The Manila and Mindanao Peace Project: We are one
READ NOW - J. Vincent Sarabia Ong () - December 18, 2010 - 12:00am

Mindanao covers an expansive amount of land, holds a rich cultural heritage in its soil and is inhabited by a population of resilient people. Yet, its beauty is cloaked under issues of kidnapping, terrorism, and discrimination. There is much to know, see, feel and experience that needs to be positively communicated for the south to be justly represented. Mindanao, in geographic magnitude and spirit, is too large to not be taken notice of.

These were my discoveries in my new job as executive assistant at PeaceTech, a non-profit organization for the youth encouraging communication technology in peace building. As my educational program is centered on linking Manila and Mindanao via video-conferencing ala Skype, I have been interacting with our Muslim brothers and the experience has been nothing less than eye-opening.

As I meet more people from Zamboanga, Iligan, and soon General Santos, I feel that Manila and Mindanao aren’t divided by religion or culture, but rather that we are one. We have the same needs, desires, and more importantly, aspirations. And my work at PeaceTech has given me the opportunity to share this experience with not just three people but 3,000 participants through its Manila-Mindanao video conference that was held last December 1 at De La Salle Taft and Western Mindanao State University. With 1,000 students in Manila (from FEU, Estebad Abada, Lakandula etc.) and another 2,000 in Zamboanga (ADZU, WYMSU etc.), the importance of sheer numbers was certainly felt as these young peace activists created a powerful and revolutionary dialogue for understanding, thus, proving that we can end the digital divide and start creating a digital communication revolution.

The Power Of Presence

Hello, Zamboanga!: Manila students meet their fellow students in Zamboanga.

The Manila-Mindanao mass video conference was hosted by socially-aware star KC Concepcion in Manila. While Baicon Macaraya, executive director for Bangsamoro Youth in the Ranao Center for Peace and Development Inc., took care of the enthusiastic crowd in Zamboanga. The hosts led the audience into a cross regional talk show with guests sharing their experiences with discrimination, in order to stop such an act from continuing in our society.

Guests such as Professor Jamail Kamlian from Mindanao State University IT unburdened his story of being disallowed from owning a home in a subdivision because he was Muslim. While MSU Marawi Professor Jane Asperin courageously shared her story of being kidnapped by Muslims despite resurfacing old wounds to explain her point about the need for peace. Lastly, Muslim teenager Abukar Tayuan spoke about his father sending him to Manila from Maguindanao because he had a Christian girlfriend. These speakers were tempered by OPAPP Undersecretary Luisito Montalbo and Dr. Grace J. Rebollos, president of Western Mindanao State University for a more enlightening discourse.

These stories illustrate how the circle of discrimination and violence can be vicious and should stop. We must start our own circles of understanding within our own community. At PeaceTech, our peace project utilizes the power of presence. Through video conferencing in classrooms and auditoriums, teens see beyond the lessons on paper and feel the subtle connection of presence. When students see each other on screen, they immediately have an instant understanding of commonality as teens. They overcome the barriers of mere appearances and titles, especially with the silly questions about love and life that bring about outbursts of laughter.

In our mass video conferences, PeaceTech utilizes the power of presence as we gather masses of thousands. These large numbers empower the youth to stand up for peace as they are encouraged by their peers to act towards a more civil society.

Peace Projects

Share the faith: Liga ng Kabataan Moro watches as the speakers share their views on discrimination.

And hopefully, by empowering the youth and you the reader with the power of technology and numbers, we can have the spread of peace projects offline and online. Peace projects can be as simple as singing a song about peace, as Cookie Chua and guitarist Mike Villegas did for the DLSU video conference, and uploading it online. It can be by sending tweets embracing culture and understanding differing beliefs or creating art that brings people together. It can also be as grand as PeaceTech founder Robin Pettyfer’s dream of seeing thousands of people linking up to learn and understand from each other.

Yet, what matters is that you start your own viral peace project in your way. It may be small or it may grand. It may not make a difference on its own. But together as one, we can make that difference that we all dream to achieve. Thus, peace isn’t Manila’s effort alone that will make a change, and not only Mindanao either. It is our effort together that will bring out the experience of unity, understanding and respect that we wish to see fulfilled. See you on the Net. Let’s gather online to make real world changes.

* * *

Thank you to La Salle’s Office of Student Affairs for assisting us for the event and venue, our hosts for their talent, the guests for their willingness to share and the PeaceTech team and ambassadors for their patience and passion in the project. PeaceTech’s Mass VideoConference is funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). See you at the Manila-Iligan Mass Video Conference on February 1.

For more details, check out http://peacetech.net, http://www.face book.com/peacetech.net, and http://peacetech.tumblr.com. Email me at janvincent@peacetech.net or readnow@supreme.ph.

ABUKAR TAYUAN AS I AUSTRALIAN AGENCY MANILA MANILA AND MINDANAO MINDANAO PEACE PEACETECH VERDANA ZAMBOANGA
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