Training peacebuilding leaders: challenges faced and lessons learned


Individual articles from the Summer 2020 issue of Intersections will be posted on this blog twice per week. The full issue can be found on MCC’s website. This article consist of five reflections which will be posted separately.

As peacebuilding has grown and flourished as an academic field and a practical discipline over the past several decades, MCC has collaborated with Mennonite and Mennonite Brethren colleges, universities and seminaries in the United States and Canada in equipping church and community leaders from around the world with peacebuilding skills and knowledge. Through Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary, Canadian Mennonite University, Conrad Grebel University College, Eastern Mennonite University and Fresno Pacific University, MCC has sponsored hundreds of students for short-term peacebuilding training as well as academic degrees in peacebuilding over the past three decades (with a significant majority of those trainees studying at Eastern Mennonite University’s Center for Justice and Peacebuilding and its predecessors). During the past quarter century, MCC has also worked closely with groups of committed peacebuilders who sought to organize contextualized peacebuilding training opportunities in their parts of the world. Over the following pages, peacebuilders in African and Asian contexts reflect on the challenges they have faced, the successes they have enjoyed and the lessons they have learned from organizing peacebuilding trainings in their regional contexts.—The editors.

Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI)

Mindanao, the second largest island in the southern Philippines, has historically, geographically and socio-culturally been distinct from the rest of the country. It has witnessed colonial control and occupation over the past two centuries, leading to struggles over identity and governance. Conflicts between Indigenous political interests and external stakeholders have caused the area to become a crucible for violence and fear.

Several community leaders from Mindanao participated in Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute in the 1990s. Together, these trainees formed a critical mass of peacebuilders passionate about promoting peace in strife-ravaged Mindanao. Encouraged by a wide variety of peacebuilding practitioners and scholars, along with collaborative support from Catholic Relief Services (CRS), Catholic Agency for Overseas Development (CAFOD) and MCC, this group of committed peacemakers founded the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) with the mission of bringing together peace practitioners to learn from one another and of equipping people interested in becoming peacebuilders with knowledge and practical skills.

“I would like to change history for my children, the bloody history of conflict in Mindanao,” said Musa Sanguila of Kauswagen, Mindanao island in the Philippines. “We change something for good starting from inside ourselves.” Musa was among 165 participants from the Philippines and 16 other Asian countries attending the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute (MPI) in Davao City, Mindanao, Phillipines from May 1 to 19, 2002. (MCC photo/Jon Rudy)

Creating a space for mutual sharing and support among peacebuilding practitioners has been central to the mission of MPI. Participants in MPI workshops learn not only from one another but also from the context of Mindanao, with participants visiting organizations working towards peace on the island and having practitioners from Mindanao teach and share at MPI courses.

MPI holds an Annual Training Institute for three weeks each spring during which an average of 100 individuals from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond attend courses in a residential setting. There are courses designed for newcomers to the field as well as advanced and innovative courses relevant to new conflict realities and peacebuilding challenges. Each year, around 20 nations are represented at MPI and this rich diversity is fully celebrated during evening activities. The openings and closings of each week of the Institute are festive, with cultural presentations from Mindanao serving as a highlight. The ambience and structure of the Institute are highly conducive to relationship building for solidarity among peacebuilders.

MPI is implementing a grassroots Peacebuilding Mentors Program to enhance the mentoring ability of on-the-ground peacebuilders as they nurture others in their own contexts.

Besides the annual training institute, MPI strives to provide relevant programs to strengthen peacebuilding. It has conducted a resource-based conflict and peacebuilding training program that focuses on the Indigenous peoples of Mindanao and the hazards they face from the mining industry. MPI continues to tailor training for specific sectors and regional issues. Currently, MPI is implementing a grassroots peacebuilding mentors program to enhance the mentoring ability of on-the-ground peacebuilders as they nurture others in their own contexts. These ongoing training activities are organized and coordinated by a small but highly motivated staff working in the MPI secretariat based in Davao, Mindanao.

MCC has been privileged over the past two decades to be a partner and friend of MPI and its vibrant network of peacebuilders committed to the nonviolent transformation of conflict in Mindanao and beyond.

Sriprakash Mayasandra is MCC representative for Chad. He has worked for MCC in Palestine and Israel, Syria and, most recently, across Asia as MCC’s regional peacebuilding coordinator for Asia and as interim representative for northeast Asia.

Canadian School of Peacebuilding at Canadian Mennonite University.

Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University.

Center for Peacemaking at Fresno Pacific University.

Great Lakes Initiative.

Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute.

Northeast Asia Peacebuilding Institute.

Peace and Conflict Studies at Conrad Grebel University College.

Theology and Peace Studies at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.