ONE Kagay-anon group's fight against violent extremism in Mindanao has resonated internationally, garnering success at the "2017 Peer to Peer: Facebook Global Digital Challenge" at Washington, DC last July 19.
"I am Mindanao," a social media awareness campaign by Xavier University’s (XU)Development Communication (DevCom) majors, started out as a project to educate their fellow XU students but became a larger call to spread awareness to the youth of Cagayan de Oro City and the whole Mindanao.
A timely social media campaign in light of the fighting in Marawi City between government forces and Islamic State-linked extremists, the social media campaign last week placed fourth among the 144 university participants worldwide.
They emerged as one of the most powerful social media campaigns against violent extremism along with the 'Think Twice, Act Wise' of the University of Dhaka form Bangladesh, 'I Am A Believer2' of the American University of Nigeria, and 'Rewind' of the CEU Universidad San Pablo from Spain.
'I am Mindanao' is aimed at educating the public, particularly, the youth of Cagayan de Oro City and its neighboring areas on violent extremism, strengthening the sense of pride of being Mindanaoans, and empowering the millennials to take part in peace and nation-building initiatives.
“It is strongly relevant for the youth because the violent extremist groups are recruiting young vulnerable Mindanaoans. We don't want this to happen to the youth of Mindanao,” Evans Yonson, ‘I Am Mindanao’ campaign supervisor and DevCom department chairman.
The campaign was named 'I am Mindanao' to awaken the sense of pride among the Mindanaoan youth about their place and of their obligation and power to fight the potential spread of violent extremism in Mindanao.
“We conducted dialogue-meetings with young tri-people (Christians, Muslims, and Lumads) leaders. These led to a more developed and an encompassing campaign,” Yonson said.
When they started last 2016, a series of activities had been carried out by the team, including a young communicators’ camp, some university seminars, informative social media contents, exhibits, and engaging projects, as efforts to lay down the foundation of countering violent extremism in Mindanao with the youth standing as “pioneers for change and development.”
Their Facebook post condemning the acts of terrorism in Marawi City last May 23 reached about 1.8 million users. After which, the campaign received large support from the community beyond Xavier Ateneo such as those coming form the Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro, Muslim leaders, schools, people's organizations, and private companies in the region.
“Our social media content and materials are research-based and developed locally. We utilize traditional and modern media — radio, TV, newspaper, blog, photography, video, and all possible social media platforms. We were quick to respond to the call for action, especially during the Marawi siege. We were already online and giving information two hours after the attack of Marawi started,” Yonson added.
Now that 'I am Mindanao' has been recognized in a higher plain, its members are now more inspired to continue their legacy and spread it further to more people in Mindanao.
Brian Adam Anay, the first DevCom student leader of the campaign Season 1, believes that Mindanaoans should actively take part in peace-building programs.
“We have the context. We know what is happening here. We understand the life and struggles of our fellow Mindanaoans. Interventions should be done starting from the community facing the problem, more than just imposing a new set of tools or system,” he said.
Now transitioning into its third year, 'I am Mindanao' came up with the #MealForMarawi fund-raising initiative in partnership with the Tech Camp Philippine delegation.
“The initiative raised and tripled the target of P25,000 [intended for] internally displaced families. We also helped in XU's Tabang Marawi during the repacking of relief goods,” shared Marvin Pamisa, ‘I am Mindanao’ Season 3 campaign leader.
“We are very thankful because our prayers were heard. The inclusion of 'I am Mindanao' in the final four is a privilege for us, Mindanaoans, to represent the country given the fact that violent extremism exists in our country today, as evidenced by what happened in Marawi City,” Rey Anthony Anacleto, ‘I am Mindanao’ Season 2 campaign leader.