Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Mennonites facilitating peace with Muslims in the Philippines

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Dann Pantoja (Vancouver, BC) wroteon February 12, 2009 at 5:51pm
This is a kairos-moment for the Church in the Philippines. We sense that the Spirit of God is prompting the Body of Christ to be a mediator among various conflicting groups in our land.

In July 05, 2008, we arranged a meeting between the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC) and the Peace Panel of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). It was the first time that a Muslim revolutionary front had a face-to-face dialogue with a group of conservative Evangelical Christian leaders. Since then, we have observed indicators of prejudice reduction among them.

In August 07, 2008, an international Mennonite delegation helped us in our conflict transformation activities. Jack Suderman (General Secretary, MC Canada) and his wife Irene, Janet Plenert (Executive Secretary, MC Canada Witness), Naomi Unger (Mennonite World Conference General Council Committee Member), Markus Rediger (Executive Director, MC Switzerland), and Peter Stucky (Executive Director, MCC Columbia) met to dialogue with leaders of the MILF in the morning and with Major General Raymundo Ferrer of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in the afternoon. We were warmly met by both the MILF and the AFP, who have been participating in a protracted conflict for over 30 years and are currently at arms against each other in Mindanao.

In October 20-21, 2008, the leaders of the Integrated Mennonite Churches in the Philippines (IMCP) invited PBC to meet for prayer and to envision a partnership together to advance Anabaptist theology among our people. Gordon Janzen, the Mennonite Church Canada Witness’ facilitator for Asia, was present. During that two-day consultation, we have agreed to do the following : (a) to formalize the peacebuilding partnership between the IMCP and the PBC; (b) for IMCP to send volunteers to learn and serve with PBC in Mindanao; (c) to design together a new biblical peacebuilding training program and to offer this peacebuilding training to all IMCP pastors; (d) to adopt the Mennonite Church Canada/USA logo as a common graphic image that will help build a common identity for all Mennonites in the Philippines; (e) to find a way to let the whole country know that there are Mennonites in this archipelago; (f) to have coffee shops all over the country where Anabaptist peacebuilding resources can be discussed and distributed; (g) to develop peacebuilding ministries focusing on our relationships within IMCP congregations and families; (h) to appoint a specific committee to lead in building peace and reconciliation among IMCP congregations; (i) to establish connection with other Mennonite churches around the world; (j) to become a global church so that we can impact the world, particularly having relationships with other Mennonite churches in Asia. PBC invited these Filipino Mennonite leaders to Mindanao for a Peace Learning Tour last December 01-07, 2008. They also invited me to meet with their leaders and pastors on a quarterly basis for Anabaptist theological training and leadership development. With the help of Mennonite Church Canada Witness, I, representing PBC, committed to serve them on the basis of their invitation.

In February 04-08, 2009, the PCEC invited all the armed-political fronts in the Philippines to listen to their perspectives on the peace talks with the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP). PBC helped in coordinating with the Muslim rebels and the government authorities to make their mutual participation possible. The Policy Center at the Asian Institute of Management hosted and documented the event called “Conversations on Peace.” The MILF’s assessment of the event seemed very positive and even recognized the role and contribution of PCEC in gathering the various armed fronts.

Because of these challenges and opportunities facing the Body of Christ in this Southeast Asian archipelago, we are asking the other parts of the global Church to pray and walk with us in this exciting journey towards peace and reconciliation. Because we belong to the global Mennonite family, we are appealing to all who embrace Anabaptist tradition to help us to be the presence of Jesus—the Prince of Peace—in our conflicted socio-political context in the Philippines.

:: Help us send people, food and material goods to communities ravaged by war.

:: Help us encourage and support local churches and community groups in their efforts to provide food, health care, education, employment and social services.

:: Help us help people develop skills for creating peace in their families, neighborhoods, villages, towns and nations.

Mennonite World Conference


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