Emotions are still running high following the clash in the Mamasapano, Mindanao between elite members of the Philippine police and Moro rebels that left 44 commandos, 18 rebels, and 3 civilians dead.
The incident raised doubts and questions on the integrity of the peace agreement between the government and the Moro rebels with some parties even pushing for an all-out war in Mindanao.
I have never been to the war-torn areas of Mindanao but I am sensible enough to know that an all-out war would entail not only financial costs but also social, psychological, and political risks, among others.
Recently, I was fortunate enough to participate in the YSEALI (Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative) United for Peace program and was able to listen to the inspiring and haunting stories of fellow young Filipinos, Indonesians, and Thais who have experienced the intractable effects of conflict in their lives.
The YSEALI United for Peace was aimed at examining religious and cultural conflicts in Southeast Asia and developing strategies to address violence that polarizes communities.
This gathering was organized by the Focolare Movement in cooperation with U.S. Embassy Manila.
During the program, the participants were able to discuss and explore how intercultural dialogue can serve as a tool for resolving disputes.
It served as a network of thirty young peace advocates in Southeast Asia, who will develop projects or campaigns that will address conflict in their respective communities.ALL-OUT PEACE. For war victims Bari Macalawan and Aliya Agbon, the Filipinos should work together for our peace and security.
Bari Macalawan of the Young Moro Professionals Network said an all-out war should never be an option in order to avoid aggravating the situation in Mindanao, and to avoid the waste of resources in the current peace process.
“On the ground, no one from Cotabato, Maguindanao, or Lanao desire for war to happen in Mindanao. All the persons who are calling for war are from Luzon or Visayas. People in Mindanao would never want another war,” he shared.
Majara Imran of Sulu Island in Mindanao, meanwhile, appealed to those calling for war to put themselves in the shoes of Filipinos living in Mindanao.
“It is very hard for us to accept that people want an all-out war because they have never experienced how hard to be victims of war,” she said.
Founder of Kids for Peace Foundation, Aliya Abgon, said everyone should give peace a chance in order to save innocent civilians from being displaced, avoid properties from being destroyed, keep the children from being forced to live in evacuation centers.
“We help the survivors of wars and disasters through psychosocial assistance and creative workshops like photography, painting, and song writing,” relayed Agbon.
Conflicts often stem from differences in cultural values and beliefs, but for Lilia Tantoco of the Focolare Movement, young people must learn to celebrate and embrace this diversity.
“Almost all of the young people today are marred by conflict. And there are different kinds of conflict: armed conflict, political conflicts, family conflicts, ethnic conflicts, or land conflicts. In this event, we teach young people, so that in the face of conflict, they would know how they can restore peace and understanding in their communities,” shared Tantoco.
Despite the challenges confronting the peace process, the Filipinos must be reminded that the country needs an all-out peace now more than ever.
“I call for peace process, communication, negotiation, and meeting half-way. We should really listen to each other in order to understand our underlying needs,” urged Filipino delegate John Badawi.
There should be no alternative for us other than peace. As what John Lennon said, give peace a chance.
This article was written by Ferth Vandensteen Manaysay as part of the ASEAN-Korea Center’s correspondent program.