Jun 25, 2010

Who are AAI's Catalysts for Peace?

In 2008, armed conflict broke out in Mindanao, especially in Iligan City in North Cotabato province, after the Supreme Court suspended the peace settlement between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Philippine government. 700,000 were left displaced from their homes and stripped of most of their belongings after the guerillas burnt houses down and occupied farmlands.

There was little international or government support to help the displaced population. In response, AAI's President Mr. Albert Santoli and Program Coordinator Ms. Rohaniza Sumndad visited the conflict-torn area with a substantial amount of humanitarian aid in the form of medicines and toys for diaplced children. In an unexpected turn of events, students from Saint Micheal's College and Mindanao State University in Iligan City volunteered to assist the relief effort and were instrumental in the distribution of supplies and aid in refugee centers, and coordinating relief efforts.

The events in Mindanao in 2008 represent the spontaneous beginning of AAI's Catalysts for Peace. Currently, there are over 500 Catalysts for Peace in Manila and Mindanao. Catalysts for Peace are volunteers that assist with emergency services and mentoring children from underprivileged communities. Student volunteers from medical or nursing schools support our medical missions. Across Mindanao and Manila, active chapters are being formed and have an ongoing active role in AAI's interfaith community development and peace building programs. Rohaniza Sumndad has been the organizer and inspiration for college students to form Catalysts for Peace groups in their home areas.

Catalysts from Assumption College in Manila have been consistently involved AAI's capitol-area programs and are active participants in our Peace Caravans that link Christian and Muslim students in some of the most impoverished Muslim areas of the capital. Recently, AAI's Kiddie Fun Day brought Catalysts from Assumption College together with underprivileged Muslim children in the Maharlika barangay [neighborhood] to generate understanding between the two cultures and to build cultural bridges.

AAI inspires and coordinates new intercultural relationships across the Mindanao community that has endured generations of armed conflict. AAI's Catalysts for Peace are young people who believe that guns cannot bring peace and that the power lies in the hearts and through the actions of the community. They are an integral part of AAI's overall mission and our objective of building peace, not only in the Philippines, but across the Region.

For more information on the events of 2008 in Mindanao: