Breaking down the barriers to peace in the Philippines

16/03/2012

Project Compassion 2012 News Story
‘Mother of peace’, Bae Lisa. Photo: Caritas Australia

Bae 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 1970s, 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 more than 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,” Bae Lisa said.

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.”

This program has uplifted our outlook”

Project Compassion News Story
Photo: Caritas Australia
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,” Bae Lisa said.

“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.”

Thanks to your compassionate support for Caritas Australia, MPC and its volunteer network will continue working for sustainable peace in Mindanao.

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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