To strengthen peace initiatives in Lanao del Sur, over 29 Meranao youths convened for the first Young Meranao Peace Advocates Camp (YMPAC).
The youth camp was held at the Ricci Hall of Ateneo de Davao University from July 18-20 and concluded at the Rotary Club of North Clubhouse from July 21-22.
Kalilintad sa Lanao, an initiative of volunteer leaders from different organizations in Marawi, spearheaded the event which focuses on peace building and promoting the mental health of the Meranao youth.
Kalilintad sa Lanao Chair Jalalodin Mustari stated in an interview that he considered the event as an avenue to empower the Meranao youth to advocate for peace and how they can promote and inculcate it to the people of their community.
“Basically, we want them to become ambassadors of peace. We want to empower them to empower other people,” he said.
Aftermath of the crisis
A year after the Marawi siege, there was an increased gap between the Moro and non-Moro residents of Marawi City.
“We are also promoting religion tolerance kasi nung nangyari ‘yung siege it created so much gap between Muslims and non-Muslims kasi may mga hatred na sa mga Muslims na lahat terorista ganyan, mga Maute” Mustari stressed.
He added that Moro people in return hated Christians for blaming them for the killings and conflicts in Marawi City.
Despite the differences, Ashyanna Alexine Bangcola, one of the participants, still believes that peace is possible and is achievable through collaborative efforts of the involved parties and being inclusive of the government to the Moro people.
“It would be more effective if they put primarily the LGU, Maranao agencies, Maranao people, as the leaders of the Bangon Marawi Task Force because they are a bit uncoordinated and lacks centralization,” she said.
For Bangcola, she addressed the importance of engaging in interfaith dialogue because even though there are a lot of factors why there is conflict, it is about the lack of misunderstanding on both sides that is more prevalent.
“Inter-religious dialogues are very important for these provide an opportunity to bring various types of people from different religions together and they can talk about their faith not in a confrontational manner but rather in a way that they can see how similar they are,” she said.
Most of the participants had first-hand experience and underwent trauma from the Marawi siege. One of YMPAC’s goals is to provide them psychosocial support through reflective discussions and activities.
Furthermore, they were also taught to provide basic psychosocial support to their respective families, friends and community who were also affected.
After the camp, the participants are expected to craft a community project that they will implement in Marawi City, specifically in their local community. The organizers envisioned the participants to give back what they have learned in the camp to their respective communities.
Five projects will be funded and will be implemented on August. They will meet again on September in a summit to share their narratives and status of their implemented programs.
Bangcola shared that her group is planning to organize a family day event where the ultimate goal is for the family to grow closer together to be able to bond.
“We would like it to be a cathartic experience for the evacuees, so they can have at least one day to forget their sadness because of what happened in Marawi.” she said.
YMPAC is one of the 17 winning projects of For Mindanao, an initiative organized by Naawan Helps that funds projects all over Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte. The U.S. Embassy financially supports the event.
Kalilintad sa Lanao organized the peace camp in partnership with the Philippine Youth Leadership Program (PYLP) and American Corner – Marawi.