Initiative for Peace Training

One of my Quan Cais is “Initiative for Peace (IFP)”, where participants are trained as facilitators for ‘Day Camps’ and hold a year end conference on the Mindanao issue after learning various techniques and theory of ‘Conflict Management & Resolution’. On Saturday as well as yesterday, we had our annual IFP training camp for us incoming fist year facilitators.

During these two days in training, our second years and student leaders gave us presentations about different conflict solving techniques, shared their experience, knowledge and ideas with us and conducted different icebreakers, activities and games, that fostered these abilities and made us apply what we learned. We were also given assignments on various aspects of the Mindanao conflict, before conducting the last two activities. My favorites were the “NASA”- game and the Simulation of a Mindanao kidnapping.  At the beginning of the “NASA” – game, all the members were divided into two groups , and each was given a slip of paper on which a person was , he or she represented now :

You’re a 57 -year old IT specialist. You are sitting in a wheelchair

You’re a 20 –year – old , completely healthy prostitutes.

You are a 23 year old Chinese Olympic swimmer. You are gay.

You’re a 18- year-old American economics student . You are very religious and prefer people with the same religion.

You’re a 60 – year-old catholic priest .

You are a successful doctor. You have four children from three marriages and have a history of domestic violence and abuse. (That was the slip of paper I received)

You’re a 37 -year-old armed policeman, strong and mature. You are secretly a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Then we were told the problem : in fifteen minutes, the world would end , but the NASA had built a small ship, which could only take three of us to another planet . We were supposed to pick who should board it. At the beginning everybody was arguing for their own survival, but then we decided to use the process of elimination. Since the four of us had to ensure that the human race would not die out, we decided to take two girls and one boy and only the young and healthy, so the catholic priest and the IT expert were out immediately. Deciding over the racist cop was quite hard, since he was strong and mature but the fact that he was racist did not speak in favor of him, since we thought that racism and extremism had caused enough problems in this world and we did not want the new planet to continue with it. Even though “I” had a history of domestic abuse, the group decided to let me board the spaceship, because we did not know about the conditions on the new planet and medical help might be very helpful. The last choice had to be made between the economics student and the gay swimmer. Since the swimmer was stronger and economics might not be needed on the new planet, we decided to take him. The remaining members were thus the prostitute, the doctor and the gay swimmer. The game was very interesting, especially because deciding “who should survive” was a dilemma. Do we really have the right do say which human being deserves to live or not?

Another activity was “Animal Kingdom”. The student leaders introduced themselves as the kings of the jungle, a wolf, lion and austridge and then divided us into groups of animals: snakes, scorpions, ants and foxes.  After proposing a scenario, for example “one of the fox cubs was poisoned”, we were asked to say which group was responsible for that particular action. Whenever we gave the wrong answer, we were put into jail. At first everyone tried to think logically, but very soon we all realized that our answers did not matter and we were put into jail for the simplest things, such as smiling or not answering fast enough. It was particularly striking that none of the foxes got imprisoned, no matter what they did and said. Realizing that this we decided to revolt and break out of prison. Our first try proved to be unsuccessful, however the second revolution was also supported by the foxes and we managed to put the kings of the jungle to prison for the injustice they had done to us. At the end of the game we reflected upon the actions taken and looked at them in a global perspective.

The Mindano Kidnaping simulation was quite the most challenging activity of the two days. While sitting at the lunch table and enjoying the spicy chickpeas that our Moroccan chef makes for us, suddenly two of the secondyears ran into the canteen and kidnapped Saharsha, one of the student leaders who was sitting at our table. Everybody was surprised, staring at the cantine door, as if Saharsha would walk back in. But he didn’t and we realized that the Mindanao simulation had started. We were quickly divided into two groups, rushing to the lecture rooms.

  • Mindanao Conflict: Political tensions and open hostilities which began in 1969 between the minority muslim rebel groups, fighting for self-determination, and the Government of the Philippines.  The conflict has its root in the colonization and Christianization of the Mindanao Islands by the Spaniards and then American and dates back to 1899 during the uprising of the Bangsamoro people to resist foreign rule from the United States. The  conflict has killed about 150,000 people and, since 2000, has displaced nearly 3 million people, according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).

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Image: msubalita.blogspot.com

One group was representing the Philipino government, the other one the Abu Sayyaf, one of the militant rebel groups. I was in the Abu Sayyaf group. We walked into the lecture room, where our hostage Saharsha was sitting on a chair, with a flag wrapped around his head and his hands tied together. Via skype we connected to the Philipino government in the other room and made our demands clear: Autonomy, release of prisoners and money. The simulation was incredibly real. From time to time each party sent out negotiators who met in a room to revise the demands and offers. During the whole time one second-year was constantly switching rooms and writing about the internal discussions of each group.What he wrote was displayed in a goodle doc that was projected onto a wall in our rooms. He was representing the press and the google doc was our only insight to the other groups process, however, to make the simulation more real, the press was biased and sometimes gave false information.

13:46 The  Abu Sayyaf has kidnapped government official Saharsha Karki.

13:56 Government has decided to not negotiate any further

13:58 Abu Sayyaf has threatened to bomb government buildings 

At the end of the simulation both parties agreed to grant the muslim minority a special administrative region, one million Philipino pesos and the release of 8 prisoners.The simulation made us reflect upon the complexity of global conflicts and the influence of media. To end the training camp, us first years conducted activities for our second-years which we all enjoyed. We all look forward to the next IFP sessions and the conferences, especially since we will invite students from other schools and even overseas to seek mutually accepted solutions and build trust that will hopefully last for the future.

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