Nonviolence, Peace

Martial law and People Power

by Pierre Thompson

During the recent consultation with member organisations of Pax Christi International’s Asia-Pacific region, consultation participants visited Bantayog ng mga Bayani, a museum commemorating the struggle against martial law in the Philippines. When Ferdinand Marcos declared martial law in 1972, our docent, Susan Macabuag, had been a student at the University of the Philippines. At the time, students were the most vocal opponents of martial law because they foresaw the danger it posed to democracy. Under military rule, it was illegal to hold gatherings of three or more, or to express political dissent. Liliosa Hilao, a 23-year old student activist, was the first person to die in detention under martial law. Many others were disappeared or tortured. Perhaps the most shocking death would take place thirteen years later when government forces assassinated the opposition leader Ninoy Aquino upon his return to Manila.

The extended period of martial law became an opportunity for the Marcos family to plunder the wealth of the Philippines, turning it into one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia. The Presidential Commission on Good Government estimated that Marcos stole as much as 10 billion USD from public coffers, which is still mostly unaccounted for. Marcos used the money to buy off his cronies in the military and the police. Martial law also benefited the capitalists because workers could not collectively organize, and guaranteed that U.S. military bases could remain in the Philippines. Perhaps martial law would not have lasted as long without foreign backers of the regime.

The museum invited reflection on the legacy of colonialism and how it created the type of society in which martial law could take hold. Spanish and American colonialism, both political and economic in nature, created a feudal system where the majority did not own land or resources, while a small minority had access to education. During the Second World War, Japanese occupation brought about massive urban destruction. The language of imperialism continues to shape public discourse on the West Philippine Sea, and even used to deflect human rights criticism from the international community. Our visit was well timed: the following day, November 30, was a national holiday commemorating Andres Bonifacio, who sparked the Philippine Revolution against Spain in 1896.

In 1986, it was nonviolent resistance that toppled the Marcos regime. The Catholic Church played a significant role in providing the civic space and coordination for the diverse opposition movement. The opposition movement included workers, professors, teachers, students, farmers, public servants, businessmen, professionals, artists, journalists, and religious. One notable woman religious was Sr. Mary “Christine” Tan, provincial of the Religious of the Good Shepherd. In a vocation story published after her death, Sr. Christine confessed that the institutional Church had vigorously opposed her political activism. A Cardinal had summoned her to Rome only to threaten her with excommunication if she did not cooperate with the Marcos regime; she disobeyed the order. Sr. Christine would go on to help write the new Philippine Constitution and found the Pax Christi section in the Philippines.

After paying our respects to the martyrs and heroes inscribed in the Wall of Remembrance, we visited the EDSA Shrine and People Power Monument. Both commemorate the historic thoroughfare upon which half a million Filipinos descended to signal their nonviolent opposition to the Marcos regime. In doing so, the people created a great tension; the military chose to defect from the Marcos regime rather than fire upon civilians. Although it had been used to suppress the people during martial law, the military has since undergone a transformation and is now widely respected as a professional institution. However, some question whether the imposition of martial law in Mindanao, which has lasted more than six months, is a portent of further challenges to civil-military relations. The only thing we can be sure of is the revolutionary power of nonviolence.

Inspired to Action

In her vocation story, Sr. Christine Tan, RGS, wrote: “There was perennial search in all waves of my life – the search to find God, the search to be authentic, the search for justice within and outside the Church, the search for true freedom, the search of my people for a taste of a life that is human.” In their continuing search for these ideals, the Filipino people serve as an indefatigable witness to Christianity in Asia and a paragon of Gospel nonviolence. This exposure trip refreshed the Pax Christi members with a measure of hope, linking this experience to the work that we have been doing for peace and justice. It influenced our final statement of the Asia Pacific regional consultation, which can be read here.

Peace

Extrajudicial killings provoke human rights response from the Philippine Catholic Church

by Pierre Thompson

MANILA – After holding our conference in an affluent hotel for two full days, participants at Pax Christi International’s Asia-Pacific regional consultation were growing restless. Peacebuilders like us tend to feel more comfortable on the periphery rather than in the center; on the streets rather than in the halls of power (though some members have proven remarkably adept at both). Just beyond our hotel walls lay a storied city of stunning contrasts between rich and poor; new and old; life and death. The Philippines is a beleaguered but proud nation which has served as a crossroads of civilizations for five centuries, leading to more than its fair share of suffering from colonization, corruption, dictatorship, poverty and war.

Our excursion on November 29 offered a special opportunity to reflect on contemporary peace and security issues in Metro Manila; to be sure, the issues we explored did not reflect the wide range of conflicts present in the Philippines. Because the theme of our consultation was “toward sustainable peace through active nonviolence”, it was important for us to acknowledge the work of nonviolence activists and peacebuilders who have worked courageously to replace structures of sin with structures of grace. We hoped to relate the challenges in Metro Manila to challenges in our own countries, for, as Pope Francis notes in Laudato Si’, “it cannot be emphasized enough how everything is interconnected.”

Extrajudicial Killings and Church Response

We visited Saint Peter Parish: Shrine of Leaders on Commonwealth Avenue to understand President Rodrigo Duterte’s bloody “war on drugs”. Since mid-2016, the extrajudicial killings (EJK) associated with “Oplan Tokhang” have claimed more than eight thousand lives, raising significant concern over human rights violations. The Diocese of Novaliches, to which Saint Peter Parish belongs, was heavily impacted by EJK due to high concentrations of the urban poor settlements within its ecclesiastical boundary: North Quezon City and North Caloocan City. North Caloocan has been referred to as “the capital of the killing fields in the war on drugs”. Last year, as many as 32 people were killed in Metro Manila in a single night.

A victim of the government’s war on drugs made the front page of the Philippine Inquirer in July 2016. (Photo: R. Lerma, reproduced with permission)

The church, having been lax in addressing the social crisis of drug addiction, was jolted into action given the rise in killings. The diocese capitalized on its established partnership mechanisms with government, i.e., UBAS which stands for Ugnayan ng Barangay at Simbahan (Partnership of Barangay and Church) as it felt compelled to act on behalf of the urban poor who could not speak out against the killers for fear of retribution. While church leaders supported the eradication of illegal drugs, they opposed the extrajudicial approach based on their principal commitment to protect human life. In the end, they devised a strategy that underscored the role of the Church in social facilitation/dialogue, psycho-social education, pastoral counseling, spiritual healing, and provision of sanctuary and volunteer outreach.

At Saint Peter Parish, we received an orientation to a diocesan ministry called AKAP, which stands for Abot Kamay Alang-alang sa Pagbabago (“reaching out for new life”). When the war on drugs broke out last year, many drug suspects sought counsel from the church on whether to surrender to the police or to flee, recounted Fr. Luciano Ariel Felloni, parish priest of Our Lady of Lourdes in North Caloocan. Because the police had no protocol for removing a person whose name had been added to the watch list, AKAP initiated a dialogue with the Chief of Police and local city officials. The church negotiated a truce: on September 1, 2016, forty drug suspects surrendered themselves in exchange for a promise by police that they would not be harmed. AKAP invited the bishop and curia, local government officials, and the press to a public ceremony to validate the exchange. From that point on, thousands more people have surrendered themselves peacefully through the facilitation of the church.

“The response to addiction is not sobriety but connection,” explained Fr. Antonio Labiao, parish priest of the Shrine of Our Lady of Mercy. “We have to connect the drug user to himself or herself, to family, to community, to one another.” AKAP provides holistic care for drug users, their families, and the affected communities. There are now six community-based drug rehabilitation program (CBDRP) centers throughout the diocese where drug users can seek treatment. The rehabilitation of drug addicts involves a clinical, spiritual, and vocational dimension. One CBDRP graduate whose drug addiction lasted more than twenty years recognized that he might be dead today were it not for the grace that provided him with a second chance to restore his life. Thus far, only one CBDRP graduate has fallen victim to EJK; many others have integrated into society and made significant contributions to parish life.

Unfortunately, the church has not been able to shelter everyone from EJK. Four bereaved family members of EJK victims (who did not wish to be photographed) told stories that reminded us of the human toll of Duterte’s war on drugs. One woman begged the death squad to spare her 24-year old daughter so that she could at least visit her in prison; they shot her daughter execution-style in front of the family. Another woman prayed that the death squad would kill only her brother or his wife so that the children would not become totally orphaned; they murdered both parents. The vigilantes showed no regard for human dignity, or due process, or trauma inflicted upon family members. These poignant accounts brought all of us to tears. For a short time, we could accompany the survivors on their difficult journey from grief and frustration toward healing and reconciliation.

An extremely disturbing aspect of EJK is the hidden profit motive behind each killing. The funeral parlor will typically arrive shortly after the incident to claim the corpse, and charges at least 15,000 pesos (approximately 300 USD) to release the body of the deceased. Because this is an impossible amount for urban poor families to pay, many victims never receive proper burial or are forced to deal with loan sharks. It is believed that the vigilantes also receive 15,000 pesos for each EJK they carry out. What kind of society values people more in death than in life? How can a program that creates such insecurity among poor people be justified in the name of security? What are the models of nonviolent resistance to EJK? We struggled openly with these questions.

The church acknowledged that it is still in the first stage of response to EJK, and that it would like to achieve more in the field of prevention. AKAP already organizes neighborhood watch groups to monitor unusual activities and document baseline profiles of orphans. AKAP invited us to brainstorm solutions concerning the sustainability of its programs, especially educational assistance and livelihood support for survivors.

Nonviolence, Our Stories

Tabang Marawi: Encountering the casualties of war

by Archbishop Antonio J. Ledesma, S.J.
Pax Christi International Board Member

Last Monday, July 31, after the fiesta Mass of St. Ignatius Loyola at the chapel of Camp Evangelista in Cagayan de Oro City, I visited the wounded soldiers in the military hospital.  There were more than 80 of them filling the rooms, with some having to lie on beds along the corridors.  One had an amputated arm, several had shrapnel wounds on different parts of the body, others had casts on their arms or legs.  A number showed me near – misses of shrapnel around their eyes.  Many more of the wounded were lying down or seated with dextrose bottles hanging  near them.  The more severely wounded had already been flown to Gen. A. Luna Hospital in Quezon City.

What struck me most was the youthful demeanor of many soldiers – many in their early 20’s.  About a dozen soldiers had wives or relatives watching over them; some had two or three children left at home; but the majority were left alone, coming from distant provinces – Apayao, Tarlac, Nueva Ecija, Cavite in Luzon; Samar, Leyte, Cebu, Negros, Iloilo in the Visayas; and various parts of Mindanao, including some Muslim soldiers from Jolo.

As we left the hospital, two Huey helicopters from Marawi were landing – one with more wounded soldiers and the other carrying the dead.  This is one face of the battle of Marawi.  The most recent casualty count includes 114 soldiers killed with seven or eight times more that number wounded.  Rebel casualties are reported at more than 700 killed; and an indeterminate number of civilians killed or missing.

Another image of the Marawi conflict are the lines of Muslim women and children with some men, waiting to receive relief packs as their names are called by a local leader reading from a prepared list.  On July 18, I joined our relief team from the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro and St. John Vianney Theological Seminary.  We distributed relief packages to 430 families in six barangays in Marawi – Bgys. Bito Buadi Parba, Bito Buadi Itowa, Eunie Punod, Pagalamatan, Bubong Lumbac and Mipaga.  One could see from their courteous greetings and smiles that the Muslim residents appreciated our coming, since this was one area that had been reportedly neglected by aid agencies.  Some of the religious sisters with us tried to conduct a brief trauma – healing session for the children by means of some games.  Occasionaly, one could hear the sound of bomb explosions coming from the other side of the hills separating these barangays from the fire fight zone.  Some residents showed us several M-75 stray bullets that lodged in their houses.

Earlier on June 8, in Bgy. Barra, Opol, bordering Cagayan de Oro City, our Social Action team with some religious sisters and ministry co-workers distributed standard packs containing five kilos of rice, Milo, coffee, dried fish, some canned goods and toiletries to 500 Muslim families.  These were evacuee families from Marawi preferring to seek shelter with their relatives rather than staying in evacuation centers.  Indeed, government agencies report that 90% of Muslim internally displaced persons (IDPs) could be classified as home-based rather than staying in evacuation centers.  In Barra, the distribution of relief goods was done at the four mosques, with the help of the local imam (or religious leader) of the mosque.

In all, our SAC team and volunteers, headed by Fr. Satur Lumba and Mr. Carl Cabaraban, has distributed food and relief packs to nearly 3,400 families in 16 city parishes and barangays – such as Kauswagan, Cogon, Camaman-an, Iponan, Carmen, Macabalan, Consolacion, Lapasan, Cugman, including Oro Jama-ah Masjid mosque near Cogon market.

Likewise, our SAC team together with other volunteers has brought over the past two months relief goods to 368 families in evacuation centers situated along the road to Marawi, in Baloi, Lanao del Norte and Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur.

We are grateful to many donors and partners in our relief work.  These include: CBCP-NASSA; Xavier University; Lourdes College; Peace and Equity Foundation; the RVM, RGS, DC Sisters with the Association of Women Religious of Cagayan de Oro; Catholic Women’s League; Couples for Christ; CFC-Gawad Kalinga; Tanging Yaman Foundation with Fr. Manoling Francisco, SJ; Sen. Koko Pimentel; Atty. Rufus Rodriguez; the Diocesan Social Action Centers of Bacolod and Legazpi; and many of our parishes (Gingoog, Balingasag, Claveria, Balingoan, Cathedral, Camaman-an, Xavier Heights, Villanueva, Mahinog, Consolacion, and Sacred Heart).

In the midst of war and destruction, our relief, rehabilitation and reconstruction efforts will continue together with many other government and non-government organizations.  And this perhaps is the shining light from Marawi in the midst of gloom – that Christians and Muslims have learned to help each other (even as in some cases they have died together), and that the re-building of Marawi can be done with the collaboration of all sides aspiring for peace and development in Mindanao.

Nonviolence, Women and Peacemaking

My experience of nonviolence in the Philippine People Power Revolt of 1986

by Loreta Castro
Pax Christi Pilipinas

The Context

In 1972, then President Marcos declared martial law in the country and became a dictator, vesting himself with both executive and legislative powers through presidential decrees. He had been President for 8 years (2 terms) and could no longer be re-elected according to the constitution. It was a time of turmoil. All basic freedoms (esp. freedom of expression and assembly) were curtailed. All those perceived by Marcos and the military as belonging to the opposition groups were subjected to warrantless arrests. Thousands were tortured and others simply disappeared and were never heard from anymore. As to be expected so many lost hope and decided to join the underground, the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army (CPP-NPA), and waged an armed struggle against the dictatorship. I was a young teacher then and was struggling with what was happening in the country. I wanted the situation to change and yet the option of joining the armed struggle to overthrow the government was an option that I could not consider because killing or harming anyone was something I knew I could not do. In the rallies that I joined prior to the martial law declaration, I could not even mouth the chants that I felt degraded the humanity of another. Many among my colleagues were in a similar quandary and had the same question: what could we do to resist nonviolently?

The Opportunities

What catalyzed the people’s nonviolent resistance against the Marcos dictatorship was the murder of opposition leader former Senator Ninoy Aquino when he returned to the Philippines from his exile, on Aug. 21, 1983. The August Twenty-One Movement (ATOM) was organized and soon began an almost-daily mobilization of protest rallies. Soon, other groups followed.

The option of Active Nonviolence or ANV was embraced by those who believed that this was a path of resistance that we could take instead of violence. The Catholic Church took a leading role in this movement. An organization called Aksyon Para sa Kapayapaan at Katarungan (AKKAPKA) was organized and was led by a Jesuit, Fr. Jose Blanco. Many ANV trainings involving various sectors of society were held and I can say that the success of the so-called People Power Revolt of 1986 can be attributed to this ANV movement. The ANV philosophy convinced us that counter-violence and passivity were not the ethical and effective responses to the violence of the Marcos regime. The ANV movement also operationalized an important insight about the nature of political power: that the power of the leaders rests upon the obedience and cooperation of the people. Hence, when the regime committed massive fraud during the snap presidential elections (called by Marcos in 1985 to prove to the world that the people would still vote for him if elections were held at that time), Cory Aquino who ran against Marcos called for a civil disobedience campaign. We boycotted products of a crony company, a crony bank and a crony newspaper. These were owned by Marcos’ cronies or friends who continued to prop up the Marcos regime and in return benefited from it.

During a military mutiny led by a general and the Defense Minister on February 22, 1986, Cardinal Jaime Sin called on the people, via the Church-owned Radio Veritas, to protect and support the military personnel who have withdrawn their support from Marcos. The Cardinal asked the people to go to a camp where the said military personnel had set up their headquarters and had expected a bloody confrontation with the loyalist military.

In the few days that followed, more and more people poured into the area surrounding the camp, in a massive nonviolent demonstration against the Marcos’ dictatorship and involved about 2 million people. It was amazing to experience the nonviolent actions that were taken by the people who were there: we were giving food and flowers to the loyalist soldiers instead of throwing stones at them; we were praying and singing, and carried with us symbols of our Faith. We all disobeyed the curfew that was imposed by Marcos so that the people would be off the streets. There were those who made their bodies the barricade to stop the loyalist tanks from proceeding to the camp to attack those who were holed up there. There was nonviolent persuasion as demonstrators shouted these messages to the loyalist military personnel who were advancing to the camp, (translated into English from Filipino): “Join us, let us not fight each other, we are all Filipinos…” On February 25, Marcos and his family left the Philippines.

Towards a Deeper and Wider Practice within the Catholic Community

As a peace educator, I believe that we have to invest more energy and resources in educating about nonviolence beginning with our Catholic schools and the formation programs for the Catholic religious and laypeople. There is much that we still have to do in this area. We need more workers in this NV vineyard. Catholic organizations have to reach out more, too, to other kindred organizations that may be secular or faith-based to promote the spirituality and practice of nonviolence.

I sincerely hope that our Catholic Church would take the leadership in this. I have long felt that in the last decades of my own existence that globally we have not really strongly spoken about the nonviolence of Jesus. The whole tone and spirit of his life was that of nonviolence and love, and yet so-called Christians have accepted killing whether through the state-sponsored death penalty or through war.

Finally, I believe that we as Catholics have to speak more strongly about delegitimizing war as a means of resolving conflicts. War is an inhumane and immoral institution and needs to be abolished along with the tools that go with war such as more and more destructive armaments, including nuclear weapons.

I am Pax Christi

The “I am Pax Christi” interview: Cesar Villanueva of Pax Christi Pilipinas

Starting this November, we’ll be featuring something we’re calling the “I am Pax Christi” interview, a short conversation with the women and men who make up our movement. Today’s profile is Cesar Villanueva of Pax Christi Pilipinas. The interview was conducted by communications intern Marie Just in October at the Pax Christi International offices in Brussels.

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Marie Just: How did you become involved with peace and justice work, and what was your first involvement in Pax Christi International?

Cesar Villanueva: When I was a young boy, I served in our church; I studied in a school where the church is called Queen of Peace. Indirectly I thought that must have influenced my passion for peace work. The Queen of Peace Church is a nice church, mostly Chinese people who go there. … So when I went to university I started being aware of the conditions of equality and justice and, after graduation I was attracted to a poster which said: “Why sell soap?” – because many people were selling soap after university – “when you can build people?” After that I applied for Volunteer Philippines and was sent to the poorest school in Naga City. I started a program there that was called “integration”. We made students aware of the realities of the ground. We exposed them [to the realities of the] dictatorship, the injustice, the corruption, and brought it to their attention. And I went on to work on that for seven years.

When I decided to go back to my Island of Negros Occidental — which is the fourth largest in the Philippines, 85% dependent on sugar — I was challenged with how I could contribute to build the peace that will be needed for the island … So I helped form the local peace community in Negros. … At the same time I was earning money from my university for teaching and a directorship (Director for Popular Peace Education, Pax Christi Institute); and then Father Niall O’Brien, a Columban missioner for 30 years on the island, who wrote a very beautiful book called Revolution from the Heart and who embraced the work of nonviolence in the midst of the armed conflict in my country, invited me in 1995 to the 50th anniversary of Pax Christi in Assisi in Italy. That’s how I got introduced to Pax Christi. … I was asked to be a member of the executive board and elected vice president for Asia. When I finished my term in the international movement, I decided to work as the national coordinator of Pax Christi Pilipinas to continue the work that I was doing, running the movement for almost 6 years.

(During this time) there was a project with Pax Christi Germany and Pax Christi in the Philippines. We were recipients of a civil peace project that gave us the resources to really involve everybody in the whole of the Philippines, and in fact, I am happy to say, we started an institute, Pax Christi Institute, which continues today as a training ground for peace workers, conflict workers. And this has now been accepted by the university also because we offer some masters programs.

MJ: During your time with Pax Christi Pilipinas, can you tell us a story about a time that the work of Pax Christi in the Philippines made a real difference in the situation in your country, or in the lives of people there?

cesarCV: There are two things I personally did when I was Pax Christi National Coordinator. We started a Visayan Peace-building Institute which gathers all church social action workers, teachers, and community organisers in the field. We trained people in conflict transformation and peace-building. See, in my country, conflict is a bad word. So we have to make people aware that conflict is part of life and it shouldn’t be something to be afraid of. This is what we mean by “conflict understanding and awareness”. But also that a conflict can be transformed, not just solved. So we share the whole concept of conflict transformation, the thinking of Johan Galtung, the thinking of John Paul Lederach. And we share with them exact conflict analysis tools that will help people to be competent in handling conflicts. For me that’s one very important contribution that Pax Christi in the Philippines has made. And we now have an institution that is offering a master’s program in conflict and reconciliation – the only one in the Philippines, I think, at the moment.

The other thing that I think is very important: 85% of the people in the Philippines are Catholic. They assume that they know everything and judge people based on the fact that we are the majority. But we realise that when there are interfaith dialogues or dialogues with Muslims, Christians and Protestants, and indigenous people, many Catholics don’t know the Church’s social teachings on peace. So I was challenged to start what we call a Catholic peace-building dialogue, a dialogue among ourselves as Catholics and why we are for peace — what is the basis, what are the social teachings and biblical stories that support our work. I’m very happy that our Pax Christi Bishop-President, Archbishop Antonio Ledesma, who is also now member of the International Board, helped us to do that. So we did trainings in Mindanao, gathering all the youth organisers for that purpose.

The last thing I would like to share is that we did do study fora on reconciliation. There are five or six peace processes in the Philippines and I think reconciliation is not much talked about. Pax Christi would like to contribute to the discussion on reconciliation. How can we begin to talk about reconciliation, even if there are conflicts that have not been ended, that have not been resolved? We came up with a simple book, which in the local dialect translates to, “How do you resolve conflicts, how do you calm things so that it can be resolved?” Peace-building.

MJ: What does nonviolence mean to you personally and professionally? How would you describe it?

CV: Nonviolence, I think, is the capacity of people to engage with conflicts with the total respect of the dignity of every person. And that means the use of all possible means that will not hurt the person. It is the ability to know and to think that even the most obvious violent person has dignity in his conscience and you can appeal to the conscience of that person and use that as a way of transformation. That for me is nonviolence.

It is also the ability to think that if you resolve conflicts early on, then you don’t need to lead to violence. At the same time, it is important to understand that in every conflict, there are deep, deep cultural biases and that there are deep, deep structures, that allow violence to happen. If we are made aware of these deep cultural biases and deep structures, maybe we can deny violence. Because violence is not natural. Conflicts are natural but violence is not. So it’s an option that people can make. And I think, as a person with deep faith in gospel values, I think that these aspects of human dignity and conscience are very important.

Cesar Villanueva was first introduced to Pax Christi over 30 years ago. He is the creator and director of the Pax Christi Institute on Non-formal Education that is based in Bacolod City. He has previously served on the International Board.

Our Stories

OUR STORY: Pax Christi Pilipinas

This is the first installment of a regular feature on the Peace Stories blog featuring the stories of our 120 member organisations on five continents around the world. For November 2016, we’re getting to know Pax Christi Pilipinas. This interview was conducted by email with Jasmin Nario-Galace, President of Pax Christi Pilipinas. She is the Executive Director of the Center for Peace Education at Miriam College, Manila, Philippines, where she also teaches Peace Studies and Theory and Practice of Nonviolence at the Department of International Studies. She is both a peace educator and advocate.

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Q: When and how did Pax Christi in the Philippines start? Was there some particular event or issue that served to bring Pax Christi Philippines into being?

Fr. Niall O'Brien

Jasmin Nario-Galace (JNG): Mr. Simon Gregorio and Fr. Niall O’Brien (photo right) were the first coordinators of Pax Christi Pilipinas. In 1994, Fr. Paul Lansu (Senior Policy Advisor of Pax Christi International) visited the Philippines, specifically Manila, Cebu, Bacolod and Zamboanga. In 1995, Pax Christi Pilipinas was invited to the 50th anniversary celebration of Pax Christi in Assisi, and, in 1999, Pax Christi Pilipinas was made a full section of Pax Christi International.

In 2004, Pax Christi Pilipinas (PCP) and Pax Christi Germany started a Civil Peace Service Program based in Bacolod. Since then, PCP has organised workshops and conducted training on peace concepts and skills, nonviolence and reconciliation, among others, and we offer a graduate degree on Conflict and Reconciliation Studies. PCP has also served and took leadership roles in various peace and disarmament networks such as the Philippine Action Network on Small Arms (PhilANSA), Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP) and Philippine Misereor Partnership Incorporated (PMPI). We have led in doing action research such as the Peoples’ Consultation on the Arms Trade Treaty and Dialogue Mindanao. A regional peace-building program, the Visayas Peacebuilding Institute, was started in 2010 where courses for peace advocates such as peace education, peace journalism and conflict transformation and reconciliation were offered. We have developed modules on Catholic Social Teaching for trainings … Today, PCP continues to be active in supporting peace processes and global and national disarmament initiatives.

Q: What is the structure and who are the people involved in Pax Christi Pilipinas?

JNG: Pax Christi Pilipinas has sections present in Metro Manila, Cagayan de Oro, Negros, Zamboanga, Isabela, Samar, Tacloban, and Davao City.

Currently, there are active geographical areas (#1-5) and non-active areas (#6-10) of Pax Christi Pilipinas:

  1. Zamboanga and Basilan (Zabida; community and sector-based work)
  2. Davao City (CRS, MSPC Youth; community and youth-based work)
  3. Bacolod (including the Pax Christi Institute; community-based, school, youth and government-based work)
  4. Manila (Center for Peace Education, Pax Christi-Miriam College; school-based work)
  5. Negros (church, community and government-based work)
  6. Cagayan de Oro
  7. Samar
  8. Isabela
  9. Tacloban
  10. Cotabato

Q: What are the current issues you are working on, or what are your major priorities?

JNG: In the last PCP General Assembly at Miriam College in 2015, members agreed to focus our work on supporting the peace process between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, as well as the peace process between the government and the National Democratic Front, through active lobbying and campaigning for the adoption of the Bangsamoro Basic Law, among others. We also agreed to focus our efforts on disarmament work such as lobbying for laws that will help control the proliferation of small arms; campaigning for a treaty ban on nuclear weapons; as well as campaigning for the ratification of the Arms Trade Treaty.

Q: How is Pax Christi Pilipinas putting nonviolence into practice? What role does nonviolence play in your work?

Nonviolence is at the heart of the work of PCP. It is integrated in workshops as well as in academic courses that PCP members conduct. PCP members also participated in the Rome conference on Nonviolence and Just Peace (in April 2016). Those who attended are now part of the Education Committee where activities are organised and conducted to popularise the outcome statement.

PCP members’ support for peace processes and disarmament initiatives is a testament to our commitment to the method of nonviolence as a pathway to peace.

pilipinas2Q: What is the greatest accomplishment of Pax Christi Pilipinas during your history?

Since its birth in the early 1990s, PCP has helped in the promotion of peace, dialogue and reconciliation based on truth, justice and the common good. We have harnessed the strength of young people to work for peace, and we have organised key peace groups involved in peace issues both at the local and national levels. Specific objectives were also met throughout the years. These included the organising of peace groups, mainstreaming peace education, initiating national campaigns that have both direct and indirect impact on peace. Pax Christi Pilipinas has also significantly engaged with the Church in various peace-building initiatives such as interfaith dialogue, conflict transformation and reconciliation. We have also collaborated with local, national and international groups in relation to disarmament issues, among others.

Q: Is there any story about Pax Christi Pilipinas that stands out for you?

Pax Christi Pilipinas is very relevant in today’s time. With violence growing in the Philippines, we need more peace-builders who are bearers of peace rooted in the Catholic faith. It is important for us to serve the communities, to be the bridge toward greater interfaith understanding and to create pathways that will prevent extremism.

A story that stands out was the Elders Meeting in Davao in early 2016 where participants shared why they care about the network. It’s a beautiful story as the network had been sailing through rough times. Elders shared that the peace of Christ is very important alongside sharing the importance of secular peace; that they care because as Catholics, the work of Pax Christi is a calling of their faith and it is this faith that inspires them to work for justice, peace and reconciliation. The Elders shared their hope that Pax Christi Pilipinas continue to be a light in the midst of challenges in the peace and security situation in the Philippines and to shape the organisation to become a “home” to aspiring peace-builders.

The Elders also identified a set of values that they wish to have and carry as Catholic peace-builders and which should characterise their relationship with one another. The identified principles are:

  1. Respecting the dignity of each person
  2. Encouraging and building up each other
  3. Being patient with one another
  4. Accepting one another
  5. Being kind to each other
  6. Walking in the light to have fellowship with one another
  7. Speaking the truth in love
  8. Being humble toward one another
  9. Offering hospitality to one another
  10. Challenging one another for the better
  11. Giving and receiving constructive and transformative feedback
  12. Asking empowering questions
  13. Instructing one another
  14. Learning from one another
  15. Spurring one another on toward love, good deeds, and meaningful action
  16. Allowing a person to speak without fear
  17. Empowering each one through various affirmative ways

The identification and conscious application of the above principles distinguish PCP from other peace groups with whom we work.