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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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. Historical injustices continues.

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


Permanent link to this article:


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 “evangelizing 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


Permanent link to this article:


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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While Lakan Sumulong watches, a group among PAR Seminar participants in Sumacher, evaluate the possibility of an inclusive development initiative in their home village — starting with coffee. Sumacher, Tinglayan, Kalinga. 21-24 February 2016.

As I conclude my specially-appointed time for worship, I’m focusing my prayers today for the communities in Kalinga who welcomed Peace and Reconciliation (PAR) Principles and Practices. We were invited to visit and share hearts and minds with the Kalinga First Nation in  2010. I’m praying that PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee For Peace would grow in our understanding of the cultures of the various tribes in Kalinga as we apply indigenous wisdom in peacebuilding and inclusive development.

Right now, I’m praying that the long-term inclusive development program,consisting of a series of short-term activities, would be blessed by the Creator:
1. May the current training of key PAR leaders from among the Kalinga youth be blessed until they are able to run this peacebuilding and inclusive development initiatives in their province;
2. May the series of inclusive development seminars among local farmers and community leaders we have been doing in the past few years, starting with coffee plantation, be practiced effectively while we’re developing local, national, and international solidarity markets and partners;
3. May the post-harvest processing plant in Tabuk that our partners are starting be operational soon so we can sustain the quality and quantity of our products.

Next step: God willing, this coming April, a technical team made up of —
:: a coffee agriculturist
:: a development communications professor
:: a landscape architect
:: a social business marketing expert
:: a justice-peace theologian, and
:: two community development consultants
will travel to these places to share hearts and minds with elders and leaders of various Kalinga communities.

This 5-minute video captures some highlights of our journey with PAR Kalinga.


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The military and economic might of both the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China have been encroaching into our ancestral land and waters while both claiming to protect our lives and various ways of living from threatening factors.

The Eagle. The United States of America wants to protect us from the threats to democracy and human rights. According to the 13 February 2018 report of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, democracy and human rights in many Southeast Asian nations will remain fragile because of autocratic tendencies, rampant corruption and cronyism. And they listed the Republic of the Philippines as one of the “threats to democracy and human rights” this year.

We believe this to be true.

The independence and the check-and-balance functions of the three branches of the government is a big concern right now. The legislative branch of our government has been tagged as the “loyal defender” of President Duterte; and the Philippine Congress, according to a leading news outfit, “has consistently shown it will protect the President from his critics, with Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez leading the charge.” The independence of the judicial branch of the government is also endangered as Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno recently faced impeachment hearing before the House of Representatives allegedly due to psychological and income transparency issues.

According to the 2018 World Report of the Human Rights Watch, about 12,000 lives were claimed under President Duterte’s “war on drugs.”  Those killed were “primarily poor urban dwellers, including children.”

Our own people are dealing with these crises and we do not need the war-mongering intervention of America. For a Western power who have killed hundreds of thousands of our people in an unjust war, the United States has no moral basis for remaining in the Philippines and even for pointing at our human rights problems. In these times when America’s wars have been causing so much sufferings around the world, we say: “We seek to relate with you as equals. We’ll do business with you as equals. We strongly protest against your military presence in our land! Meanwhile, change your colonial master’s attitude because we’re no longer beholdened with your great-American-dream-turned-nightmare.”

The Dragon. The People’s Republic of China claims almost the entire West Philippine Sea, “a strategic waterway where $3 trillion worth of goods passes every year.” In their embassy publication, they mentioned a diplomatic arrangement between them and the Philippine government: “In 2014 China and the Philippines reached an agreement over the Scarborough Shoal, a collection of rocks and reefs east of Luzon in the South China Sea. The agreement was as to shared use between the Philippines and China and was negotiated between China’s deputy minister for foreign affairs, Fu Ying, and Philippines senator Antonio Trillanes. The evidence strongly suggests that the agreement was sabotaged by the United States, acting through its ally, Filipino foreign minister Albert del Rosario.” In the same article, China claims to protect the Philippines from American and Australian militarization of the area and to help the free flow of economic activities in the said sea.

Last December, the Voice of America reported that Pakistan, Nepal, and Myanmar all backed away from a total of around $20 billion worth of Chinese projects largely due to “diverse local political and economic reasons.”

At the time of this writing, Joji is preparing for a visit to Kenya as part of her duties as chair of the Peace Commission of the Mennonite World Conference. Part of her curiosity is to get a glimpse on the presence of Chinese companies in that Sub-Saharan country. We started reading about the impact of China’s presence there. A 2015 study of the impact of China’s presence in the social and economic development of Kenya has the following for its conclusion:

The study found out that the social dimensions in the Chinese presence in Kenya include aid and debt relief, education and telecommunications while the economic dimensions include trade, investments, exploration and infrastructure development. Chinese development aid helps to finance infrastructure projects, hydropower stations, stadia, hospitals and schools. This study concludes that bilateral economic and trade relations have soared and both sides have made rapid headway in cooperation in the areas of electric power, communications, investment and project contracts and have achieved and maintained close consultations and cooperation in international affairs. Lastly the study has given recommendations for improving the economic and social relationship between Kenya and rest of Africa and China as follows: China needs to build a stronger social basis for Sino-African relations; China should make concrete contributions to African peace and security; and, China must pave the way for future symmetrical interdependence between China and Africa.

A Wharton School report seems to validate such positive picture on how China treats their African partners in trade and diplomacy. A financial planning outfit also presents a generally positive picture while showing the pros and cons of doing business with China.

So far, we’d welcome the idea of doing business and diplomatic ties with China.

But for the record, along with the rest of Filipino people who seethe as China builds up military facilities in the West Philippine Sea, we strongly protest against such Chinese military build-up in our waters!

Yes to independent foreign policy for the welfare of our people and for the stewardship of our land.

No to any imperialist powers who would enslave our people and destroy our land.


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Our Davao family — Byron, Mandy, Eyna, Lakan, Lakambini, Edna, Mary — sends you our greetings during this Holiday Season!

It’s Christmas Eve in Mindanao.

We’re just recovering from Marawi War where more than a thousand died and more than a million people were displaced. Then Tropical Storm Vinta devastated us in the past two days with floods and landslides leaving 200+ dead. Now, we’re watching a major fire — a known mall in the city — two blocks away from our home, with some 37 persons unaccounted for and presumed to be dead by our city’s fire department even as I write this Christmas blog. While we are all safe at PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. and Coffee For Peace family network, we grieve for the people in our land.

Then there are the cries and deep lamentations of the many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved-ones of those who were killed in the present War On Drugs wherein at least 12,000 people—including those allegedly killed by vigilantes—will be forever be in our nation’s psycho-spiritual conscience. Almost all of those thousands of people killed in this so-called war belong to the poorest of the poor.

As we watch the world around us during this Christmas Season, we remember the Song of Mary and what it means to the hearts and minds of people suffering injustice, wars, corruption, and oppression:

“My soul magnifies the Lord,
and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior,
for he has looked with favor
on the lowliness of his servant.
Surely, from now on all generations
will call me blessed;
for the Mighty One
has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.

His mercy is for those who fear him
from generation to generation.
He has shown strength with his arm;
he has scattered the proud
in the thoughts of their hearts.
He has brought down the powerful
from their thrones,
and lifted up the lowly;
he has filled the hungry with good things,
and sent the rich away empty.”

~ Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-53)

Mary’s song was both a song of praise and a cry for justice.  Jim Wallis expounded well on this song in one of his Christmas articles:

“This is not the talk of charity and giving Christmas toys and turkeys to the less fortunate. The language of Mary is the narrative of revolution and redistribution, two words that the powers that be just hate. And while the revolution that Christ brings is not violent, it is nonetheless completely transformational.”

This is the reason why we keep focused on our Peace and Reconciliation advocacy as our small contribution to the advancement of justice-based peacebuilding initiative in this country.

Two weeks ago, we were hosting 50 budding social entrepreneurs from all over Mindanao—Indigenous People, Muslim, Christians—who are aware that the economic initiatives they are doing are meant to contribute to a positive, radical transformation of our people in this beautiful land.

We see this new generation of social entrepreneurial activists as the new inter-faith, peaceful, positive, sustainable, regenerating revolutionaries.

This Christmas Season, may we all experience the Peace of God — that radically-transforming, peaceful kind of Christmas about which Mary was singing.

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