What is in the heart of Jihad?

Jihad. As a Christian I used to fear this word for I had grown to associate this with violence and war. But in my striving to understand Muslims and Islam, I found that this word simply means “struggle,” and this struggle may be internal as well as external efforts among the followers of Islam to be good Muslims. I myself have come to appreciate the concept of “jihad al-nafs,” or the struggle with the enemy within oneself, and I see the constant practice of overcoming and befriending our inner demons as the greatest battle that we, human beings, are to fight in our daily lives.

But today, there are those who pervert the real meaning of jihad. They are referred to as Jihadi, or jihadist. They are extremists who claim to be Muslims but are indoctrinated to fight for the creation of an Islamic state and wage war against all who, in their eyes, have corrupted the ideals of Islamic governance. Outbreaks of violent extremism and acts of terrorism are expressions of this contemporary phenomenon that plague our humankind today. They continue to sow terror in the name of Allah despite the fact that Muslim religious leaders and scholars condemn violent jihad as “not sanctioned by Islam.”

As a Catholic Christian struggling to promote peace among religions and build mutually respectful and collaborative relationships with Muslims, I wonder what is in the heart of jihadists. What is it that attracts them to extremist views, and to engage in dehumanizing acts of violence?

I came across this Bafta-nominated film JIHAD by Deeyah Khan, a Norwegian film director and human rights defender of Punjabi descent. She is an Emmy and Peabody award-winning documentary film director and founder of Fuuse, a media and arts company that tells moving stories of women and children from minority communities and cultures of Muslim heritage.

This is worth viewing.

Interfaith Action with Vision and Conviction

VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100    I have long harbored the desire and intention to share my experiences in the field of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding in some form of writing. I have been engaged in the endeavor for 16 years (since 1998). The challenges I have faced and the difficulties I have hurdled along the way have been richly laden with soul-nourishing moments that developed in me soul organs–organs through which I have learned (albeit with great difficulty!) to perceive and respond to the world around me with some clarity of vision, depth of conviction, and integrity of co-creative actions.

     There was no manual for interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding to guide me when I first started. I have had to play every moment by ear one movement at a time every step of the way. I did so with only the vision in my mind, the passion in my heart, and the music in my soul to guide me as I danced with the rhythm and flow of destiny’s unfolding in my life.

     A person I greatly admire in the field of peacebuilding once described the endeavor as a “marathon,” and spoke of us, peacebuilders, as “marathon runners.” Although I can understand this from the perspective of one who has been “running” for sixteen years in this so-called “marathon,” I do not wholeheartedly subscribe to this rather space-and-time bound description of the experience. It seems to me to focus rather much on the “running” experience as an effort that is functional, goal oriented, and temporal.  VLUU L100, M100  / Samsung L100, M100

    For me, the endeavor of interfaith dialogue and peacebuilding includes and transcends the boundaries of space and time. Here, every choice we make and every action that we take along the way arises from and is moved by the spirit within and around us–the spirit that enables us to see and appreciate wholeness and unity in the midst of fragmentation and diversity; to see peace as the true nature and being of humans, and as the matrix of creation giving order and meaning to chaos; and to awaken to the subtle arising and unfolding of truths in every present moment even when our intellectual minds are unable to detect or grasp them. In this light I see that hope inheres in every present moment. And the energies that arise from hope are those which embrace even our fears and human frailties so that we find ourselves in the eternal now of the moment, the now which is the wholeness of Divine Love that unites all in oneness.

     So I carry on with spirit strong even when the bodyInternational Women's Day celebration March 9 2012 210 is weak and maturing. In this light, time and space fall meaningless in my experience. There is always something transcendent and indescribably awe-inspiring about truth’s unfolding and revealing its essence in each present moment of my hopeful striving. Yes, the experience may be intellectually demanding and physically tiring. But there is something ennobling about this that is also spiritually uplifting and emotionally rewarding. I experience this in ways that give life clearer direction and deeper meaning.

Embracing Courage with Hope

Pembains embrace

Pembain’s embrace

    May I embrace you, Ma’am?  Pembain Suga Olimpain, a feisty 48-year old Muslim mother of ten children (all of them girls!) respectfully asked me this on the second day of our time together. She was one of the twenty-two participants of the 3-day workshop on Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation that I was privileged to conduct in North Cotabato,Mindanao from February 25-28. She was also one of those whose amazing story struck a chord in me.

    Pembain is from a barangay (community) in Aleosan, North Cotabato that is affected by sporadic outbreaks of armed conflict. She bore sixteen children in her lifetime, but only managed to save ten of them from the pangs of poverty and want. The hardships she has been experiencing have been exacerbated by the recurring cycles of conflict and violence in their area. For Pembain, surviving them meant that she had to teach in the nearby madrasah to be able to earn a living and bring food to their table. Helping her husband plow the fields and till the farmlands brings little financial security to the family in times of war, she said. There is very little money to be had there that would compensate for the heavy toll this took on her body. So she prefers teaching children to become better Muslims, she said, and she finds deep fulfillment in it.

Lourdes saying NO to violence

Lourdes saying NO to violence

Lourdes' hope

Lourdes’ hope

    Pembain’s story is one of the many stories that remain vivid in my memory. There is Sive’s story as well, and Lourdes’ and many others. They are awe-inspiring stories of courage and hope that stand out against the stark backdrop of violence and war.

Hope & pain

A vision of peace vis-a-vis the reality of violence

SHEG group photo

Leaders of the Self Help Group (SHEG) & Cluster Level Associations (CLA) with community leaders and Balay Rehabilitation staff

     It was a thrill for me to be able to return to North Cotabato just three weeks after having been there to conduct our Fetzer Institute funded workshop on Interfaith Dialogue for Muslim-Christian Understanding. I was invited this time by Mon Plasabas of Balay Rehabilitation (based in the municpality of Midsayap) to give a workshop on Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation to women leaders of Cluster Level Associations and Self Help Groups (SHEG) representing five barangays (communities) of Aleosan, a municipality in North Cotabato affected by armed conflict.  Three men (local barangay leaders) took the courage to join the women and likewise engage themselves in the workshop experience. It was heartwarming to see them there!

Mon Plasabas, in-charge of Balay Rehabilitation in North Cotabato

Mon Plasabas, in-charge of Balay Rehabilitation in North Cotabato

With Balay staff-- Nash, Bai, and Gigi

With Balay staff– Nash, Bai, and Gigi

     I was glad for another opportunity to see how the peacebuilding training modules that I had developed–using John Paul Lederach’s teachings on MORAL IMAGINATION (MI) and its four disciplines–would work in helping Balay Rehabilitation, our Mindanao-based partner organization, realize its objectives in providing its grassroots community leaders with training in peacebuilding and conflict transformation.

    I was told upon my arrival there that violence had erupted anew in two neighboring communities in Aleosan, and residents feared that this might escalate to such an extent that their lives would be adversely affected and endangered again. But despite the apprehensions our workshop pushed through at a venue about 1 and 1/2 hours away from the area of conflict.

Rey (Balay Field Coordinator for SHEG) & Lisa Ugay (Balay Rehabilitation, Manila)

Rey (Balay Field Coordinator for SHEG) & Lisa Ugay (Co-facilitator, Balay Rehabilitation, Manila)

Peace greetings

Coming to a Common Ground: Participants from five barangays meet and introduce themselves to each other

    Conducting the workshop was a huge challenge to me for various reasons. One of which was the fact that the participants were tri-people– composed of Maguindanaon Muslims, Ilonggo Christians, and indigenous Manobos– who all spoke their own dialects! So I had to switch from speaking Tagalog, the language that most Filipinos understand, to Bisaya, the language that is widely spoken in Mindanao (but is not generally accepted by Muslims because it is identified with the Christian settlers). Although I was born and raised in Mindanao, I now live in Metro Manila where Tagalog is the language used, and not Bisaya. So I was pleasantly surprised that, after some awkward attempts at first, I was able to switch from Bisaya to Tagalog with ease, and could understand a bit of Ilonggo (because my parents were from Iloilo).

    Those three days of training in Mindanao made me realize why I love the work that I am doing. This calls for designing and developing workshop programs on dialogue and peacebuilding, conducting them and engaging myself in the exciting process of training people in the grassroots! It is always awe-inspiring to bear witness to the “miracle” of transformation happening in our midst as the days unfold!

    While conceptualizing and drafting the workshop design, it is all I can do to hope that the modules and activities that I decide to include in it would work for the participants and serve them well. But as I go through the process of actually facilitating the workshop, I experience anew the humbling realization that what we are engaged in together is not happening because of my work alone. There is something bigger than myself that is always moving and weaving its Spirit within me and among everyone who participates in the experience! Thus, my workshops are deeply listening processes that are fluid and open to revisions and re-directions as we go with the flow of the spirit moving in our midst.

    It amazes me no end to see how these workshops become catalysts for self-awareness and transformation among us. It moves us in ways that are spirit-filled and “larger than ourselves” than I always imagine! It is like throwing a tiny pebble into a pond and seeing the ripples grow wider and wider or putting yeast in a dough and seeing it rise!

Beginning journey- Kumustahan

Beginning the journey- Kumustahan

     The participants came in the first day looking tired and weary, but they later seemed to come alive and become energized in the course of the workshop–with their eyes growing lively and attentive, bodies fully engaged in the creative work of the modules, and minds processing the experience with questions and reflections. As workshop facilitator and trainer, holding a workshop group together fully and completely in mind, body and spirit for three days is not easy. But seeing the transformation happening is always worth all the sacrifice!

    I was with them and, happily, they were with me too. We were one in the journey of heart and mind! And it was fulfilling beyond words to realize that the energy, positive thought forms, and heartfelt intentions that I invested of myself in the endeavor set into motion more energies, positive thought forms, and heartfelt intentions that inspired all participants together to commit themselves (individually and collectively) to engage in co-creative action in order to realize their shared visions of peace in their respective communities!

    Here are glimpses of how the days unfolded:

Sharing photo journey

What attracted me to this photo, and why

    DAY 1. We began the journey with INNER WORK FOR SELF-AWARENESS & TRANSFORMATION. This called for exercises that “unlocked the door to our inner landscape.” The journey inwards began with breathing exercises. Then, while engaged in mindful breathing, the participants slowly walked around in a big circle–the sacred space and common ground they had earlier created–and then around a table where black-and-white photographs were displayed. After another walk around the table, the participants picked a photograph that attracted them the most, took this to a quiet corner of the hall for silent reflection, then later gathered in small circles to share with others their reflection on what it was that attracted them to the photo and why.

Sharing a glimpse of my inner landscape

Sive’s hands expressing anger and pain

Hope & fear

Hope for peace vis-a-vis the reality of violence (Sive’s memory of seeing someone shot in the head)

Reflection circle

Inner Work Circle

    This led to reflections on conflict in their lives, and to exercises that enabled them to see conflict as “neither bad nor good” but as a turning point in human relationships that heralded opportunities for growth. A moment of guided reflection encouraged them to express their experience of conflict in their lives, to image their “enemy” in their minds, and to express negative thoughts and feelings with their hands through clay work.

Hamsiya's fence

Hamsiya’s fence of fear

Tug of war

Tug of war

    This exercise was followed by presentations on what conflict is, and John Paul Lederach’s six relational shifts that happen when conflict is not perceived as an opportunity for growth in relationships and addressed accordingly.

Listening Stone

Listening Stone, anchoring oneself in stillness

Sive's stone

What my stone said to me about me

Yin-yang

Listening Stones on clarity of Yang & the passion of Yin

    The participants were given a glimpse of how thought forms affect human relationships. Then the Listening Stone exercise enabled the participants to anchor themselves deeply in stillness and listen to silence speak within themselves. Listening Stones were painted with vivid colors to visually express the beauty of the participants’ inner landscape.

Bailan's stone

Bailan’s Listening Stone

   

Creative reflection on the experience of war

Burning negativities

Burning negative thoughts and feelings that get in the way of conflict transformation

   The day ended with a ritual of burning negative thoughts and feelings.

Pembain’s resolve


DAY 2.
The journey continued with exercises that engaged the participants in the experience of awakening their capacities for Moral Imagination (MI). After the presentation on what Moral Imagination is as defined by John Paul Lederach (in his book Moral Imagination: Art and Soul of Building Peace), its four disciplines were explained in detail, followed by a guided visioning exercise on what peace looked like in their community in the year 2020.

Sharing visions of peace in community

    The participants were divided into four groups (according to barangays or community). Each participant in the group shared his/her vision of what their community would be like in 2020. From the vision sharing of individuals in the group, a big picture of the community was created by everyone as they participated in drawing and coloring their shared vision of what their community would look like six years from now.

Drama presentation of the practice of Moral Imagination discipline #1: Centrality of Relationships

Drama presentation on the practice of Moral Imagination discipline #1: Centrality of Relationships

Barangay Dungu-an & Dualing dramatizing Moral Imagination discipline on risk-taking

Barangay Dungu-an & Dualing dramatizing Moral Imagination discipline on risk-taking

  Then each barangay group discussed the current situation of conflict that they were experiencing in their community and, using the MI discipline assigned to their group, presented in drama form the steps that they would take to realize their shared vision of their community in 2020.

    One of the most powerful sharing was on the MI discipline of risk-taking. The feisty Pembain said that, for the sake of her ten surviving children–all girls in their teens and early thirties–she wanted to see the end of violence in her community. She said that she would take the risk of reaching out to the women in the “enemy camp” to encourage them to join her in the peacebuilding endeavor. She went on to detail her risky “covert operation” which to her would lead to all participating Muslim women wearing the same colored tondong (veil) and the Christian women wearing the same colored scarf around their necks as a statement of their stand for peace. This was received with applause by everyone around the circle. I could not help but wish that John Paul Lederach was there to witness this. In the silence of my heart I felt deep gratitude for this gift of awareness of the power of Moral Imagination and its four disciplines that I had received from him!

Being blindfolded and not knowing where to go

         The importance of anchor points (or people of influence) was brought to the fore in the process, and the steps that needed to be taken in DIALOGUE for conflict transformation and peacebuilding were identified by the participants themselves. The day ended with exercises in SEEING DIFFERENCES in Position and Disposition, and this gave rise to many rich insights and realizations concerning dialogue and relationship-building from the participants.

Seeing DIFFERENCES in POSITION

Seeing DIFFERENCES in POSITION

    DAY 3. The last day focused on Awareness of the Self in Relation to the “other.” It highlighted the value of DIALOGUE in relationship-building and conflict-transformation. Deep Dialogue was defined and practiced in small dialogue circles with the aid of the Listening Stone, and the participants were encouraged to listen deeply to the NEED of the “other” that lie underneath the POSITION, INTEREST, and VALUES of the person. Words of comfort and assurance (arising from their listening stillness) were given by each person to the other in their small circle.

Symbol-Dualing

Barangay Dualing-Symbol of Peace

Symbol-Malapang

Barangay Malapang- Symbol of Peace

Symbol-Bagolibas

Barangay Bagolibas- Symbol of Peace

Affirming community friendship and support

To prepare the participants to face the challenges of peacebuilding in their conflict-affected communities, an orientation seminar on the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamroro (FAB) was given. This gave rise to many questions and expressions of apprehensions concerning the impact of the FAB on their lives. Lisa Ugay, who did the presentation, responded to them with reminders on how they could be the change that they wished to see in their respective communities, and make  something good out of this opportunity for transformative change to be possible in their midst.

Dungu-an women presenting their Symbol of Peace

Barangay New Leon-Symbol of Peace

Web of Commitment to Peace

   The closing ritual saw the participants transform the negative thoughts and feelings that shaped their clay artwork (during the first day) to one beautiful Symbol of Peace in their community that they all participated in shaping together. This they presented at the sacred space at the center of the common ground that they had earlier created, and a WEB OF PEACE was woven out of their individual pledge of commitment to hold in their hearts and minds the individual responsibility for ongoing collective conflict transformation and peacebuilding in their community.

Symbol of Peace- Dungu-an

Symbol of Peace- Dungu-an

Happy Ending

Happy Ending

    On my flight back to Manila, the sense of awe, joy, and gratitude for all that I have experienced in Mindanao kept my spirits high. It stayed with me long after we landed on solid ground. Bearing witness to the ways that poverty stricken and conflict-ridden people in the grassroots can become aware of and awaken to the power within themselves–for being the change that they wish to see in their world, and for being part of a co-creative peoples’ movement for social transformation—is a larger-than-life human experience that never ceases to amaze me!

Celebrating 12 years of interfaith peacebuilding

[First published on April 27, 2013]

INTERFAITH HARMONY COLLAGE April 14 2013

    On March 14, 2013, almost a hundred people of diverse religions, spiritual expressions and indigenous traditions gathered together at the Ananda Marga Yoga Center in Anonas, Quezon City to celebrate FAITHS IN HARMONY. This was a joyful gathering that marked the 12th year anniversary of The Peacemakers’ Circle in its endeavors to promote Interfaith Dialogue and Peacebuilding.  Despite the summer drizzle, friends and supporters came and offered prayers for peace in music and dance; old friendships were renewed, new friendships were made; and a healthy vegetarian feast not only satisfied our hunger but also nourished our souls with the spirit of friendship and solidarity. We rejoiced in our togetherness and looked forward with anticipation to the journey ahead!

    Today, we at The Peacemakers’ Circle give thanks for the friendship, inspiration and support that our friends have given us these past twelve years! And we look forward to many more years ahead with new hope and commitment to the ongoing endeavor of building mutually respectful and harmonious relationships between and among peoples of diverse cultures and beliefs!   People holding hands in unity

    In this spirit of gratitude and joy, I am pleased to announce that in May we shall be launching our pilot project on INTRA-FAITH DIALOGUE FOR MUSLIM-CHRISTIAN RELATIONSHIP-BUILDING in the conflict-affected communities of Midsayap and Aleosan in North Cotabato, Mindanao. This is a one-year training workshop program that aims to promote Love and Forgiveness in those communities. This will be conducted in partnership with the Balay Rehabilitation Center, the Imam Council of the Philippines, and the Episcopal Commission on Interreligious Dialogue of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (ECID-CBCP). This project is made possible through funding by the Fetzer Institute of Kalamazoo, Michigan, and the support of Dr. Ruben Habito of the Perkins University (Dallas, Texas). A film documentary on the dialogue process will be produced by Surf Reyes.

    While this is happening, our interfaith dialogue activities and initiatives in Metro Manila shall continue under the care of Shakuntala Vaswani and Orlan de Guzman; a weekend retreat on Inner Work for Self-Awareness Transformation is scheduled for November; and our Muslim-Christian Relationship-Building work in grassroots communities continues–in Tala (Caloocan City), Culiat (Quezon City), Maharlika-Bicutan (Taguig), and in Quiapo (Manila)–with the support of the Australian Embassy and other friends and supporters, most prominent of which is Rev. Fr. Andre De Bleeker, CICM, who has been helping to generate substantial funds (from Belgium) for our work these past five years! Thank you, Fr. Andre!

    Fr. Andre De Bleeker, CICM is leaving the Philippines for good on May 28, 2013. He has been assigned to take charge of the CICM archives in Rome. We are happy for him and wish him happiness and success in his endeavors! Godspeed, Fr. Andre! Fr. Andre De Bleeker, CICM-SALAMAT May 25 2013

    Once again, thank you all for being part of our enriching and inspiring interfaith journey! We look forward to growing with you as we carry on with new hope and aspirations for the future!

Peace is a narrow and bumpy road, Juan!

[First published on August 2, 2013]

Midsayap July 25-28- Muddy road

The Peacemakers’ Circle team brave the “rebel’s path” in Aleosan and Midsayap, North Cotabato.

      Last Thursday (July 25), a team of four people representing The Peacemakers’ Circle travelled from “imperial Manila” to the remote villages of Aleosan and Midsayap in North Cotabato, Mindanao to promote Intra-Faith Dialogue for Muslim-Christian Peace- and Relationship-Buildingamong the victims of armed conflict there.

    What we thought would be a journey that would unfold according to well laid plans turned out, in fact, to be an adventure of faith as we began our first steps facing the worrisome challenge of almost missing our flight to Davao and then having to wait another two hours in Davao for luggage to arrive in another plane!

    Unfazed, I and the three other members of our team–Imam Ebra Moxsir, Al-Haj (President of the Imam Council of the Philippines), Orlan de Guzman (Project Coordinator of The Peacemakers’ Circle), and filmmaker Surf Reyes (AdvocaCinema)–travelled from Davao to Kidapawan, then on to Aleosan and Midsayap along the concrete highways of our fears, past Manubuan (the boundary between Matalam and Kidapawan) where fierce fighting occurred last Sunday (July 21) between warring clans of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front  (MILF) and the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).

    Faith prevailed over our fears during our four-day visit, though our resolve was tested upon our arrival when an earthquake occurred while we were having an ifthar dinner for Imam Moxsir, Nhaz and Bai with the Balay Rehabilitation team at the fourth floor of our hotel. Our presence here must be earthshaking, quipped Surf Reyes; and I wondered what this meant if, indeed, nothing in this world happened by chance!

Midsayap July 25-28-Muddy junction with Orlan (1)

Orlan and Marites preparing for the walk along the muddy “rebel’s path” (said to be the route of the Bangsamoro Freedom Fighters) to the Muslim community of Dungguan in Aleosan, North Cotabato, Mindanao, southern Philippines.

    We geared up early for our “mission” the next day. But, in Sitio Mampurok, Dualing, we found ourselves having to abandon the comfort (and relative safety!) of our air conditioned van at a muddy juncture along the road. We had to walk a winding narrow path (which was said to be the path of attacking rebels!) just to get to the places where we were expected to be. It helped that our two young field coordinators of the Balay Rehabilitation Center—Gigi Mapanao (Catholic) and Nhaz Matula (Muslim)—who cheerfully served as our guides, kept us laughing at ourselves along the way. And when rain started to drizzle and the road got too muddy, they happily showed us the easiest way to reach the people waiting for us at the end of the road–by riding astride the trusty habal-habal (motorbike) with as much grace that we could muster without falling off our seats when the tires stuck to the mud or when the going got really bumpy!

    I worried that the exertion and excitement might be too much for Imam Ebra Moxsir who was observing Ramadan and was fasting the whole day, but he said that he only had to see me on the bike to be assured that he could survive the experience as well.

Midsayap July 25-28-Habal-habal

Orlan and Surf enjoying the habal-habal ride

Midsayap July 25-28-Field coordinators

Orlan with local field coordinators Nasser Matula and April Mapanao of Balay Rehabilitation Center

Midsayap July 25-28-Barangay mtg

Christian meeting in Dualing, Aleosan

Midsayap July 25-28-Under the tree

Muslim meeting in Dualing

    Our perseverance paid off and we finally got to meet the Muslims and Christians of the SALAM and the SHALOM Community Intra-Faith Dialogue Circles that Gigi and Nhaz established for this pilot project last May in the barangays(villages) of Aleosan and Midsayap.

Midsayap July 25-28-Bullet holes on the wall

Imam Ebra Moxsir of The Peacemakers’ Circle with Ustadz Esmail inspecting the holes on the wall of the madrasah in Pagangan.

    We met the Muslims and Christians separately in different places—in a makeshift barangay hall in Dungguan, under the trees and a nipa hut in Dualing, in the UCCP church in Baliki, and in a madrasah along the highway of Pagangan that had gaping holes on the wall that served as a grim reminder of the military “clearing operation” during the “all-out war” in 2000 that killed innocent women and children. There, the gentle Ustadz Abdul Rahman Esmael recalled how Fr. Bert Layson, OMI, saved many lives (including Ustadz Esmael’s) by pleading to the battalion commander of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to halt the operation. It was May 5, 2000. He remembered the date clearly as though it was indelibly etched in his memory.

    We spoke to them–our newfound Muslim and Christian friends in the four conflict-affected barangays of Midsayap and Aleosan–not of promises to fulfill as politicians would, but of shared hopes and dreams of peace, alleviation from the hardships of life lived in poverty and fear, and of the sense of empowerment that comes with embodying the teachings and ideals of our faith as true believers in Christ and true followers of Islam.

Midsayap July 25-28-Shalom mtg at UCCP church 2

Meeting with the Christian leaders in Baliki

Midsayap July 25-28-MILF Chairman Bacron smiling

Bapa Abubkr “Bacron” Ibrahim, the kindly MILF chairman in Dualing.

July 25-28-Dungguan with leaders

The team with Muslim leaders in Dungguan, Aleosan.

    What we said must have resonated in the hearts of those who cared to listen. They must have heard the quiet hope in the silences between our words for we were responded to shyly with warm embraces and quiet assurances of support. As he said goodbye to us, Bapa Abubakr “Bacron” Ibrahim (the kindly old chairman of the MILF in Dualing) flashed us a most disarming smile that captured my heart and inspired me with the sense of certainty that peace is not just a promise in these conflict-affected parts of our country. It is a reality that needs only to be awakened—lovingly–in the hearts of those who have been overcome by anger, hatred, and fear; and nurtured over time with sincerity, humility, patience and perseverance.

    In my journey of fifteen years along the path of interfaith dialogue and relationship-building, I have learned that peace is not a “daang matuwid”or a straight path to follow in the same way that President Aquino would say of the fight against corruption in our country. More often than not, peace is a narrow, winding and bumpy road that demands from those who traverse it clarity of vision, depth of conviction, sincerity and passion (for being the change that they wish to see), patience and commitment to engage in reflective co-creative action with fellow travelers in the journey.

    For us at The Peacemakers’ Circle and the Balay Rehabilitation Center, there are still “miles to go before we sleep” and we are deeply grateful to those who believe in us, support our work, and keep us company in the journey. We thank you all very sincerely!