Report on HRJP and AYSG 2013 Meetings in the Philippines by Heidintatha Ohnpaykunoo

Having the opportunity to participate in the “Justice and peace now” conference gave me a chance to meet young people from the Asia-Pacific region who love God and serve the Lord in their own different ways. The events of both the Asia-Pacific Students and Youth Gathering and the Human Rights, Justice and Peace Forum helped me to consider clearly about bible verse, "The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few” (Luke 10:2), during my visit to Freedom Island and when we demonstrated for “education is not for sale”.

This was my first time travelling alone abroad and participating in Human Rights, Justice and Peace. Through the challenge and difficulties I had learnt more about injustice in the world and those experiences are unforgettable memories for me. Altogether I am very glad to have met the people that I met and friends that I had made during HRJP and ASYG programs.

In this report I would like to write about two main things. During the meeting we learned and discussed about the main topic which is justice and peace. In the first week of the meeting we learnt and discussed about Human Rights, Justice and Peace Forum (HRJP) which was run by WSCF/AP. In this program we focused on the education issues across the Asia-Pacific region. Then the delegates from each country had to present about their own education systems, both strong points and weak points in their countries, and we discussed it and shared our comments with each other. We agreed that education is not an economic program – everybody has the right to go to school and education is for everyone.

The second week was “The Asia-Pacific Students and Youth Gathering (ASYG) that was run by EASY-NET. In this program we focused on Justice and Peace. ASYG engaged with issues ranging from ecology to militarism, economics and social issues. This event was more focused on community rights and their needs. Both programs covered Human Rights, Justice and the peace process. Both programs also focused on the problems among community and organizations. The authorities who ran these two programs also let the delegates go around some places and explore how people are suffering there. Therefore we know more how to join hands and work together with them for the future.

All the countries from the Asia-Pacific region don’t have equal Human Rights, Justice and peace in many different ways at different levels. This workshop provided pathways for participants/delegates to discuss, share and learn about education rights, government corruption and injustice. The delegates from each country had the chance to present about their country’s education system and things that are unjust in their countries. To involve and engage in the issues that the Asia-Pacific region have to face nowadays by holding hands together as we are many but we are one, to reduce the problems and receive full Human Rights.

Throughout the exposure the delegates saw and understood the realities of the struggles that the students and urban community have to face in the Philippines. What the Philippine’s community have faced, other communities in this world also have to face. Therefore those communities don’t have a voice, so they need help from others in order for the governments to hear those poor communities. And HRJP and ASYG are helping those communities who don’t have a voice by advocating for them. Participating in these two events gave me experience and knowledge that in this world there are those who have no voice and need our help.

These two events gave me the opportunity to share and hear about social injustice in more detail and learn about the movement of the organizations. The most significant highlight was staying overnight at Freedom Island and spending time at the University of Philippines. I want to say that having experience through seeing and involving were more powerful than having experience through hearing. The HRJP/ASYG gave the delegates opportunities for both hearing and seeing. Both events not just gave the delegates knowledge but also experiences by running activities such as exposure and protest against social injustice and commercialization of education. It was heart breaking for me when I heard about unfair ruling Government that neglects the citizen’s desire in Philippines and experiencing the poverty Freedom Island communities have to face.

On my trip to the Philippines I learnt a lot during my exposure. I saw that many people from the Asian countries are facing a lot of troubles and having a lot of hardships like poverty, lack of education, political conflicts, health problems, unemployment and economic crisis. For example a lot of children have no chance to get a good education. Instead of going to school, they have to work for the family’s survival so they lose their childhood life from very young. In these under developed countries like Philippines and other Asian countries, people there are living below the poverty line. When I went to River Side community at Freedom Island, I was very sad when I saw the hardship and sufferings of the people who were there. But when I went to Flooding community I was shocked, when I saw that the people’s life style there was even worse than the people from River Side community. In my life time I have never seen people suffering like the people from Flooding community.

Although the people from Freedom Island were suffering a lot, they treated us with wonderful hospitality and generosity. This experience will surely guide me and teach me to be a good missionary. Even though their life style was not good enough they never complain. When we asked the children to sing for us, they were singing happily with smiling faces. Their smiles not only lighten me physically but also spiritually, so this lovely event will always remain in my memory. The laughter of the children and the generosity of Freedom Island’s communities can change this world of hatred into a world of love and peace.

I would like to say a big thanks to ASCM organisation that they gave me the opportunity to participate in those events and giving me an unforgettable experience in my journey.

Heidin is a 21-year old Anglican theological student at Trinity College, Melbourne. Her parents are Baptist and Anglican and she attends both churches.