Syria and provide security for its people. We pray for the souls of the martyrs and the recovery of the wounded. We are confident that the army will not bow before the external or internal terrorist aggressions; they will continue to fight courageously against terrorism until every inch of the Syrian land is cleansed from terrorism. We, likewise, commend the brave stand of countries which are friendly to the Syria and its people.

We offer our prayers for the safety, victory, and deliverance of Syria from all kinds of wars and terrorism. We also pray for peace in Syria and throughout the world, and call for strengthening the efforts of the national reconciliation for the sake of protecting the country and preserving the dignity of all Syrians.

May the Great Creator strengthen the will of the Syrian people to stand up against the war-mongering greed for oil-and-weapons-based wealth and political-military-media manipulations of the superpowers who are interested to have control over Syria.

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Looking at parts of Southern Mindanao from Mount Matutum, the ancestral domain of the B’laan People. One of these days, the Indigenous Peoples’ right to self determination and their way of living will resurrect from the past and present colonial powers.

Happy Resurrection Day!

I believe that Jesus rose from the dead not merely as a religious dogma that can be self-serving and at times used as a bigoted “I-am-right-you-are-wrong” statement.

I believe the Resurrection because —

  • I see Life transcending the seeming finality of death;
  • I see the Light surpassing the seeming endlessness of darkness;
  • I see Justice overcoming the seeming endless oppression of the powerless by the powerful;
  • I see Hope out-living despair and hopelessness;
  • I see peace in the face of people struggling in the midst of unpeace that surround them;
  • I see Love conquering hatred and healing the wounds of bitterness;
  • I see Compassion embracing all humanity and all creation as one inter-connected, mutually-energizing reality.


I see Reality from the lenses of Resurrection.

Christ is Risen!

Let’s Celebrate Life!

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