Lee McKenna is once again in the Philippines, leading a three-week conflict transformation training. Her trip is sponsored by the Gavel Memorial World Peace Fund, an endowment of the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America earmarked toward conflict transformation capacity building across the globe.
This is the third BPFNA-sponsored conflict transformation training in the Philippines in the past six years. Previous trainings have been facilitated by Dan Buttry and Lee McKenna.
Internet signals are spotty, especially with the recent storms, but Lee was able to send the report that follows. We do know that Lee and the people in the trainings are safe in the aftermath of the most recent storms. Please keep all of them in your thoughts and prayers.
Chair, World Peace Networks Committee of the BPFNA Board
28 September 2009
Good evening; I'm exactly twelve hours ahead of you and even as you are beginning to move into your day, I am about to cash in my chips. I have slept a lot of hours since boarding a plane in Toronto, but still seem to be catching up. An exhausting first day of training, with some unforeseen challenges. I am right on the ocean at the south-west corner of the island of Panay; the local village is trying to have a fiesta (despite the weather) of some sort and so the loud speakers are pumping out music and speeches for both attendees and those who happen to be within a dozen kilometres. The ocean is wild, massive brown waves crashing into bent-over palm trees with typhoon Ondoy continuing to wreak havoc. Though we were to start first thing this morning, we did not get under way until 1:30 or so because so many participants were delayed by Ondoy, coming as they were from areas where there are massive mudslides, with thousands dead or missing. A grim beginning.
Philippines Airlines (Vancouver to Manila) was a treat; one movie, but no sound available, but they handed out the headsets anyways. So that's fine, I brought lots to read. Well, there are new rules (I'm told, but cannot confirm it's true, however) that mean airplanes have to keep their interior lights off. All the time. Except when we eat. So, having closed my eyes from Toronto to Vancouver, I didn't have a lot of options for the Vancouver to Manila leg. Note to self: pack flashlight in knapsac for the return journey.
It's a delight to be back with the staff of Development Ministries; their grace and hospitality is beyond measure. Of the hours we did spend together in training today, a good chunk of it was spent in story-telling. These are tense times with an escalation in conflict of all sorts and in all contexts, families, churches, mosques, neighbourhoods, communities, groups of communities, as political tensions spill over. Social and economic crises -- both part of the global story and with their own Filipino peculiarities -- are exacerbating political crises: peace talks have broken down amidst armed encounters amongst and between the Philippine Army, the National Democratic Front/the Communist Party of the Philippines/National People's Army, and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front with Abu Sayyaf stepping up kidnappings for ransom. Extrajudicial killings and election-related violence seem to be ramping up towards the May 2010 general elections. Many are saying that the government of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is stirring up some of that violence in order to create a pretence for a renewed imposition of state-of-emergency conditions. Having exhausted her constitutionally-determined limits as president, she is supposed to step aside, as she claimed she would in her State of the Nation Address the end of July -- but that was before, a mere three days before, the still much-beloved former President Corazon Aquino died -- which filled the streets with generations of People Power I and II alumnae who continue to yearn for what still eludes their collective grasp. Interesting how one of the story-tellers this afternoon reminded everyone of how the country has never recovered from Cory's capitulation to US demands to maintain the bases and to pay back 'every centavo' of Marcos-era debt. A lot of talk about mining as well, including Toronto Ventures International, which is none too popular in Zamboanga. The anti-mining activists present report some successes, however, having brought to a halt to a proposed gold mining venture in Capiz.
That's it; can't keep my eyes open any longer and it's only 9:00. Going to Mindanao on the 1st.
Love from me.