In the heart of the Bangsamoro region, where the echoes of past conflicts still resonate, a powerful force is emerging to shape a future of harmony and coexistence. It is the youth, driven by an unwavering desire to build peace in their local communities. Through their dedication and innovative initiatives, youth organisations in Bangsamoro are bringing about positive change and transforming the landscape of peacebuilding.

Youth peace advocates are working hand-in-hand with local communities to promote peace. Local communities in Maguindanao have been plagued by conflicts for decades, leading to the displacement of thousands of people and hampering economic growth in the region. The region is predominantly Muslim, and the conflict has largely been driven by religious and cultural differences.

Empowering young peace heroes

Despite the challenges, the Child Peace Movement Council (CPMC), a community-based youth-led peace organisation in the Bangsamoro region – accredited by the Bangsamoro Youth Commission BYC in 2021 – has taken the initiative to promote peace by educating children and young people about peace, child rights and child protection in local communities. The group hope to empower children and young people as peace heroes of their own communities.

CPMC was established in 2017 and operates in Maguindanao. It started through the ‘Spaces for Peace’ project focused on strengthening the protection of children in the province of Maguindanao by Save the Children Philippines (funded by the European Union). The project aimed to ensure that children are protected from abuse, exploitation, neglect, and violence. It empowered local communities, children, civil society organisations, local government units and other stakeholders to prevent and address child protection concerns through peace education workshops and community learning sessions.

CPMC with Save the Children Ph Staff and community partners)

CPMC with Save the Children Ph Staffs and community partners. Image provided by Samarudin Samsudin.

The young peacebuilders leading these efforts are driven by personal experience of conflict. To ask ‘What makes you a peace advocate?’ is to ask a question that touches their souls and hearts. They experienced and witnessed every nightmare of the bullet sounds above their rooftops in the middle of the night. A hundred families were forced to flee from their homes through day and night to evacuate and seek protection from the ongoing armed conflict. Some children and young people even died, hit by mortar shelling. Witnessing the harm of this conflict has urged these young advocates, and myself, to stand for our rights for the future of Bangsamoro children. These painful experiences urged us to unlock our powers as young people to contribute to the peacebuilding efforts of our local communities.

That is why CPMC has been at the forefront of promoting peace in the local communities. This organisation has initiated several programmes and activities aimed at promoting peace, child rights and protection, conflict resolution, and community development. CPMC has stepped up as a catalyst for peace. Their efforts have not only reduced violence but have also fostered unity and understanding among diverse communities.

Their efforts have not only reduced violence but have also fostered unity and understanding among diverse communities.

Recently, CPMC embarked on an inspiring programme called ‘Mindanaon Youth Voices for Peace’ (MYVP Project), with the support of the Initiatives for Dialogue and Empowerment through Alternative Legal Services (IDEALS Inc.) and funded by GCERF Philippines. The MYVP Project aims to enhance the agency of the youth and communities and empower them to demand accountability through community-led media. The project strengthened local capacities and shared alternative positive narratives through local media channels, and institutional media. It also provided peace interventions through curriculums and digital museums, and bridged dialogues among duty-bearers and communities.

BITYALA KALILINTAD or ‘Talk for Peace: Peace Narratives from the grassroots’ is an event regularly conducted by IDEALS Inc. as part of the MYVP Project. The event brings together young people from conflict-affected areas to help them understand their important roles in achieving peace in their respective communities, highlighting what they can practically do to help achieve sustainable peace in Bangsamoro. This initiative also acts as a bridge, connecting young individuals from different faiths and cultural backgrounds. Through engaging dialogues and activities, the programme promotes mutual understanding and respect. The transformative impact of ‘Talk for Peace’ has resulted in a significant reduction in inter-community conflicts and an increase in the spirit of togetherness in the region.

“Our local efforts on peacebuilding may contribute to gaining peace in the Bangsamoro region”

The youth organisations in Bangsamoro’s local communities have harnessed the power of active engagement and culture to promote peace. The CPMC and other youth organisations – like Maguindanao Youth Community Development (MYCD), Maguidanao Youth for Change Inc. (MYC Inc.), Maguindanao Alliance of Youth Advocate (MAYA) and etc –have spearheaded innovative programmes. They have also utilised social media platforms to amplify their peace messages, share information about ongoing initiatives, and facilitate meaningful discussions among young people. Crucially, they work together, increasing their collective power and potential in creating peace initiatives.

Amid the complexities of building peace in the Bangsamoro region, the resilience and dedication of its youth shine brightly. As an impact of these peace initiatives, they become agents of change, working tirelessly to transform their communities and shape a brighter future. The youth-led peacebuilding efforts serve as a beacon of hope and inspiration for others facing similar challenges. It is evident that empowering and supporting the youth in their peacebuilding endeavours is crucial for the sustained progress of the region. By providing them with resources, mentorship, and platforms for collaboration, we can amplify their impact and unlock their full potential as catalysts for peace.