It’s not true that today’s young generation is all about themselves. Take for instance Datu Beds Kali, a Bangsamoro youth leader.
Kali has lived all of his 19 years in Cotabato City, a place marred by blood, conflict, and social and economic injustices.
“I have lived in an area in Mindanao that is among the most affected by war and conflict,” begins Kali. “We have witnessed firsthand the violence and unfairness of the world, in this corner alone.”
He laments the condition of his fellow people due to the armed conflict and injustice brought about by misrepresentation in the media.
“The call us ‘the future of tomorrow,’ but how can that be if we are prevented from attending school because there are no more classrooms? And the few ones left are re-purposed as evacuation centers?” bemoans Kali.
The 2013 Functional Literacy, Education and Mass Media Survey (FLEMMS) released by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) revealed that the ARMM, in which Cotabato City is part of, has the highest number of out-of-school children and youth among all regions in the country, pegged at 14.4 percent.
The said survey also showed that the Muslim Mindanao region had the lowest functional literacy rate of 72.1 percent, the primary reasons being, “26 percent of those who dropped out left their classrooms to look for jobs; 17.7 percent to marry, and 16.5 percent lost interest in pursuing their basic education.”
Kali furthers, “Our mothers worry day and night, praying for the safety of their husbands and children. It is sad, but ‘round here, prayers don’t always get answered.”
His upsetting realization is backed by a 2016 report of the United Nations Security Council, which indicates that “sporadic low-intensity clashes continue to affect children, predominantly in Mindanao, despite limited large-scale armed engagements in the past year.” The report also mentioned that children are “significantly affected by violent extremism in the past years” and that “they are often targeted by different terror acts to cause more casualties and fear among the communities.”
The ill effects of war have pushed Kali, together with other Bangsamoro millennials, to dedicate his life to peacebuilding.
The Development Communication student of University of Southern Mindanao, believes that youth plays a vital role in peacebuilding especially in educating the people on Moro history as well as on the culture and origin of the Bangsamoro armed struggle.
“Millennials can do many things to contribute to peacebuilding,” opines Kali. “We have the time, ideas and skills to strategize and put into motion concepts that will eventually strengthen our advocacy for peace.”
Currently, Kali has been organizing interfaith dialogues and joining peace conventions to know more about ways the youth can contribute to peace advocacy. He also encourages young citizens to involve themselves with this movement—starting with schools, “we can organize dialogues, brainstorming sessions and discussions, we can convene student leaders and partner with other institutions to discuss narratives dealing on peace.”
The young Moro leader also cited using social media as an avenue to reach more people and raise awareness on peace. “How good would it be if we spend a little more time for peace on social media? I think that would not be asking too much since we open our social media accounts almost everyday, anyway,” he says.
Kali is optimistic that the youth can do so much to reset the course of the present narrative. “I know change does not happen magically, but through our unified efforts, we can make it happen. We can make a difference.” –OPAPP