Nov 22, 2010

AAI Peace Caravans are proving that peace is possible in areas where religious and cultural violence has been a tragic legacy

Peace warriors hold powwow
By Nesreen Cadar Abdulrauf
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 21:58:00 11/21/2010

Filed Under: Armed conflict, Schools
AN Asian proverb says, “The more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war.”

In October, young professionals and college student volunteers of the Asia America Initiative (AAI) started sweating in peace so other people, particularly their peers, would not have to bleed in war.

AAI, in partnership with the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) and local organizations, held the fourth Peace Caravan–Luzon Leg in La Trinidad, Benguet to spread the seeds of understanding, appreciation, and coexistence.

At the two-day event, 40 young people representing Muslims, Christians, and Indigenous People (IP) gathered at the Benguet State University to learn how to become future leaders who will promote and maintain peace.

The participants shared personal and group experiences that would help them become Catalysts for Peace—compassionate role models to help heal and unite the nation.

“We often think of peace as something big or difficult but it’s the thought of bringing about peace that is the foundation for change,” said Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, 27, the AAI Philippines country director.

The participants, who were of diverse ethnicities, ages, and religions, were divided into five groups: A, M, I, T, Y. They played games that promoted participation, interaction, and learning. The ultimate activity was “Find the Missing Peace.” Each group had a piece to complete the puzzle that said “The Key to Peace Is You”.

Jassan D. Batalang, 19, said, “The peace caravan wouldn’t be memorable if it wasn’t fun. We smiled and laughed a lot ... already a sign that we were at peace with each other.”

Marc Ceenan Malucay, 18, added, “I didn’t know that I can be a catalyst for peace. In just a short time, we established a bond with each other.”

In peace-building, AAI stressed that peace must begin with one’s self. The intra-faith discussions led to a self-evaluation of their sources of pride, fears, and prejudices, among others.

“If a person doesn’t know his or her religion, he may become violent. That is why intra-faith is important,” said Alnasser L. Kasim, chair of the Young Moro Professionals Network (YMPN) who spoke on “Islamic Faith”.

Brother Mark Joseph Purugganan, a seminarian at the San Jose Seminary who spoke on “Christian Faith”, said some people could misinterpret what their religion was actually teaching them.

Marlon T. Jinon, AAI programs and resource mobilization associate, said differences in religion had never been nor would ever be the cause of lack of peace. “It is our greed, lack of awareness, and misunderstanding of our very own religion and culture, and the religion and culture of other people that fuel the vicious cycle of war and conflict in the country and in the world.”

He said it was wrong to try to make peace with the world or the nation before making peace with one’s self, family, and neighbors.

Jason Roy Sibug, president of Tuklas-Katutubo, a national organization of young indigenous leaders, said the youth should rid themselves of prejudice. “When you don’t have it (prejudice) towards other cultures and religions, there can be harmonious relationships. Do not associate a person’s act with his/her religion and do not generalize. The next step is to share (this attitude) with your family, friends, and community.”

Sibug, 30, a Manobo, founded Tuklas-Katutubo when he was 17. He said IPs accounted for 13 million or 10 to 15 percent of the total Philippine population, not including those who would write Christian or Muslim as their religion.
He added that, when there was interfaith, a person became a Muslim or a Christian or an IP by heart.

Muslim participant Alrashid H. Abdulmunat, 24, said, “I (only learned) about IPs and their struggle now. I also thought Christians hated Muslims but I found out they were kind and they did not have bad intentions toward Muslims and IP. If Muslims (complain) about discrimination and marginalization, how about the IP? In the Holy Quran, Almighty Allah mentioned the tribes or ‘qabail’. Peace cannot be achieved if the other tribes are not included.”

The youngest participant, nine-year-old Joshua Siddayao, said, “Akala ko nangangain ng tao ang mga Muslim, hindi pala (I thought Muslims were cannibals but now I know they are not).”

Through sharing, the participants celebrated commonalities. Jasmin P. Tosay, 17, was teary-eyed as she said, “We’re not just Lumad or Muslim or Christian, we are all Filipinos.”

Sumndad-Usman said, “Being a Muslim, Christian, or IP is the solution itself because our creeds are essentially all for peace. We can all be peace advocates in our own spheres of influence. The peace process is intergenerational. It is a shared responsibility.”

Nov 19, 2010

Philippines: more funding needed as Typhoon Megi survivors face fresh deluge

Three weeks after Typhoon Megi battered the Philippines, the situation for the survivors of Megi worsens as they face more torrential rain.

The Red Cross is increasing its relief efforts, but many people are still without emergency shelter largely because the IFRC's emergency appeal has, so far, been poorly funded.

The fresh rain may have deluged typhoon-affected families, but the donations have only trickled in. The IFRC's appeal for 4.2 million Swiss francs (4.3 million US dollars/3.1 million euros) is currently only 20 per cent funded.

"This serious lack of funding constrains our ability to provide much-needed assistance to vulnerable populations whose coping mechanisms have been dealt a double blow," says Selvaratnam Sinnadurai, the IFRC's country representative for Philippines. The stark reality is that the Red Cross is far from meeting the shelter needs of populations affected by Typhoon Megi. If rain continues to fall, the situation will further deteriorate.

The appeal aims to support the Philippine Red Cross in providing relief and early recovery assistance to 60,000 people across the five worst-hit provinces of Cagayan, Isabela, Kalinga, La Union and Pangasinan.

Dedicated staff and volunteers of the Philippine Red Cross have already been distributing food packages to over 10,000 families as well as providing other relief supplies such as bedding and hygiene items to some 6,000 households.

Mary Rose Osocho, a 31-year-old mother of two, is one beneficiary of Red Cross relief supplies in Isabela province. Her family received sleeping mats, blankets, mosquito nets, hygiene kits and jerry cans from the Red Cross. "These items will help us as we struggle to recover a normal life," she says.

However, like thousands of others whose houses were destroyed, her family is still exposed to the elements. For Mary, privacy and security are the least of her worries.

"We put up this structure with materials salvaged from our damaged house. Now rain and flash floods have dealt us another blow. It is really depressing," she laments.

And to compound the problems, the latest downpours have affected those provinces that were hardest hit by Typhoon Megi. According to the national disaster risk reduction and management council, eight deaths have been reported in Isabela, three in Cagayan and one in Kalinga. Some 124,000 families have been affected.

Philippine Red Cross specialized volunteer units and water rescue teams were immediately mobilized. They provided supplies, including ready-to-eat meals, to hundreds of families in evacuation centres.

"Relief distributions by some of our chapters have been hampered as sections of road remain impassable," says Gwendolyn Pang, secretary general of the Philippines Red Cross.

"We need our partners' help to overcome this. We cannot do it alone," concludes Richard Gordon, chairman of the Philippine Red Cross.

Nov 8, 2010

We Need Your Help!
Asia America Initiative is helping 2 million Typhoon Victims

Ongoing rainfall has worsened the suffering of some 2 million displaced persons created by an earlier typhoon the Philippines. They are largely invisible to the world and suffer in silence. Relief is in short supply as multiple natural disasters have struck across the globe. Roads and bridges are washed out, leaving myriad communities isolated. Rock and mud slides have destroyed entire communities that have come isolated. AAI is partnering with brave relief and rescue teams of the Philippine Army, local NGOs and village and mountainous province officials who have run short on medical, food and shelter supplies. AAI is distributing more than a half-million water purification sachets, one ton of medicines and a 40ft container of hospital supplies that arrives on November 8. We need your help in funding these shipments and to purchase more emergency supplies!

Click Here to donate to typhoon relief in the Philippines NOW through Universal Giving

Nov 2, 2010

Chinese Aggression


In the debate among China scholars in the West, the central issue is whether China has historically been a peaceful or expansionist power. The reading of Chinese history will show a pattern of martial rivalries between ethnic Han Chinese kingdoms, as well as with neighboring kingdoms and tribes of other nationalities. In the October 21, 2010 edition of Foreign Policy, scholar Daniel Blumnethal takes a historical view of a rising China’s modern political behavior. -- Al Santoli

How can we make sense of a People's Republic of China that is supposed to be, in the words of Deng Xiaoping, "biding its time and hiding its capabilities," but in fact is picking fights with most of its neighbors, including the United States? The Chinese were supposed to be using their deep reservoirs of "soft power" and practicing a highly skilled diplomacy aimed at assuring all that China is rising peacefully. But over the past year, Beijing has been rather clumsier than the caricature of Chinese cleverness might suggest. China has in effect declared the entire South China Sea -- a body of water that is of critical importance for its abundance of natural resources and for its position as the maritime connection between the Indian and Pacific Oceans -- to be its territorial water…..

A recent book helps explain how PRC leaders think about the world and what may lead China to engage in the behavior we and our allies find offensive. In The Mind of Empire China's History and Foreign Relations, Christopher Ford makes a persuasive case for hardwired cultural conditioning as an explanation for China's imperious behavior. China possesses, well, the mind of an empire. According to Ford, Chinese history has no precedent for stable coexistence among sovereign equals. Moreover, struggle over primacy within China and later with other states is a fairly continuous characteristic of Chinese history.,, According to Ford, China has an enduring sense of global order. Beijing assumes that the "natural order" of the political world is hierarchical and the idea of truly separate and independent states is illegitimate.

The answer may lie in Chinese strategists' cultural conditioning: Many Chinese strategic elites analogize this period in international politics to the Warring States Period. According to Jacqueline Newmyer, the Warring States Period was "a militarized age when roughly seven small kingdoms vied for ascendancy over the territory now considered China's Han core, before the state of Qin emerged victorious, unified China, and launched the dynastic era that lasted into the twentieth century."

During this period of Chinese history, roughly coequal sovereigns competed for primacy until, as Ford says, "a just and moral unitary Confucian state" dominated for two millennia and established the correct pattern of hierarchical relations with China's neighbors.

The strong counter-reaction[ to he South China Sea claims [and aggression toward Japanese-claimed islands in the East Sea]m not to mention China’s academic claims over northern Korea on=under the pretext of who ruled the ancient Koryeo kingdom 935 to 1392 A.D.], by U.S. Secretaries Clinton and Gates took the Chinese by surprise and left Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi stunned and furious. But precisely in his moment of fury, Foreign Minister Yang had much to reveal about how the Chinese elite think. In Yang's view, Secretary Clinton was "attacking China." And as Yang said, "China is a big country and other countries are small countries and that is just a fact." First, Beijing sees itself as in an intensive competition for primacy that parallels the Warring States Period. U.S. attempts to stand up for its interests and allies are not taken at face value, they are "attacks" on China. Second, the natural order of things is that the "small countries" must accept China's superior position.