“We have generations of families who have aspired for peace and harmony in their communities yet have paid dearly — this could be the hope they’ve been longing for,” said Elnora Bailen-Avarientos, World Vision’s executive director in the Philippines. “We know from the past that the path to peace is difficult and complex, but it is the route that must be taken to secure the future for Mindanao’s children.”
To do this, World Vision is calling for continued cooperation from all parties and a renewed focus on child well-being in Mindanao. The areas where the conflict is focused have fallen behind in development compared to the rest of the Philippines. Only 40 percent of children complete primary school in Mindanao compared to the national average of 75 percent. The under-five mortality rate is three times the national average, according to UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) statistics.
Over the years, World Vision has provided food and safe spaces for children in Mindanao when conflicts flare up and displace large populations. These child friendly spaces are culturally sensitive areas set up with input from a range of tribal and community leaders. The spaces meet the child’s physical needs, allow them to play, and build camaraderie between cultures. World Vision has also trained more than 700 child peace advocates.
“We are empowering children as peace builders, to encourage them to mingle with other groups so they will learn to appreciate each other’s culture and remember that although there is diversity, they can still be friends and live in peace with each other,” said YheleenVeso World Vision’s child friendly spaces team leader in the Philippines. “Here, activities as simple as singing songs and blowing bubbles or as complex as speaking as peace advocates at international conferences lay the ground work in Mindanao for a society where one day many faiths can co-exist peacefully.”
World Vision also works with faith leaders in Mindanao, offering training and seminars in peacebuilding and organizing meetings between core faith groups. One of those helped by livelihood and community-building training is 42-year-old Ahmad, a local imam.
Ahmad fought as a soldier for the Moro group in Mindanao, feeling he needed to protect his tribe. As a highly-respected member of his community, World Vision invited Ahmad to participate in peacebuilding seminars and a special coalition of local faith leaders including Muslims, Christians and people of indigenous faith. The father of four also received training in diversified farming to allow him to better support his family. He now speaks about the benefits of peace and tolerance in his community.
"As a Muslim peace advocate, I hope that all parties to the ongoing conflict in Mindanao will overcome it by extending peace negotiations and by acting not as angry warriors out to seek revenge, but as peace-builders resolutely seeking peace," Ahmad said.
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On-the-ground staff interviews and pictures of the peace programs are available. For information contact Lauren Fisher at +1.206.310.5476.
About World Vision:World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. We serve the world's poor — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews