CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY (By Mike Banos /19 October 2006) - This self-styled "City of Golden Friendship" seeks to expand its many facets into another dimension when it hosts the Asia Peace builders Forum next week, 26-30 October 2006.
With the theme "Exploring Asian Approaches to Peace building" the five-day forum will be joined by at least 50 key change agents from 14 Asian countries working in community and national level peace processes in the Asia Pacific region.
Action Asia was started in 1999 when a small group of peace practitioners from the Asia Pacific region met under the umbrella of ACTION International to pursue a long-time dream to form an active network dedicated to peace building.
"The group envisioned to actively support peace practitioners working in violent conflict areas of the Asia region; as well as identify and promote Asian models and understandings of peace building and conflict transformation approaches and processes," said, Balay Mindanao Foundation, Inc. (BMFI) president Charlito Manlupig whose Peace Center in Bgy. Bulua will host the activity.
"The first vision has been realised with ongoing work in Myanmar and Nepal carried out in conjunction with local peace practitioners, by Asian practitioners belonging to the network," said Ariel Hernandez, BMFI executive director. "The latter objective of finding the Asian approaches and models has been building momentum, and the realisation of this dream will come about through the Asian Peace Builders Forum next week.
Previously, much of the training and materials relating to conflict transformation and peace building has been generated and provided in Western countries. Organizations such as Responding to Conflict in the UK, and Eastern Mennonite University in the United States have led the field in equipping peace practitioners to do their work.
"The graduates of these programs are the primary members of the Action Asia network, but until next week, they have not had the opportunity to share their own thoughts, reflections and theories about the approaches to peace building which have been found to be effective in the Asian context," Manlupig said. "Yet there is a myriad of creative ideas and approaches which are being used to effectively address violent conflict, and promote and build peace in the region."
Specifically, the Asian Peace builders' Forum will create a venue to identify unique Asian approaches in conflict transformation and peace building; celebrate the vibrancy of the movement and highlight the success of various interventions; document and publish lessons learned from both success and failures in peace building and conflict transformation by practitioners at the community and national levels; deepen relationships between members for further exchange, collaboration and exposure; and profiling situations of Myanmar and Nepal for the purpose of regional solidarity and influencing work.
The forum that will run for 4 ½ days (please see Appendix One for Forum Schedule) will mainly focus on case study presentations exemplifying different themes from presenter's experiences. The themes would include but not be limited to Ethnicity and Identity; Women, Gender and Peace building; Peace Futures; Peace Museums; Peace Journalism; Peace Advocacy at National Level; Reducing Tensions During Elections;
Establishing Zones of Peace in Conflict Areas; Mediation; Conflict Prevention Mechanisms; Reconciliation and Asian Training Methodologies.
One of the highlights of the forum will be the keynote address of peace studies pioneer Prof. Johann Galtung, the founder and Director of Transcend, an organization promoting conflict resolution by non-violent means.
For over four decades Galtung has mediated conflicts in Israel and Palestine, China and Tibet, Peru, Sri Lanka and Burma, among others. He is the author of the United Nations' manual for peace workers and he continues to advise UN agencies on peace issues. He is Professor of Peace Studies at the University of Hawaii and other centers of peace learning.
Prior to workshop-presentations, speakers have been invited to open the morning plenary to talk on Peace building Efforts in the Asian Region from Various Faith Perspectives; Influencing Government Policies; and Mainstreaming Gender Sensitivity in Peace Building Work.
This Forum will also provide an opportunity for participants to strengthening the existing network and identify future collaborative actions, as well as giving core Action Asia members the chance to meet and discuss detailed future plans.
The forum's ultimate goal is the publication of a book containing several thematic case studies from experiences of peace advocates in the Asian region.