(Excerpts of my message for the "AC Davao-US Embassy Talks" with the theme, "Contributions to Peace and Security: Toward Mindanao Well-Being and Resilience" last 30 September 2019")
BEFORE we begin, I want to tell you all a story.
There was once a young boy that I knew that really wanted to make a difference in his community. He came from an Iranun family who instilled in him morals and values that made him want to pursue public service.
So, after college, he spent time doing a lot of volunteer work. He went back to his community and became a facilitator for dialogue in the area. Over time he became involved with a lot of non-profit and development issues, peace building, political participation, and even a stint in local politics.
In 2011, this young boy was able to work with people here in the Ateneo de Davao, and thus formed the Al Qalam Institute for Islamic Identities and Dialogue in Southeast Asia. With that, he is standing here in front of you, and the rest is history.
This spirit of the youth is something we know well in the office. We at the Al Qalam Institute have a very young staff, and are very dynamic and energetic to work for peace. Allow me to speak on how we in Ateneo have also tried, in our own small ways, to help bring about peace and development.
Since its inception in 2011, the Al Qalam Institute has evolved from being a mainly research-focused institute to its current activities on peace building, engagement, and dialogue. We are currently an inter-disciplinary and multiethnic institute that address the challenges on violent extremism and sustaining peace and development.
We believe that, on one hand, eliminating conflict is not necessarily establishing peace. On the other hand, there are also different kinds of peace, and we work towards one that is sustainable. One of the ways that we do this is through studying the research and data that is available.
As a dialogue institute, we make sure to include the voice of the grassroots communities in the programs that we make. One of the main ways we do this is through our Bitiala sessions. The word "bitiala" is a Maguindanaon word that means "conversation." With this we are able to gather and create safe spaces for our stakeholders, focusing on how we can provide better services to our people.
The series has evolved to be used in all of Al Qalam's activities and projects, including our engagements with the youth, peace building, and the Bangsamoro peace process. This is because we believe that there is a stark difference in the kind of peace that we want. What is peace, and how do we ensure that it is sustainable?
Johan Galtung, the father of peace studies, first came up with the concept of negative vs positive peace. With negative peace, it is defined as simply the absence of conflict. Positive peace, on the other hand, focuses more on maintaining and developing that peace. This includes restoring day-to-day activities, stimulating economic growth, livelihood, and the restoration of relationships that had been destroyed during said conflict.
Why are spaces like these relevant to our communities? How does this contribute to security? Usually when we think of security, we think of the military and the armed forces. Public order and safety is not the only thing we need to keep secure, however. We must also secure the trust in the people towards government services, towards our different sectors, and in themselves to be able to grow with the Barmm as needed.
This is only the start, however, of how dialogue can contribute to peace and development in our communities. The Bangsamoro is only an example of how we can bring about change to our areas, and bring together former enemies to work together. As a member of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority, it has been our mandate to ensure that positive peace is the way forward for us.
However, this is not enough. Even as a student or as a member of the academe, we also have to keep in mind that positive peace is only possible when everyone works together. That means that we have to continue the dialogues and the programs, and to prioritize the development of those who are disenfranchised.