Prayers for Peacemakers, 15 June 2017

Prayers for Peacemakers, 15 June 2017

On 12 June, the world commemorates the World Day Against Child Labour.* The focus of this international observance is to raise awareness and strengthen efforts to prevent child labour. According to the data of the International Labour Organization, more than 168 million of children around the world are forced into work that "deprives them of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, and that is harmful to physical and mental development."**

 Child Labour

MEDITERRANEAN REFLECTION: Refugee--the human face of God

When I arrived in Mytilene International Airport Lesvos Greece on 10 July, the city center and the entire island of Lesvos were not new for me. Similarities between what could be considered a Philippine tourist destination spot and the culture of Lesvos can be noticed through the architecture, scenery, weather, urban planning, stony seabed and beautiful mountains. In short, Lesvos is a holiday paradise. The street acts as such: crazy lorry drivers, ending lanes, racing cars and reasonably easy public transport—it felt like home to me. 

However, my main reason for visiting the island was to assist in the work of the Christian Peacemaker Teams Mediterranean project (CPT). Since the war in Syria and Iraq, Greece—and specifically Lesvos—has been the frontline of the refugee crises. Lesvos and the Aegean Sea coast near Turkey are the main focal points for the massive wave of refugees from different countries (Syrians, Iraqis, Pakistanis, etc.) entering the EU. After the EU-Turkey deal (March 20) everything has changed. Presently, many describe Lesvos as two worlds colliding: where holiday paradise and refugee crisis converge. 

CPT INTERNATIONAL: Quilting Peace--A report from the Vatican Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference


From April 11-13, 2016, I had the privilege of representing JustFaith Ministries at a Catholic conference on nonviolence in Rome, Italy. The conference was titled, “Nonviolence and Just Peace: Contributing to a Catholic understanding of and commitment to nonviolence.” This historic conference, co-sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International, brought together about eighty people from around the world—lay people, members of religious congregations, priests, and bishops—whose experiences of nonviolence ranged from scholarly and theological study to on-the-ground nonviolent resistance, to advocacy on a local, national, and international scale.

All sessions were rich with stories of hope in situations of despair, of mending in in places of fracture, of love in places where hate would be easier.

Bishop Paride Taban of South Sudan talked about Holy Trinity Peace Village, the manifestation of his dream, in which members of different tribes who used to call each other enemies now live, work, and solve problems as a community. The bishop’s peacemaking efforts extend far beyond the village, as he has, among other things, participated in negotiations between the South Sudanese government and rebels.

Stories from the Philippines included both the nonviolent movement that led to Ferdinand Marcos stepping down from the presidency in 1986 and the countrywide peace education that has been going on there since shortly after that.

Fr. Francisco de Roux, SJ, shared his experiences from the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia, where he and his teams talked to everyone—the military, the paramilitary, and the guerrillas— in an effort to create peace. In his personal statement he wrote, “in the Magdalena Medio, when we were surrounded by violent groups, we discovered that there is no safety in weapons. That the only true and sustainable protection comes through trusting people. And that to win trust we have to go through a long process of dialogue and mutual acceptance, and unpredicted individual and social changes, in the midst of uncertainties.” Now he is involved in the negotiations for a peace agreement that may finally bring the decades-long violence in Colombia to an end.

Each story added a new patch to the blanket of peace. 

Many more, we need so many more before we can cover the whole world in peace. 

THE PHILIPPINES: A ray of hope in North Cotobato

Seven communities composed of Filipinos, Indigenous, and Muslim peoples have formed a ring of "peace communities" in North Cotabato, which lies in the center of violent struggle on the southern island of Mindanao. Since this "G7 Communities Organization" was formed by the signing of peace agreements among all parties, open violent conflict has significantly subsided.

THE PHILIPPINES: Benevolent invasions

The Philippine government calls it Balikatan (Shoulder-to-shoulder). The U.S. Military calls it "Joint Military Exercises." This year the code name is "Operation Taal" (name of a volcano near Manila.) Ostensibly, the exercises are an opportunity for 6,000 U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force personnel, to "train" Philippine military personnel and police how to handle an "emergency such as a volcanic eruption." Very few are convinced by this deception, however.

THE PHILIPPINES: Bunker Purification at Clark Field

Buried deep in the hills overlooking the blue waters of Subic Bay are ammunition bunkers used by the U.S. military to supply its various U.S. bases abroad — to facilitate interventions in all parts of the world. These quonset type bunkers are now empty except for bats' nests and spider webs that hang on the corners of the solid concrete.

THE PHILIPPINES: CPT delegation issues statement against continuing U.S. military use of the Philippines for "War on Terror"

On Wednesday, 20 February 2008, North American and Filipino members of a delegation sponsored by Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) joined about 100 other people at a prayer rally protesting the continued presence the U.S. military in the Philippines. The delegation issued the following statement outside the library of Olongapo City National High School: