In a world torn apart by conflicts and violence, the pursuit of peace has never been more urgent. In the southern Philippine Island of Mindanao, the quest for lasting peace is particularly pressing, given its history of armed conflict, social unrest, and political instability. Recognising the critical role of education in promoting peace and development, the Mindanao State University (MSU) System, in collaboration with the United States Institute of Peace (USIP), recently hosted the Mindanao Peace Summit 2023.

The three-day event unfolded at the prestigious Phela Grande, bringing together the intellectual prowess of educators from the MSU System and its partners. This collaborative endeavour, orchestrated by the MSU - GenSan Institute of Peace and Development in Mindanao (IPDM) and the College of Education aimed to delve deep into the intricacies of peace and development in Mindanao. The overarching goal of the Mindanao Peace Summit was two-fold: to discern challenges and opportunities for peace education in Mindanao and to propel the MSU System to the status of a National Peace University.

The event was not merely a conference but a dynamic forum featuring insightful presentations and discussions on the historical, socio-political, and cultural complexities of Mindanao. It also delved into the internationalisation and futures thinking of peace education, addressing the multifaceted nature of peace in the region. A significant focus of the summit was on the role of the MSU System in addressing the predicament of the "lost generation" in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).

This generation, susceptible to recruitment by violent extremists, became a focal point for discussions on preventive strategies through education and community engagement. In BARMM, susceptibility to extremist recruitment arises from historical grievances, economic struggles, limited education access, identity issues, and weak community engagement. The Mindanao Peace Summit 2023 underscores the importance of addressing these factors to build resilience against extremist influence in the region.

The summit adopted a structured approach, dividing participants into two clusters: the Education Cluster and the IPDM Cluster. Each cluster engaged in intensive workshops, generating policy briefs that proposed comprehensive strategies for peace education and peace development within the MSU System. The policy briefs, covering alternatives, objectives, benefits, challenges, and implementation plans, were presented and meticulously evaluated during a plenary session. This interactive process provided a platform for participants to exchange ideas and receive valuable feedback from facilitators and peers. The collaborative and constructive dialogue fostered by the summit reflected a commitment to synergize efforts for the betterment of Mindanao.

The discussions on the "lost generation" in BARMM unveiled a nuanced understanding of the historical grievances, economic challenges, and identity issues contributing to their vulnerability to extremist recruitment. The proposed strategies, crafted through collaborative efforts, demonstrated a collective commitment to preventive measures through education and community engagement. The reception of these ideas was positive, with participants acknowledging the urgency of implementing targeted interventions. The insights garnered from these discussions not only underscored the gravity of the challenges faced by the 'lost generation' but also emphasised the importance of sustained efforts in mitigating their susceptibility to extremist influences.

The Education Cluster delved into issues such as curriculum design, teacher training, and innovative pedagogies for peace education. Meanwhile, the IPDM Cluster addressed broader topics including conflict resolution, peacebuilding, and human security. This cross-disciplinary approach highlighted the interconnectedness of various factors influencing peace and development.

The summit concluded, a closing ceremony unfolded, speakers, Atty. Basari Mapupuno, the president of the MSU System, delivered a message affirming his support while congratulating participants for their dedication and achievements.

The Mindanao Peace Summit 2023 stands out not only for its eloquent articulation of the pursuit of peace but also for its potential impact on the region. The summit's success is rooted in a multifaceted approach that addresses the complexities of peace and development in Mindanao comprehensively. The emphasis on collaboration, education, and community engagement offers valuable insights for other peacebuilders and peace education organisations aiming to organize similar initiatives. Some lessons for peacebuilders include tailoring strategies to local needs, fostering cross-disciplinary collaboration, and creating practical policy frameworks. This summit underscores the importance of continuous learning and adaptability, offering valuable insights for future peace initiatives in conflict-affected regions.

The collective enthusiasm and achievements of this historic gathering underscored its significance in the pursuit of peace and development in Mindanao and the Philippines. The Mindanao Peace Summit stands as a testament to the commitment and capacity of the MSU System to ascend to the role of a National Peace University. It signals the commencement of a transformative journey toward a more peaceful and prosperous future for Mindanao and the Philippines. Through collaborative efforts, policy formulation, and a shared commitment to peace education, the MSU System is poised to become a pivotal force in shaping the destiny of Mindanao, exemplifying the spirit of unity and resilience that defines the Filipino people.