Growing peace in the Philippines—with coffee!

Growing peace in the Philippines—with coffee!

By Joji Pantoja

June Rojo, left, Waway Saway, and Clay Rojo clebrate and demonstrate their world-class Talaandig Coffee. Photo coutesy of Peacebuilders Community Inc.

People from Mindanao, Philippines, have been yearning for peace. Peacebuilders Community started working with people who have been in conflict for almost 30 years. Conflict disrupts any development in the country; conflict has caused the people of Mindanao to experience death, displacement, and starvation.

As Peacebuilders Community slowly became involved in the dialogue, it was clear all groups shared one commonality: a love of coffee.

So coffee became the vehicle for the peace message Peacebulders wanted to promote. “Coffee for Peace” was born in 2007. The goal was to promote high-quality coffee as one expression of a greater goal, to promote a culture of peace.

The farmers in the highlands were trained in the production of quality coffee, which brought increased income to the community. Suddenly, for these communities, the concept of peace became more tangible. It is no longer just an idea you cannot touch; it now has economic expression.

For a country that has been through so many wars and colonization, the possibility of experiencing peace is an amazing thing. The message is now closer to their heart—and closer to their stomach.

However, all this did not happen overnight. It began with building relationships within the community. Active listening and constant motivation were essential. It was also important to identify the person of peace in the community and to allow the community to dream and then help facilitate the realization of those dreams.

After nine years, Peacebuilders Community now has 570 farmers trained in 13 communities. Seven communities are selling their own coffee, which means they are able to send their children to school and build a more stable home for their family. Six more communities are looking forward to experiencing the same.

How do we want to see Philippines in the Anabaptist context? We want to see people of our country full of hope and dreams that peace can be expressed in all the aspects of relational harmony. We want to see creative Filipinos. We want them to have hope, to be a people of self-mastery who can assert their desire for relational harmony.

You cannot give what you do not have. When you want to give peace, it starts from the originator of peace, which is Christ. Then it grows in you as you nurture it. It is a choice you cultivate moment by moment. You choose to live peace consciously.

We wanted to see communities practicing and living the culture of peace—using coffee as a means of educating people about peace, and as an opportunity for farmers to experience relational harmony with the Creator and his creation. Coffee is just one medium we can use. There are other possibilities to continue spreading the culture of peace.

As witnesses to Christ in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition from many different cultures, let us continue to live peace wherever we are.

Joji Pantoja works for Mennonite Canada WitnessPhoto courtesy of Coffee for Peace and Peacebuilders Community, Inc.

Part of this article appeared originally in The Mennonite, July 2017, and elsewhere.