Témoignages - 9 September 2015

en - Kauswagan: Towards Creating a Peace Sanctuary

In May 1980, at the request of Archbishop Fernando R. Capalla, D.D., then Bishop of Iligan, invited the Religious of the Assumption to Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte, Philippines TO BE A CONTEMPLATIVE PRESENCE among Muslims and Christians. In 1993, the community received the mandate from the Provincial Chapter to focus on interreligious dialogue particularly with our Muslim sisters and brothers.
In the years that the sisters lived in Kauswagan, the sisters and the people have witnessed a massacre in 1981, the war in March 2000, the fire which razed the entire school building in less than an hour in January 2, 1997; another armed encounter launched by the rebel group of the MILF (Muslim Islamic Liberation Front) last August 2008 which affected many families of our students and teachers, tidal waves which flooded and swept away several homes. Two other devastating typhoons affected this province in 2011 (Sendong) and Pablo in 2012. These events have displaced thousands of people and challenged the Religious community to discern their presence in Kauswagan. The province after a serious process of discernment in 2003, decided in 2004 to continue its presence in Kauswagan. This decision engaged every sister in the province to be available to be assigned there. The contemplative presence in Kauswagan now took the form of “creating a Peace Sanctuary” which was formally launched by the sisters together with Muslims and Christians. While the sisters come and go, and the events manifest the elusiveness of peace, the vision and the project continues through our lay collaborators in the school and those in the wider community as well as our alumnae/ alumni, scholars and students. Since 2011, this vision of a Peace Sanctuary which was begun by the Religious in this area, has now become a Vision for the entire Municipality of Kauswagan.

FRAMEWORK and METHODOLOGY for the Educational Community
a. Framework: Shalom in the Hebrew Bible.
For a deeper understanding to make the peace sanctuary a concrete reality, the biblical understanding of shalom was introduced as a framework to give a vision, direction to the decisions, actions, structures created in the school, and as a guide for the components and methodologies of the formation processes. The concept of Shalom involves the interrelationship with God, humans and the entire cosmos. Therefore intrinsic to the meaning of shalom is Justice, ecological commitment and the living of harmony and interdependence. Important in all these for both Muslims and Christians, is a worldview that can recognize where God/ Allah is encountered and found.
b. Methodology as a Way of Life: Live Incarnational Spirituality and Interdependence
This methodology moves us to DISCOVER GOD and RESPOND to GOD in the CONCRETE REALITY (JPICS as a lifestyle) as individuals and as a COMMUNITY enlightened by the WORD of GOD and Prayer. This implies on-going BABAD- immersion to the Reality, CONTEMPLATION - Listening deeply to God’s Word in self, persons/ situation/ creation and scripture), express the response to God in reality through concrete ACTION (JPICS), CELEBRATING the experience in Liturgy and REREADING (Evaluation) the experience. This is a dynamic, on-going cycle.
A Community Project that flowed from this framework and methodology, influenced the sisters how to live in these situations daily and to make appropriate decisions during the war, and the times after. This guided them how to form and accompany our lay and young collaborators to help transform Kauswagan from a “5th class town and a war zone” into a peace sanctuary” where peoples of different religio-cultural heritage can live in harmony with one another and with creation: where God, the ever Greater God, dwells among His people.

c. Some PROCESSES used to form persons and communities to live and internalize the meaning, the values and the ways towards Shalom.
1). Reformulated the Vision, Mission and Objectives of the School and made a 3 year plan. Each subject area concretely integrates peace education in the curriculum through the knowledge, skills, values, and concrete behaviour/ life-style (that manifests JPICS) within the school and in the wider community. (ex. PEACEionaryo- a project to come up with a dictionary for peace in both English and Pilipino (language as a spiritual practice); curriculum webbing
2) Created structures that can facilitate a change of consciousness: (some examples)
- Transform the canteen into a learning center (no plastic, local products, learning kits…)
- Transform spaces (garbage and apparent “useless spaces” areas into sci-math garden, into organic vegetable and herbal gardens, chicken raising area; the dirty walls of pathways into Art for peace galleries, and a Peace garden…
- It is the students and the teachers who maintain the cleanliness, the beauty and the development of the school grounds (no janitors). The school adopted the slogan and policy: “Basura ko, sagot ko.” (My garbage, my responsibility).
- Weekly peace activities are part of the school schedule. Political events and issues are studied, reflected upon to clarify options (electoral process marred by corruption; climate change, trauma healing after the war and providing aid and rehabilitation for those affected by natural disasters, etc.) Clubs create art forms as tools for JPICS education.
- Advent Conspiracy: Joined the worldwide movement to restore the real meaning of Christmas: Christ’s birth transforms persons and situations therefore “Buy less, Be PRESENCE, Give More, Share More, Worship Fully…”
3) School Activities to transmit, nurture, deepen and sustain the understanding of shalom (JPICS) (some examples)
- Kapatiran for Peace (Sisterhood and Brotherhood for Peace) to provide new students and transferees an experience of being welcomed, oriented and initiated into the life in community and its Vision/Mission as a Peace Sanctuary.
- Sharing on the WORD (BEC), Novenas, Morning Praise followed a format that led to journal writing, group sharing and a weekly action for peace applicable to both Christians and Muslims.
- Peace Camp (a Leadership training to form officially elected and potential leaders) into the vision of Shalom (JPICS), the cosmic story, to understand very concrete issues