Afterwards, an orientation on the Regional Assembly was given by Shakun Vaswani, Regional Coordinator. Pakigdait CC as host gave an overview about Lanao del Norte and Mindanao
Day 1: Team Building and Company with Governor
The day started with a courtesy call on Governor Mohammad Khalid Dimaporo, the youngest governor in the country. At 28 years old, the Governor is immersed in political and governance work with impressive work on developing peace building initiatives in his province.
The Governor's staff gave each delegate a Tubao (hand/necker chief with Maranao weave) as a necklace with the provincial seal and the symbolic Sarimanok, a legendary Maranao bird usually depicted in Islamic mythology.After the visit, Pakigdait CC through Abel Moya, its Programs Director, conducted Team Building activities. Grouped into three, the delegates had to prove their team building and leadership skills as they make the tallest pasta noodle and marshmallow tower. An outdoor activity capped the workshop wherein they played ball to work further on teamwork.
During the formalities of the evening, Charles Gibbs (Executive Director of the United Religions Initiative publicly recognized the URI funded URISEAPac project "Building Interfaith Cooperation Towards Peace and Development in Lanao del Norte." The project is in partnership with Pakigdait CC and Peacemakers Circle CC with a total funding of $10,633 from the remaining funds of the region in 2008.
First the participants created a collective drawing of their understanding and their dream after seeing the Visions of Peace Among Religions which is a presentation on religiously motivated violence around the world throughout history.
A review of the PPP also took place wherein participants were asked to answer the following:
- What struck you most about the URI PPP? What attracted you to the URI the most?
- How is the URI living up to your vision of peace among religions? Or how is it not?
- What capacities and resources do you wish to see the URI develop in itself and bring to the fore as an agent of change?
- How do you think you can contribute to this process?
The review of By-Laws was facilitated by Dr. Amir Farid Isahak of InSaF CC.
At the end of the day, the Youth CC representatives gathered to meet about upcoming plans that included possible election of representatives per country and a possible youth assembly in Cebu within the year.
Film showings of documentary features, audio visual presentations of United Religions Initiative, Gandhi Puri Ashram CC, COMMON CC, and Pakigdait CC were ongoing from Tuesday to Thursday.
Day 4: Strategic Planning
On the fourth day of the regional assembly, the whole day was given to strategic planning. The assembly reviewed financial reports, programs, and projects for 2008 and for 2009. The Regional Coordinator's Report was conducted by Shakun Vaswani.
It started with the review of the minutes of previous meetings held in Cebu (Regional Assembly 2008), Manila (Trustees Meeting), and Mayapur (Global Assembly 2008). Business arising from the minutes were discussed.
It was recalled that the remaining funds from 2008 will be used for the Mindanao Peace building project c/o Pakigdait CC and Peacemakers Circle CC entitled "Building Interfaith Cooperation Towards Peace and Development in Lanao del Norte" which engages the Moral Imagination Program, Visions of Peace Among Religions, and Psycho-Emotional Healing.
A review of the 2009 Budget of took place afterwards. The budget for 2009 was allocated for the following:
1. Building & Strengthening Regional Coordinating Office
a) Hire a Regional Programs Coordinator.
b) Register the URI SEAP Office as a legal nonprofit organization
c) To improve capacity for regional communication and information dissemination
2. Building Regional Teamwork and Strengthening Leaderships
a) The Regional Assembly 2009 to combine the Bowes Award Leadership Training, the Regional Meeting, and a public workshop forum on Moral Imagination
3. Supporting Local CC Projects and Regional Peace Building
a) IDP Campaign
b) Moral Imagination and VPAR Programs to be conducted in the three zones of the Region. Zone 1 – Vietnam or Cambodia, Zone 2 – Philippines, Zone 3 – Australia
c) Seed Grant Funding for CCs
The Youth CCs had a chance to be highlighted as Sharon Vaswani, Regional Youth Coordinator presented the activities conducted by the youth and the latest news from the Global Youth Council and from the Young Leaders Program participants in Mayapur last year. It was decided that each country will vote for a country representative to report to the Youth Coordinator who will then report to the Regional Trustees.
A special Resource Mobilization Guide presentation was give by Ted Juanite, the Resource Mobilization Officer of Pakigdait wherein tips and information about the fundraising world were shared.
Towards the end of the day, a planning session for the year took place among the following committees:
1. Executive Board - Headed by Chairperson Musa Sanguila
2. Growth and Expansion – Headed by Dr. Amir Isahak
3. Peace and Relationship Building - Headed by Marites Africa
4) Resource Mobilization – Headed by Musa Sanguila
Day 5: Lanao Month of Peace Celebration
The URI SEAP delegates joined the "Panagtagbo" ("Meeting"), an opening activity wherein the Civil Society, Government, and Military start from different origins and meet in the middle signifying the unity of such sectors in promoting peace in Mindanao.
Some delegates were invited to host the interfaith prayers to open the ceremonies. Charles Gibbs, URI Executive Director spoke in behalf of URI's presence in Mindanao.
The closing ceremonies included the release of doves and the planting of the Peace Pole donated by the URI through Mario Toots Fungo (a URI affiliate) of the World Peace Prayer Society.
On the side, the URI SEAP youth delegates worked together with the Interfaith Youth Council of Pakigdait CC in creating a nature mandala out of found leaves and stones around the peace pole. Meditation and interfaith prayers generated a peaceful energy for the creative activity. This was also an activity in solidarity with the Mindanao Peace Power Day celebrated on March 18 with the Sowing Peace Network.
The URI SEAP delegates were graced with the presence of James Lees of the Politic al Affairs Department of the Australian Embassy during the celebration. Mr. Lees was present to meet civil society and grassroots organizations working in partnership with the local government in bringing about peace and development in Mindanao. He stayed with the group until the end of the Regional Assembly.
After a hectic but fulfilling week, the delegates were given an afternoon to rest and explore the beauty of a retreat center called Dapit Alim. One had to climb more than two hundred steps to reach the top. On the top, everyone was treated to large outdoor sculptures which one can interact with – a giant sculpture of the young Jesus, a labyrinth, and an octopus sculpture among others. Animals were free roaming engaging everyone to interact with them. The center is run by a priest and can house several retreat goers.
The delegates were able to relax and breathe fresh air and share powerful energies from the retreat center.
At the end of the day, the URI SEAPac delegates formally closed the Regional Assembly with a sacred closing ceremony of interfaith prayers and singing. All the efforts and the gift of time by everyone that contributed to the success of the regional assembly were acknowledged that night. Charles Gibbs' inspiring presence was highly appreciated.
Marites Guingona –Africa was honoured as the outgoing Regional Council Chairperson whereas Musa Sanguila was officially recognized as the new chairperson.
Day 6: Moral Imagination Workshop Forum
The final leg of the Regional Assembly was a public workshop – forum on John Paul Lederach's Moral Imagination which URI has embraced as part of its peace building programs. The workshop was facilitated by Marites – Guingona Africa, Regional Trustee and Executive Director of the Peacemakers Circle CC.
The workshop had 50 participants from various sectors : Religious, Civil Society, Government, Military, and Media. The goal was to learn how to use moral imagination as a method in transcending violence and conflict.
After relaying three stories from John Paul Lederach, Marites Africa encouraged the participants to exchange their stories of moral imagination, of creative ways of transcending conflict. Some of the stories worth noting were shared by the Governor who was born from Muslim and Christian Peace activist political rivals; a woman Pastor who worked with Muslims and braved the threats of the military; a young political intern who gave light to a controversial issue by reminding political leaders of their religious values; a civil society leader who convinces the President to invest on a national sports event in his location in order to ensure the protection of his people; and a story of a young man taking care of his sick grandmother in the midst of the MILF attack of their town.
The workshop ended with meaning to those present as they look forward to a more intensive moral imagination engagement from the URI within the next few months.
Pakigdait CC hosted a special dinner al fresco under the stars with special Maranao dishes to the delight of everyone. An added attraction was a videoke activity that kept everyone entertained with the chance to show off their singing talents. Thank you Pakigdait CC for your beautiful presence and warm hospitality!