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Participants in Fundamentals of Peacebuilding Training along the wall with Deng Giguiento leading an activity

Nurturing Peace: Insights and Commitments from the Fundamentals of Peacebuilding Workshop

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Deng Giguiento with a mic giving a presentationIn November 2023, MPI organized a special training on the Fundamentals of Peacebuilding for the Mahintana Foundation, Inc. (MFI) and its partners. MPI long-term facilitator Maria Ida “Deng” Giguiento led the training on November 8 and 9, 2023, at Malagos Garden Resort in Davao City. The event brought together 25 people from Mahintana Foundation staff and partnering organizations in South Cotabato, Davao Region, and Manila, Philippines.

This training went beyond just learning for those involved. It held deep meaning for community and development workers representing the Tripartite People of the Philippines—Lumad, Muslims, and Christians. Together, under the auspices of the Mahintana Foundation, Inc. (MFI), Kasilak Development Foundation, Inc., OND Hessed Foundation, Inc., Tribal Leaders Development Foundation, Inc., Maguindanaon Development Foundation, Inc., and Global Community Engagement and Resilience Fund, they shared common goals, relationships, and conversations.

MFI conveyed to MPI their united vision in pursuit of peace and justice in the land, and the collaborative and passionate cry of community and development workers who wanted to give more, serve better, and act justly in their complex context and in their diverse communities. Their love for their people and willingness to learn, unlearn, and relearn the skills and understanding about the foundations of peacebuilding, moved us to journey with them as it resonates with MPI's mission of a deep commitment to justice and peace; respect for human rights; and dialogue and solidarity among individuals, institutions, and communities of MPI.

Insights from the Fundamentals of Peacebuilding Workshop

Participants working at a table with manila and colored paper for a activityThe Fundamentals of Peacebuilding workshop at Malagos Garden Resort sparked profound reflections among participants from Mahintana Foundation, Inc. (MFI) and partner organizations. Emphasizing OWL - Openness, Willingness, and Listening, the workshop underscored the importance of these attributes in fostering understanding and resolution.

Participants grappled with the continuous nature of peacebuilding, realizing that resolving one conflict doesn't mark the end but signals the potential emergence of new challenges. This acknowledgment emphasized the need for sustained efforts and a commitment to the ongoing peacebuilding process.

The workshop became a platform for intellectual growth, addressing gaps in understanding the fundamentals of peacebuilding. Participants expressed an extraordinary thirst for learning, renewing their commitment to education and professional growth in the ever-evolving field of peacebuilding.

In personal spaces like the workplace and home, participants pondered on promoting peace and translating workshop insights into tangible actions. The workshop's impact extended to the practical realm, with newfound interest in becoming mediators and applying conflict resolution skills in various contexts.

Applying Workshop Learnings in the Workplace: A Commitment to Change

Participants working on the floor with manila and colored paper for a activityAs participants reflect on how they will integrate the insights gained from the Fundamentals of Peacebuilding workshop into their professional lives, a resounding commitment to change echoes through various expressions.

Many emphasize the importance of self-application as the starting point, acknowledging the need to embody peacebuilding principles personally before extending them to colleagues and the community. One participant emphasizes the significance of sharing newfound knowledge with their immediate circle, engaging in one-on-one sessions with coworkers, and fostering casual communication to disseminate peacebuilding insights.

The practical application of a peacebuilding lens in facilitating skills is highlighted, promising a transformative approach to conflict analysis related to workflow issues. Several participants expressed their intention to mediate and understand conflicting parties, thinking outside the box to achieve workplace harmony.

A commitment to share peacebuilding knowledge with colleagues and practice Nonviolent Communication (NVC) emerges as a recurring theme. Participants recognize the need for self-reflection and the integration of patience and respect into their professional interactions.

For some, the application extends beyond the workplace to encompass family and community. Participants expressed a desire to assess their programs through a peacebuilding lens, implementing necessary actions for positive change. The notion of starting within oneself is prevalent, with participants pledging to rekindle their peacebuilding lens and apply active listening skills to address personal and work-related concerns among staff.

Closing Remarks of Roel Ian Blanker, Program Manager of Mahintana Foundation

Roel Ian Blanker giving closing remarks in front of the participantsWe are deeply grateful for the guidance and knowledge provided by pioneers like Galtung, Lederach, and others. Conflict is an inherent part of our daily lives, a neutral force that can either spread like wildfire, causing damage and destruction or be harnessed for a brighter purpose, like cooking a delicious meal. This is where peacebuilding comes into play, transforming conflict into negative or positive peace and fostering positive relationship change.

We must recognize that conflict is energy-consuming and can escalate to violence, harming ourselves and others. As conflict intensifies, it becomes increasingly difficult to manage. We hurt each other, becoming like demons, and believing it is justifiable to suppress these demons through violence. However, there is hope. Violence inevitably runs out of ammunition. Eventually, it subsides, creating an opening for us, as peacebuilders, to engage in shuttle diplomacy. In our communities, workplaces, and families, we can take on the role of facilitators for peace, rather than saboteurs of harmony.

Let us utilize the newfound lenses we have acquired to identify and respond to conflict, whether it manifests as latent, confrontational, or in other forms. We should be able to recognize conflict in its various guises, large or small, visible, or concealed.

We have learned that our natural instinct when faced with conflict is to fight like cornered rats or flee from the situation altogether, especially when we feel defensive or weak. Yet, the most effective response is to confront the conflict head-on and communicate non-violently. Words, when wielded carelessly, can shatter a person's spirit and escalate conflict. In our culture, this is seeding hugot, sama ng loob, hinanaing.

Let us apply the tools of peacebuilding, including conflict tree analysis, stakeholder analysis, divider connector, NVC, the PIN tool, and others. Let’s continue the local negotiations and mediation to achieve our vision of peaceful communities.

Despite the challenges and the fact that community development is a thankless job, we must be kind to ourselves and acknowledge our accomplishments. Let us picture out our peace, find our personal symbols of peace, like a child freely soaring a kite, to remind ourselves of our unwavering commitment to peace.

Thank you to your respective offices for allowing you to travel.

Our deepest gratitude extends to our mentors, to our and personally my new nanay [mother] Maria Ida Guigento "Nanay Deng" and Queenie Liwat, for equipping us with the necessary knowledge and guidance to effectively do peacebuilding to prevent conflict and violent extremism through development projects. We are also immensely grateful to GCERF through the national Ms. Atty Jen Buan, for their unwavering belief and support. Let me end my remarks by raising our right hand and tap self, say good job, left hand say ang galing galing mo, at sabihin, kakayanin [you're very talented, and say, you can do it], we rest but we don’t quit because we have each other."

See more photos from the training here.