Over brunch on Sunday, April 23, at Niagara United Mennonite Church in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario, two members of the church shared about the Mennonite Church Canada learning tour to the Philippines. Dorothea Enns and her niece Anita Dong spoke about the time that they and 10 others spent in the Philippines during the January 12 to 22 trip.
The group was led by Norm Dyck, who serves as International Witness liaison for MC Canada, and included several people from Leamington United Mennonite Church which sponsors Dann and Joji Pantoja, who are Witness workers in the Philippines.
Highlights of the trip included visiting the Coffee for Peace project, and learning from the Pantojas about their ministry in peace building. The Pantojas, who are Canadians but born in the Philippines, founded PeaceBuilders Community Inc. (PBCI), which is working with 80 Indigenous tribes. They train and teach local farmers how to peacefully coexist with other tribes, with various political parties and corporations, who are all competing for the same land. Part of the teaching is to ensure fair return for their produce while also using responsible environmental practices.
The first visit was with the Talaandig tribe whose pastor is part of PBCI. The next day was a teaching day during which Enns, Dong and the rest of the tour group saw the teaching materials used to help people work through conflict. This material has become highly regarded, as requests are even coming to use it in the military. Material has been used by the Obo Manobo tribe, who were dealing with a large energy development company. Can there be harmony and peace between the tribe and the company?
Another stop for the tour group was at the Bagabo Togabawa tribe settlement, site of a massacre in 1989, where communist rebels entered a church building killing 38 worshippers. The group had a poignant conversation with a woman whose husband and four children had been killed.
At the headquarters of the Coffee for Peace project, located at the Malipayon Peace Hub, the group heard how Indigenous farmers grow coffee beans in the best possible way, to roast them and to produce a high quality product. Tour participants saw how hard the farmers work, what has already been accomplished and what is still needed to make the facility fully operational. One building has already been constructed, another is still needed, as well as vehicles, storage and roasting machines. A modern clean facility will allow the roasted coffee beans to be inspected and certified for export.
Enns and Dong came home inspired to raise funds toward the completion of the $200,000 Malipayon Peace Hub project. Valuable life lessons were learned. Enns says, “Never underestimate the power of a personal invitation. You are never too old. Always have a dream. God connects us in mysterious ways. We all have a part to play. What will be your part?”