Group pushes for peace education to prevent conflicts
MANILA - When it comes to the influence of crimes, gangs and even extremism, the youth is always the most vulnerable, according to the leader of organization advocating peace education.
Bai Rohaniza Sumndad-Usman, executive director of the Teach Peace, Build Peace movement, said this is most especially true among children in some areas of Mindanao who are exposed to conflict and injustice.
"If you look at the profile of those who are joining gangs, joining violent extremist groups, joining criminal groups and others -- these are young people who have been bullied, who have seen injustice in their society, who have been discriminated," the Lanao del Sur native told ANC on Monday.
Residents of Marawi who have fled to evacuation centers previously recalled seeing teenagers among the armed terrorists who attacked the southern city, which is in one of the poorest provinces in the country.
This is the reason why, she explained, including peace education in both the informal and formal settings is crucial in preventing possible conflicts, especially in places of different faiths and cultures.
"It is very important that at a very young age, we teach them peace. We keep them away from violence. I remember one quote from an educator: 'Unless we teach peace to these kids, others will teach them violence,'" she said.
Sumndad-Usman's group recently went to evacuation centers in Iligan City to visit the displaced children of Marawi. The group brought toys and artworks, and conducted sessions to help kids recover from the trauma of war.
While the group continues pushing for their advocacy, she said social injustice, discrimination and lack of socio-economic developments remain the biggest challenges in attaining peace in Mindanao.
"The Mindanao conflict is rooted in social injustice. Our brothers and sisters, both Bangsamoro and indigenous people, are victims, since time immemorial, of injustices against their identities, socio-economic and political development... All these issues need to be addressed," she said.