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Medical peacebuilding


Aljelin Estobu, a newly-trained student of Community Development at Southern Christian College, puts her knowledge to use by checking the vital signs of a patient while curious children watch.

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January 2, 2009
- Elwyn Neri with Christina Bartel Barkman

MINDANAO, Philippines — Meeting the needs of war victims through medical ministry – from teeth extractions to minor surgeries – is an important way for Peacebuilders Community Inc. (BPCI) to bridge relationships in the Philippines.

PBCI, a ministry supported by Mennonite Church Canada Witness, recently held a healthcare training and medical clinic in Central Mindanao, where armed conflict between the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) has been ongoing since July. Partnering with Reach International Healthcare and Training, the team was able to treat 113 medical patients on December 6 and 7, 2008.

Twenty-one students from Southern Christian College (SCC), a partner of PBCI, participated in two days of instruction on First Aid and facilitating medical consultations, followed by two days of practical application. Some of these students are members of PBCI’s Peace and Reconciliation team. Together, they represented the tri-people of Mindanao – the Bangsamoro Muslim people, the indigenous Lumads, and migrants, mostly Christians, from Northern Philippines.

When the three people groups of Mindanao work together in a peacebuilding effort, it is a significant event. The MILF is composed primarily of Bangsmoro people while GRP supporters are mostly Christian migrants. With the MILF and GRP at war, the grassroots Bangsamoro and the migrants are often in conflict, while the Indigenous people are historically marginalized. The medical mission was an effective way to build trusting relationships between the young tri-people of Mindanao. The training they received will also be beneficial to their respective home communities.

As a PBCI leader, I found it was encouraging to work and learn together with them.

The two-day medical clinic took place at Dungguan, Datu Montawal, a Bangsamoro community located in MILF territory.

The community of Dungguan was very grateful for the medical-dental mission. A patient told me, “We are so thankful because we don’t have enough money to go the hospital to remove this cyst. And now you do it for free!”

A community leader also invited our team for another medical-dental clinic in his area after seeing what we are doing and the sincerity with which we serve.

It was our joy to see people learn to help others in simple yet very practical ways.

Elwin Neri is a field worker with Peacebuilders Community Inc. and Christina Bartel Barkman is serving with them for an internship ministry through Mennonite Church Canada.