By Chariya ‘Aya’ Om, ICPeace Intern, 28 September 2012
Whenever I see a smile in a child, it gives me so much happiness and hope. Yet whenever I see a harsh condition inflicted on a child, it poses me so many doubts and pictures about the future. Children and youths are the future of the family, the country and the whole world; thereby, they have to be nourished for their utmost development.
To ensure their healthy growth, there have been so many treaties/conventions adopted and enshrined , specifically and namely the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention of Rights of the Child, and the 1949 fourth Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons during Times of War, aiming to promote and to protect their rights.
Though there have been so many efforts and solidarities from the local up to the global level, many children are still being deprived to enjoy their rights at the fullest capacity, no thanks to armed conflicts. Aleosan, one of the municipalities of North Cotabato, was identified as one of the most affected areas in the long-running armed clashes in Southern Philippines. Not surprisingly, innocent children, one of the most vulnerable groups, have been strongly affected by such violence. Living under such life threatening conditions traumatizes them more, and this is a general assumption that has obsessed people’s mind.
However, living through traumatic events, it does not necessarily mean they have become victims of the traumatic event, as Nobel Laureate Dekha Ibrahim Abdi said, “I refuse to be a victim, I am a resource for peace.” I have seen this with my own eyes when I had a chance to co-organize and join a peace painting workshop dubbed “Building Peace In My Home,” which was hosted by BMFI Aleosan to celebrate the International Day of Peace last September 21. Had I not been given the chance to meet those Aleosan youths who have grown up amidst armed conflicts, I may not have believed how strong and resilient they are to become resources for building peace in their own communities and country.
To fulfill their interest in painting, the workshop was designed to provide a secured place for the students to initiate and develop their own ideas, firstly by identifying key issues which they had endured, and secondly, by defining interventions how to build a culture of peace in their barangays. The core conceptual framework of cultivating a culture of peace developed by Toh (2007 ) and Ledesma (2007) were used to design and guide this painting workshop. Approximately 60 youths from two schools – Aleosan National High School and Pagangan High School – attended the workshop by expressing their inspiration and enthusiasm in painting regarding building a culture of peace.
The workshop started by having students articulate their expectations. It was so inspiring to hear their life visions through their expectations, and all of these have reflected commitment and determination. Primarily, they mentioned that they wanted to develop their ideas, talents and skills in peace building through their painting, and also wished to express their feelings and freedom in relation to the mentioned issues. What was inspiring was them wanting to be more responsible for their families and country through participation in the peace process. Additionally, they hoped to enjoy and to have fun during celebration of the International Day of Peace.
Before the painting started, they were paired to work together, aiming to discover qualified merits of their partners, and each of them was invited to give a presentation about their partner to their respectively assigned group. This exercise was an attempt to build up self esteem and relationships among the team members since many of them never knew each other previously. From this activity, I observed that those who were introduced to the whole group by their partners showed their good impressions since their truly qualified merits were publicly pronounced and heard by their friends. Though there are so many definitions of peace, I am convinced that peace generally starts with a self satisfaction of who you are and what you want to achieve in your life. Similarly, inter-peace begins with a recognition and acknowledgement of one’s truly qualified merits that have not violated another one’s rights. In that sense, building trust and relationships among them were imperative.
After the building trust and self-esteem exercise concluded, the students proceeded to indentify key issues they were facing in their barangays. Corruption, poverty, war, fighting, crimes, drugs, gambling, kidnapping, pollution and food shortage were pointed out as the key issues by the students. All of these described by the youth are consequences of a culture of violence, specifically on the area of armament, structure violence, and environmental issues. More critically, their responses showed deep understanding and awareness of the key issues which had prevented them from enjoying their full rights. Furthermore, they continuously reflected how they wished to encounter all these mentioned issues when they were developing their ideas how to build a culture of peace in their homes and communities. Though their ideas were conveyed into approximately 150 paper-pigeon cards, they touched upon various dimensions of a culture of peace introduced by Toh (2007) and Ledesma (2007). As mentioned above, although the culture of peace framework developed by Toh (2007) & Ledesma (2007) were utilized to design the workshop format, they were not used to impose and hamper the students’ self-conceptualization.
Their ideas developed during the painting processes depicted that they were the experts on how to reconstruct peace in their respective families, communities and country. Their paintings were so inspiring and impressive as these do not only show how talented they were in painting, but also reflected how deeply they understood the conflict dynamics that they had went through. Some students used consolidated approaches into their painting and some focused on a single approach. Regardless of the single or multiple approaches they shaped it on, their paintings pronounced equal voice that has to be considered and integrated into peace processes.
At the end of the day, we had about 61 paintings produced by the youth participants. After spending time with those youths for the whole day on the International Day of Peace, I felt so impressed and inspired by their actions to advocate for building peace in their communities. Had I not met those youths in person, I may not have believed how strongly and deeply they have been working to advocate for peace in their home and country. They are the expert of their own lives and country because “they refused to be victims but chose to be resources.”
Ledesma, A (2007). Six dimensions and operative values. Power Point Presentation.
Toh, Swee-Hin (2007). Pathways to the building of a culture of peace. Presented at the Peace Education Workshop in Uganda, 10-13 July 2007, organized by the Ugandan national commission for UNESCO and the Korean National Commission for UNESCO.
28 September 2012
Balay Mindanaw, Cagayan De Oro City, Mindanao, Philippines
OTHER ARTICLES ON THE INTERNATIONAL DAY OF PEACE IN ALEOSAN: