There are initiatives that will force government officials to seriously reconsider doing something illegal or unethical
MANILA, Philippines - The signing of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front in October marked a huge leap towards achieving lasting peace in Mindanao.
But beyond the negotiating table, peace requires the active involvement, not just of those directly affected by the conflict, but also of each and every Filipino who has a stake in the well-being of our country.
Rappler's Friday, December 14, conversation on understanding peace in Mindanao, showed how everyone can participate in the peace process through social media.
There were varying reactions from participants all over the country but all were one in declaring: #IAmForPeace.
What the conversation revealed was that despite the 40-year conflict in Mindanao, most Filipinos have yet to be aware of the real meaning of the war in the South.
A youth advocate revealed that Mindanao being stereotyped by outsiders as a war-torn and violent area has caused emotional strain on some Mindanaoans.
Because of this, Mindanaoans feel the need to enlighten people.
Stories about Mindanao are sometimes exaggerated. I lived in Zamboanga for 16 years and I had a relatively peaceful existence. #iAmForPeace— Michelle Bugante (@purpledamaris) December 14, 2012
That's not to say that there's no conflict there. Conflict exists and I'm glad there are now steps being made to address it. #iAmForPeace— Michelle Bugante (@purpledamaris) December 14, 2012
One way to change the mindset of the public is through responsible media coverage, with consideration for diversity and sensitivity.
Coverage on Mindanao is a fight between the sensationalized and exact truth. The latter helps in understanding the situation. #IAmForPeace— John Allanegui (@JohnAllanegui) December 14, 2012
In the same way that stories from Mindanaoans themselves will help correct the stereotype, local reporters, who live in and understand Mindanao, also play an important role in shaping public opinion.
The journey towards peace
What steps should be undertaken to achieve lasting peace? Perhaps the most important factor is political will from the national government to carry through concrete reforms on the ground.
Labor advocate Susan Ople believes that Muslims need to be more involved in national affairs.
To erase the stereotype, the educational system must accommodate the unique culture in Mindanao. Some suggest that the history of Mindanao, as well as Islamic culture, should be incorporated in the school curriculum.
Curriculum is also one factor of making Mindanao invisible. It's time to incorporate the situation of Mindanao in education. #IAmForPeace— John Allanegui (@JohnAllanegui) December 14, 2012
Art, is another way of promoting reconciliation and strengthening relationships.
Sana may creative writers who can do an anthology of poems, essays and short stories re Mindanao :-) #IAmForPeace— susanople (@susanople) December 14, 2012
These #IAmForPeace tweets make me wanna go and experience Mindanao again. What a beautiful place!— YVES™(@MissIVYJOY) December 14, 2012
"Malapit na ang panahon na ang gustong magbakasyon sa Pagudpud, puwede na ring sa Sulu magpunta," promised President Benigno Aquino III.
But to some, the time to do it is now, and the best way to truly get to know the place is to walk on its streets and explore what it has to offer.
And when the entire Mindanao finally attains peace, there will be no stopping its development.
Keep the dialogue alive. Join the conversation by using #IAmForPeace on Twitter and Facebook.