Wow. I am a bit tired. It’s been a massive past few weeks. This is probably the busiest I have been since I’ve been here and I am both amazed and slightly (ok more than slightly) exhausted at all that’s been done.
We as a network of organizations here just blitzed through about eight different conferences or events in the past two weeks. The build up to them was nuts. We had a massive planning meeting that went late into the night and then we got rolling.
I was mainly involved with 3.5 of all of these. The first up is the .5. The new Global Mission Fellow (that’s our new name) arrived on the 14th! His name is Glory Mulimba and he comes from the great nation of the Democratic Republic of Congo (my French degree is being put to use!). I did not go to the airport to pick him up but I did meet him here at the office and helped him get situated for a bit. Then I showed him around the nearby area here to start his orientation. It is so weird to have a new missionary here (in a good way). I am now a veteran of sorts. It’s been fun to get to know him and put my knowledge to use in a different way. This part is the .5 because I’m not in charge or heavily involved in what he’ll be doing, just the friendly help.
So as the week moved on, we got ready for conference number one. The Mindanao Human Rights and Peace Conference. This is probably the biggest conference I’ve been a part of in terms of importance. It was huge. We had representatives from all over Mindanao and from all sectors. There were religious leaders, Lumad leaders, lawyers, organizers, environmentalists, and more. We tackled the big issues of right now- militarization, denial of education to lumad people, trumped up charges, and criminalizing of human rights defenders. The second night brought a really inspiring solidarity and cultural night and then we capped off the whole event with a presentation by the students of an IP school. The performance recounted their story of the forced evacuation they endured this past April. Their community was bombed by units from the Armed Forces of the Philippines. That’s right, bombed. The children reenacted the event and you could see the still present fear in their eyes. Talk about bone chilling. They and their families quite literally abandoned their homes to get to safety but it meant that they were homeless. For about three months, these people lived here in Davao on the streets and in a makeshift evacuation center while waiting to be told they could go home. They were finally able to and this performance helps them tell their story. Why were they bombed? Because they’ve been labeled as members of the New People’s Army. They are called rebels and because of that, they are targets. Children. Targets. And that’s the tip of the iceberg. That’s the start of the reality for IP children. This conference is but one of hundreds that have happened all over Mindanao for the past few decades.
For this conference, I was on the documentation team but it was a bit more than just taking pictures. We took pictures, videos, audio recordings, minutes, collected all presentations from the speakers, and more. At the end of the conference, we had over 50GB of data…. yikes. Our poor laptops got put through the ringer. I was happy to be so busy during the conference though. I felt useful, I felt like things were getting done and I got much more out of the conference than previously. It was nice.
With that conference wrapped up, we had a quick turnaround to get prepared for the next event. Next up was the Ecumenical Bishops Forum: Regional Consolidation. This was a gathering of pastors, reverends, fathers, bishops, etc (you think of the title, they were there) from a few regions here in Mindanao to get updates on some of the issues from us the organizers. I was once again on the documentation team but we didn’t have as much to do this time. Just pictures, audio, and gathering the presentations. It was a piece of cake compared to the Human Rights Conference.
While that was going on, a group of foreigners from all over came to learn a bit about what was going on here. I was not involved with their program but I did get to meet them. They stopped by the Bishops Forum before heading to their exposure in the mining areas. Nice people.
Finally, as we wrapped up the Bishops Forum we hopped in the van and headed over to the start of the final conference of this month. The Save Our Schools Conference. This conference zeroed in on the issues of militarization and paramilitarization around schools both government and non government supported. It specifically looked at how the children and the communities were getting traumatized because of the threats and attacks. There were representatives from all over Mindanao and they all represented the IP schools and learning centers that have been systematically attacked and red tagged as rebel camps. The participants were so passionate.
I was again on the documentation team and it was just like the first conference. Video, pictures, audio, minutes, presentation collecting, and more. Another 50GB of data.
This was a marathon of sorts. I was constantly on the move, trading cameras, USBs, hunting people down to ask for a copy of their presentation, and sorting it all into nice neat folders. When this past Saturday came, I was so ready to just relax. I didn’t quite get to.
Instead, I joined in the KALUMARAN (IP Rights group) council meeting. They needed a primer and wanted to update the paramilitary table that I began compiling at the beginning of September. So Saturday night and most of Sunday, we sat in the conference room and had the meeting. It was very productive and there is now a nice looking excel sheet full of paramilitary activities all over Mindanao. I was just unhappy and longing for a mental break.
Luckily, this week has given me a chance to slow down and catch my breath. I’m still working pretty hard but I can at least sit one place and not run around like a dog chasing his own tail.
So that’s all for now as far as an update goes. However, if you would indulge me I would like to make a plug for an upcoming event.
This December 2, 2014 is Giving Tuesday. An event that really pushes for us to give our gifts rather than spend them. Global Ministries took part in this last year and raised an absurd amount of money for its missions around the world. So now, we are challenging ourselves to do it again. Last year, I pushed people to give to Haiyan recovery efforts but this year, I ask you to support me and my fellow missionaries. It is really simple. On December 2, 2014 wherever you might be in the world, I invite you to take a few minutes of your time to donate to my Advance number. I’ve spoken about the Advance before. 100% of what you give goes to missions. It supports what we do at Global Ministries. It’s really simple. Head over to my missionary profile page on umcmission.org and click on the read button on the right side of the page. I really appreciate any and every little bit you may be able to contribute. I’ll post links and more ways for you guys to contribute over then next couple months. Be on the lookout.
SO… Thanks as always for listening to me babble on about everything here. So much goes on and it’s really been a blessing. In just under 7 months, I’ll be hopping on a plane back to New York City. It’s so hard to believe.