Features

Stories of hope - Peace is the word

Sunday 19 February 2012

Each Lent Caritas Australia invites us to join Project Compassion. In 2012, the theme is 'If You want peace, Work for Justice'. Throughout Lent, Kairos Catholic Journal will feature stories that demonstrate how support for Project Compassion has made a real difference in people's lives.

Peace Is The Word

PC2012-week4_BaeLisa-350Bae Lisa lives in Mindanao, a Philippines' island, with her husband and their nine children. Since 2008, Caritas Australia has supported Bae Lisa, a volunteer with the Mindanao Peoples Caucus (MPC).

Since the 1970's more than two million people have been displaced and 120,000 killed in Mindanao's bloody conflict. For decades, the Philippines' mineral-rich island has been mired by land grabbing, economic exclusion, and a disregard for customary laws and practices that breeds widespread poverty and injustice.

Today, the island is the Philippines' poorest: high maternal and child mortality, malnutrition and lack of education are among the many development challenges contributing to insecurity and injustice.

A traditional leader of the Talaandig tribe and a 'mother of peace', Bae Lisa, is one of over 300 Indigenous leaders engaged by the MPC to work together towards peace in the island's fractured communities.

"In times of crisis I comfort traumatised women and children who fear for their lives. I deliver food to displaced people and mediate between government officials and traditional leaders," said Bae Lisa.

While the barriers to peace here are vast, stewardship of Indigenous communities' lands is critical. The MPC enables Indigenous communities to peacefully protect their traditional lands while encouraging robust community participation in the peace process.

"The biggest challenge we faced was the intrusion of outsiders interested in our trees, our water, mining and agriculture ... Military harassed us."

Volunteers like Bae Lisa are crucial for maintaining Mindanao's ceasefire, ensuring marginalised community concerns are heard at the highest levels. She works to deepen understanding of the conflict and enhance support for peace through community forums, interfaith dialogues and a radio program. Such initiatives have helped build a peace process wholly owned by those communities most affected by the conflict.

"I was elected as an MPC council member for Indigenous people, alongside Christian and Muslim representatives. I participated in peace advocacy in Manila and dialogue with government agencies.

"Now we can respond to critical situations and contact decision makers to defuse volatile situations. We're more open to engaging with other groups in the name of peace, not like before. The Talaandig tribe is regarded as a peace negotiator. This program has uplifted our outlook."

To donate, support or fundraise for Project Compassion 2012 please visit our website at www.caritas.org.au/projectcompassion or Ph: 1800 024 423

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