Communicators urged to be part of spreading peace

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Saturday, February 15, 2014

XAVIER University's Development Communication (DevCom) launched its first Communicators Congress, Echo, highlighting talks about the various issues in Mindanao.

The launching was made last February 15, 2014 at SM Cinema 2. "It's the highlight before the kick-off of the DevCom Week next week," said Cesar Stefan Rago, project head of the event.

The Congress’ concept revolved on the peace issues, discrimination in religion, among others.


“We thought, why not create something like this [Congress] and talk about important issues on Mindanao. Through us [communicators], we can be the medium and watchdog in helping spread the peace in Mindanao,” Rago said.

It was attended by distinguished speakers like Samira A. Gutoc-Tomawis, a columnist, educator, blogger, consultant and an activist. She talked about Mindanao and how stories on Mindanao should get into the mainstream media.

In tabloids and the national broadsheets, “Mindanao only gets front page when it comes to Abu Sayaff issues and other war sieges,” she said. Mindanao gets reflected as a negative, chaotic place where one would think travel is not safe in any part of the island.

“There is more context than this [...] Dapat may in-depth writing and the going to the roots na stories that Mindanao is not those,” Gutoc-Tomawis said.

As a Muslim, she asked the audience to make a friend outside the Christian circle, inviting Muslim friends to be part of it.

She shares her struggles during her college days when her only option was to be strong amid the discrimination she got from the non-Muslim community.

Toward the end of her speech, she read a few lines on peace talks. That peace should not be focused only on the “five Ws and one H” referring to the writers who write only about a topic which is only a portion of the whole story; but also that “peace is for a change.”

“It is our time to make a change, go and make a blog, spread the word and let’s make peace happen,” she ended.

The second keynote speaker was Fr. Albert E. Alejo, the assistant to the president for social development of Ateneo de Zamboanga University, a researcher, author and an advocate on peace in Mindanao.

Relatively, his topic was on the peace issues, religion discrimination, inequality and the like in the island. What he was more focused on was how the people from Mindanao fight for Mindanao if there is no “personal connection” between.

He asked questions on: “What is your connection with Mindanao?” And “Where is Mindanao in your plans?” since majority of the potential citizens in this country, who could have contributed more by staying, are all leaving for abroad.

To have a good check on the audience knowledge on the Philippines, Fr. Alejo had a quiz where questions ranged from the national fruit to the national ‘kamao’ which everybody in the room answered, “Manny Pacquiao” and laughed.

As to the national food, everybody answered, “Lechon” with enthusiasm still. He asked if the food is edible by everyone – including the Muslims. He blames communicators, poster designers, writers, authors and other people who have contributed to major “invisible” conflict in Mindanao.

“Be careful and be fair [...] study and put substance,” he said.

He convinced the communicators in the room to “receive signals” from the people who call out for help as a picture of a kid donned with a “NO MORE WAR” shirt in the Zamboanga siege.

Fr. Alejo also made emphasis on why Christians have to “boast” and act as superiors in the country when in fact, they are a minority in Asia.

He asked the audience: I need you to check your language and message, and calculate possible miscommunication. You might be adding to the conflict instead of helping out.

He ended his speech with a video where war should end because lives are at cost when there is an outbreak and said, “Please communicate peace.”

The Congress was attended by different schools and universities such as Father Saturnino Urios University, Central Mindanao University, Bukidnon State University, La Salle University Ozamiz, XU, Mindanao University of Science and Technology, Cagayan de Oro College and Kong Hua School. ( Alyssa C. Clenuar/MUST Intern)

Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on February 16, 2014.

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