Asia West Pacific

Practicing Peace with Empty Schools

By Kins Aparece

Checking in with public-school teachers of Alburquerque. Screenshot: Kins Aparece

All Philippine schools and universities are still on lockdown, since March 2020. Classes shifted entirely online and everyone struggled to adjust to the “new normal.” Many people felt isolated and uncertain. We needed to strategize how to connect with communities, conscious that we have a lean team with minimal resources working under strict local travel rules.

So we reached out to active youth and peace advocates all over the country and did peace practices with them online. When chaos happens, we learned that it is essential to have confident, calm leaders to offer leadership. Online platforms helped the participants be more self-reliant in reaching out to their local networks and communities, offering assurance and support. Eventually, they became independent and capable of doing things on their own. The team was inspired to see the effects of the practices, and organized the first Philippine Online Basic AVP Workshop from April to May 2020.

The online global Power of Goodness Events also inspired De La Salle University-Manila through its Pastoral Office to organize Senior High School leaders. Rex Marfa, Cyril Lituanas, and Kins Aparece facilitated a Power of Goodness event last December 11, 2020, on the theme “Core Self and Safety” reflecting on the story of Anna and the Speckled Hen. The participants realized that human connection is still very possible, even in a pandemic and that we can notice human goodness in many ways. It also showed the power of sharing our life situations and practicing peace tools through stories.

The commitment of some participants to the Power of Goodness Event with De La Salle University student leaders. Screenshot: Kins Aparece

  1.  The De La Salle University Online Power of Goodness Organizing Team. Screenshot: Kins Aparece

For the first time, we partnered with the Department of Education in Alburquerque, Bohol, through a Gender and Development training session in December with over 90 public-school teachers. Kins Aparece conducted a 3-hour workshop using AVP-Cultures of Peace tools upon the invitation of Ms. Malou Fuerzas-Tolop, the District Supervisor. The participants appreciated how freely and closely they could interact online. They could readily apply the technical skills they learned in a relaxed and interactive manner.

From September up to the present, the College of the Immaculate Conception (CIC), through the Christian Formation Office initiative, gathered faculty and secondary students from all offices for a structured system of listening and sharing, using stopping, affirmation, good listening, and sharing.

We learned that when we offer spaces for people to practice peace, that makes our lives better, healthier, and more capable. But we need champions within the system to advocate for peace. Our schools may be empty, because people stay home, but they still need to learn and practice the tools and skills of peace, to remind themselves and each other that peace is possible, and take action.