A Miracle in Mindanao

The Christians of Isulan were out for revenge. A young Muslim had stabbed a Christian youth, and Christian adults were determined that Muslims would pay for the crime. As Christians and Muslims faced each other, raised their guns, and took aim, Bernie Eliseo knew he had to act quickly. He stepped between the two groups, facing his fellow Christians.

"If you insist on killing our Muslim neighbors, you're going to have to kill me too," he told them. Startled, both groups lowered their weapons. A potential bloodbath was averted by the selfless response of one determined peacemaker.

Eliseo, a community leader, had learned mediation skills at a workshop called "Panagtagbo sa Kalinaw"—Culture of Peace—which has since been offered in communities throughout Mindanao, the southernmost of the larger Philippine islands. Christians, Muslims, and members of indigenous groups who attend the workshops reflect together on the harmful stereotyping of one another that can lead to violence. They study the history of the diverse religious and cultural groups in Mindanao and articulate their dreams for peace among those groups. Finally, they learn mediation strategies and engage in role-playing to practice their new skills.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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