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PIA Press Release

Feature: Peace learning: Getting into the grassroots

By Rene V. Carbayas

Isabela City, Basilan (15 August) -- The strongest storm may pass but a deeply rooted tree endures them all and remains steadfast and stands tall.

Peace maybe elusive in the Promised Land, but Mindanao's tri-people, could be a few or a lot of them, are still founded on a strong conviction that peace is a reality and never an illusion.

This very same conviction led to the establishment of the Grassroots Peace Learning Course (GPLC), with the vision that the people of Mindanao have achieved sustainable peace, genuine justice and authentic reconciliation.

To attain this vision, GPLC team believes that it needs to educate and empower communities, institutions and individuals as justice and peace builders and as catalysts for sustainable relationship throughout Mindanao.

In the early years of its implementation GPLC is conducted in Central Mindanao. Because of the distance, participants from Western Mindanao are finding it difficult if not expensive to travel.

Just this year organizers, especially partner-facilitators from western Mindanao pushed for the establishment of GPLC for Western Mindanao.

Last July 2008, a hand-full of experienced peace advocators, mostly from Basilan and Zamboanga City, and experts in their own right gathered for a training of trainers or would-be facilitators for GPLC-Western Mindanao.

The gathering enriched the modules prepared that are within the context and culture of Western Mindanao participants.

Topics of modules include the following: self-transformation and trauma healing, understanding and documenting historical roots of conflict in Mindanao, introduction to conflict transformation, conflict resolution skills, multicultural and inter-religious dialogue, community peace organizing, local peace governance, peace advocacy and networking, and designing community-based peacebuilding initiative.

Advanced modules include gender and peacebuilding, active nonviolence, and arts approaches to Peacebuilding.

The GPLC was established in 2003, inspired by the vision of making the inputs and learning from the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) accessible to grassroots leaders of communities in Mindanao.

To date, more than two hundred fifty individuals from twenty (20) different organizations based in thirty (30) different communities, mostly from Central Mindanao areas have attended the three (3) GPLC series. Majority of them are already contributing affectively to different peace processes in the local level.

With the aim of responding to the needs and context of the communities, GPLC has evolved and has adapted its designs and processes based on participants' evaluation results and suggestions of other stakeholders.

For its fourth series this year, GPLC aims to increase the number of peace constituents by bringing the training closer to the communities. Part of the strategy is the conduct of two simultaneous training series in central and Western Mindanao areas.

Using Popular Education (PopEd) Methods, the GPLC trains grassroots peacebuilders and practitioners. It also provides an actual experience of inter-religious and multi cultural dialogue, through the wide variety of sectors being represented by the participants.

The processes in the trainings focus on imparting critical skills to participants to help them to be more effective in Peacebuilding work and at the same time employing elicitive techniques that allow participants to build on each other's experiences, which consequently boost personal strength and commitment to continue working for genuinely peaceful communities.

GPLC accommodates two types of participantsócore and modular. Core Participants (CP) are those who will take all the regular modules, including the community exposure activity. They will be considered 'graduates' at the end of the series. Modular Participants (MP) are those who only enroll in selected modules.

To ensure comprehensive learning dynamics and establish continuing support to participants, GPLC likewise undertakes other forms of gathering of participants such as recall sessions, assembly of graduates, and triangulation activities.

Annually, small grants are also provided for selected graduates to support the conduct of their re-entry activities. It center also offers technical assistance to participants and their organizations to strengthen their peace programming, primarily through scheduled visits and follow through workshops.

The Catholic Relief Services under its Peace, Justice and Reconciliation Program oversee management and operation of GPLC with active support from the Tri-people Advisory Committee for direction. (PIA-BASULTA) [top]

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