by Meira Andutan

Student leaders from different schools in Cagayan de Oro City drew together at the Young Communicators’ Camp from November 4 to 5, to launch the “I am Mindanao” campaign organized by a group of fourth-year Development Communication students of Xavier University – Ateneo de Cagayan.

“I am Mindanao” serves as the countermove of the youth against recent violent extremist incidents in Mindanao. The campaign strives to educate college students on defying radicalism, strengthen their sense of pride as Mindanawons, and empower them to take a stand on various issues lingering Mindanao.

FOR MINDANAO. The campers listen to XU Development Communication chairperson Evans Yonson as he discusses the rationale of the “I am Mindanao” campaign and its efforts to counter violent extremism. Supplied photo.

The two-day event featured lectures on the agricultural abundance and cultural identity of Mindanao, the origin of long-standing armed conflicts, peace negotiations, and the role of social media in generating change.

XU Socio-cultural and Dialogue Ministry coordinator Mona Pangan, the guest speaker at the camp, discussed the societal dynamics of Mindanao and reviewed the peace processes, expressing delight for Nur Misuari’s decision to participate in the peace talks with President Rodrigo Duterte.

COUNTERING EXTREMISM. Tri-people advocate and XU Socio-cultural and Dialogue Ministry coordinator Mona Pangan lectures on the profile and challenges of Mindanao during the “I am Mindanao” Young Communicators’ Camp from November 4 to 5. Supplied photo

Pangan also highlighted that some Muslim students are forced to drop out of school due to clan wars, locally known as “rido,” which are violent retaliatory attacks between feuding families or clans.

In her lecture, Pangan explained, “Extremism in Mindanao is correlated with the emergence of the Abu Sayyaf group.”

Abu Sayyaf is considered to be “the most dangerous Islamic extremist group in the Philippines” having been responsible for dozens of kidnappings and bombings since its establishment in 1993.

LEADERSHIP CAMP. XU Socio-cultural and Dialogue Ministry coordinator Mona Pangan, XU Development Communication chairperson Evans Yonson, and “I am Mindanao” team members strike a pose after the lectures.

On the other hand, the student leaders in attendance provided valuable insights, new perspectives, and school-specific plans of action to counter violent extremism.

Their suggestions ranged from large group activities such as symposiums, seminars, freedom walls, improvisational theater, and a food festival, to individualized mini-projects like poetry reading, essay writing, and a short film contest.

The team is preparing for their activities in line with the Mindanao Week of Peace (November 26 to December 2) to spread their advocacy.

The said camp was the first component in a string of activities that will be administered by the “I am Mindanao” campaign. The anti-extremism initiative will implement a mall exhibit, university television guesting, university seminars, active social media promotions, and engaging projects for Mindanawons to pave the way for a unified and peaceful Mindanao.

The campaign further challenges the youth “to sow the seeds of countering violent extremism in Mindanao and push for social change.”

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