PEACETALK: Launching the Mindanao Peace Games (MPG)

[Welcome Address to the administrators and sports officeals of the founding schools: Faber Hall, Community Center of the First Companions, Ateneo de Davao University on Oct 16, 2015]

Towards the end of 2013, the Jesuits in the Philippines held a series of conversations here in Ateneo de Davao to discuss how it might improve its service to Mindanao. These were called the Mindanao Conversation.

You may know, the Jesuits run three universities in Mindanao, Xavier University, the Ateneo de Zamboanga, and the Ateneo de Davao. It is also involved in parish work in Bukidnon. Through the universities and the parishes there is a wide field of involvement of the Jesuits and their partners in mission in Mindanao – broadly, in our shared care for our common home, in solidarity with vulnerable people, including the Bangsamoro people and the indigenous communities, and in the promotion of a culture of dialogue and reconciliation. In the Mindanao Conversation, we asked ourselves how we might do what we do better.

There have been many activities that have resulted from those conversations: there has been strong support for peace in Mindanao through dialogue and the support for the Bangsamoro Basic Law. There has been the establishment of a Joint Ateneo Institute of Mindanao Economics to look at economics not from the perspective of imperial Manila but from the perspective of Mindanao.   There has also been the establishment of the Madaris Volunteer Program through which graduates of CEAP (Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines) schools help teach DepEd mandated courses in Islamic schools, that is Madaris. Today, there is serious work ongoing on a leadership training institute for Lumads at the foot of Mt. Apo: the Apo Governance and Indigenous Leadership Academy (AGILA).

One of the more exciting suggestions that emerged from these conversations was the idea of using sports in Mindanao to promote peace.

It was an idea as old as the Olympics: the idea that warring nations could cease their hostilities to allow peoples of diverse origins to come together in sports competition. That idea is still used by the leaders of the International Olympic Committee and of the United Nations in promoting peace throughout the world.

This evening, with deep gratitude to all the administrators and sports officials of the colleges and universities you represent: Fr. Saturnino Urios University – Butuan; Mindanao State University – Marawi;  Holy Trinity College – General Santos;Holy Cross of Davao College; Ateneo de Zamboanga University; Xavier University – Cagayan de Oro; Ateneo de Davao University; La Salle University – Ozamis; St. Joseph Institute of Technology – Butuan; St. Theresa College – Tandag; St. Vincent College – Dipolog; Assumption College of Davao; and Philippine Women’s College – Davao, we launch another outcome of the Mindanao Conversations, even though it is clear to us all that peace and unity in Mindanao is the concern not only of the Jesuits in the service of Mindanao, but of all of our schools. We launch what has been referred to as the Mindanao Unity Games (MUG). However, in order to better stress the peace we all aspire to in Mindanao amidst our religious and cultural diversity, I would like to suggest that we call this: the Mindanao Peace Athletics Conference (MinPeace) or simply the Mindanao Peace Games (MPG).

Within the academic freedom of our respective higher educational institutions in Mindanao, both private and public, we come together through sports competition:

First, to promote the excitement, fun and quality of inter-collegiate sports between and among our colleges and universities in Mindanao;

Second, through sports to form character and personal virtue in our athletes consistent with the formation principles of our schools;

Third, to promote inter-university, inter-religious, intercultural and inter-personal contact through sports and sports’ organization that would promote personal interaction and friendships for life;

Fourth, through sports, and using the mainstream and social media, to promote and celebrate pride in Mindanao and pride in our Mindanao athletes;

Fifth, through our inter-university encounters to participate in and encourage dialogue towards a shared common good in Mindanao. This I propose might be built in complementary to the athletics as a special feature of MPG or MinPeace. That way, the MinPeace athlete is not only a representative of a university in a sports’ event, but a university’s ambassador for peace in the promotion of the common good in Mindanao.

On this occasion, I would like to thank Mr. Noli Ayo for the great job he has done in bringing you together. Again, I thank all of you for accepting the challenge to join. I pray that thorough our collaboration and our earned and shared resources, we launch an athletics organization this evening that we can all be proud of and that will generate peace. [Fr. Joel Tabora, SJ is president of the Ateneo de Davao University. He is also Vice President of the Catholic Educational Association of the Philippines (CEAP) and chair of its Advocacy Committee, and President of the CEAP in Region 11. MindaNews was granted permission to reprint this piece, first published in Fr. Tabora’s blog, on October 17, 2015]