Saturday, March 12, 2011

Peace and Justice

Team Philippines took a break from coffee today (research, not drinking) and gives a big thanks to CMEM in Columbio for their generosity in hosting us. CMEM is CRS' partner for peace-building in a tri-community (Christian, Moro, and Indigenous People). We were warmly welcomed to their community. Aaron, Ross, and Ben posed for pictures with our special police protection that has come from better interaction between the group and government. Michelle, as always, was the big hit with the locals.

We learned about their unique history and early activism starting with the "Jail Family". That was 19 farmers, a priest, and a lawyer who broke open the government rice depot during a famine. Since that time, the tri-community has tried to band together despite incursions from all 4 armed resistance groups in the Philippines and the government military units battling them. That is one aspect that makes CRS's efforts in this community unique in that they are building on a strong foundation of civic action groups that cut across religious divides. We were even joined today by the Italian priest who was among the "Jail Family".

While the community of Columbio must manage difficult tensions to build a stronger society and effective government, they are also dealing with another issue central to our course. Columbio sits atop immense natural resources which has gained the attention of foreign mining interests. CMEM has been able to unite different civic groups behind the effort to keep mining out of the community and made some inroads through the legal system. What they, the various government institutions, and the foreign company are failing to do is to adequately address the issues and interests through open and meaningful dialogue. The situation seems like a discussion right out of class on all the wrong ways for business and NGOs to interact. That is largely where our discussion with CMEM left off and lunch began. CRS has some difficult work ahead of them on this issue.

After leaving Columbio, bumping down rocky roads, and weaving through crazy traffic, we're finally at the terminal end of our Mindanao travel. Between the two teams we've literally traversed the entire island over the last week and now are in Davao, the big city on the island. It feels a bit different to be among the hustle and bustle of a big city again after being in some rather remote areas.

Have a good night/morning back in the states.

No comments:

Post a Comment