A total of 70 tri-people youth leaders coming from all regions of Mindanao and some parts of Manila represented by various organizations advocating the culture of peace convened in a 5-day Mindanao Youth Peace Summit and Peace Mission with the theme of “Building Ethno-Cultural and Interfaith Bridges and Understanding among the Youth” from October 25-29, at St. Joseph Retreat House, Tamontaka, Municipality of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Shariff Kabunsuan Province.
Spearheaded by Generation Peace Network and other affiliated organizations in Mindanao, the summit provided avenues for youth to develop appreciation on various cultural backgrounds, discuss peace and conflict situations and its effect, draw out peace agenda for peace in Mindanao as well as dialogue with peace partners and conflict stakeholders.
Participants shared experiences of mixed emotions after witnessing the glaring effects of armed violence during the community visits in three different conflict-affected communities of Central Mindanao. Thousands of evacuees were lined up at main roads and school premises that serve as evacuation camps predominantly affected by youth, children and elders. The presence of a huge number of militaries and burnt houses pictured a feeling of hopelessness and despair. Stories of civilians caught in the dilemma of dreaming for a peaceful community against the inclusion of offensives from the GRP and MILF provided the participants the venue to draw out immediate agendas to better cater the sentiments of the majority for the Midsayap and Datu Piang Cluster.
Meanwhile, UPI Cluster envisioned by the peaceful coexistence of tri-people dominated by the Teduray-Lambangian Indigenous Peoples inspired the youth to integrate the tri-people approach for governance and socio-economic, cultural responsibilities.
Peace Advocates Zamboanga (PAZ) Youth Coordinator and MYPEACE Representative Aldrin B. Abdurahim and Youth Solidarity for Peace/AGAPE Youth member Robert Basco integrated the mechanisms of culturing the minds and hearts of the youth with the culture of peace grounded on building the ethno-cultural and interfaith understanding among the youth of Mindanao. Basco, was provided with an avenue to meet personally MILF Peace Panel Chairman, Mohagher Igbal, who said “what is striking for Western Mindanao group (referring to Basilan, Zamboanga Peninsula and Archipelago of Sulu), is that all share in the vision of a peaceful mechanism to find common grounds for the present conflict situation to be addressed”. Meanwhile, Abdurahim, interviewed by the local newspapers and DXUPI Radio Station anchors during the Boses ng Kabataan, stressed that “tri-people youth are the sources of inspirations in crafting out agenda and resolutions to the peace and conflict situations in Mindanao” He added that “the opportunity of witnessing first-hand effects of armed hostilities will not be a hindrance to share the vision of hope and dreams for a peaceful Mindanao”.
On October 27, a plenary discussed how to find common grounds after Datu Jun Montawil, MILF Peace Panel Secretariat Head and Santos Unsad of the Timuay Justice Governance and OSCC shared their perspectives on the present situation of Mindanao. After finding common grounds, an action plan for the regions followed. A peace vigil at the Cotabato Plaza was organized to advocate the sentiments of the youth with the call of understanding the MOA-AD better, resume the peace talks for the GRP and MILF Peace Panels as well as Give Peace a chance. The following day, a Press conference was held through the released statement calling for the immediate cessation of hostilities and resumption of peace talks. Abdurahim stressed that “peace is very possible to attain and be integrated as a way of life if people themselves build bridges of peace through ethno-cultural and historical understanding of one’s relationships especially for the youth”.