Raising ‘community cohesion’ awareness to Filipino millennials

How the Marawi Siege affected Filipino Millennials?

Southeast Asia is a patchwork of religion, culture, and civilization. Against the backdrop of globalization, people have been struggling to live peacefully and construct a harmonization among the indigenous and immigrant society.

In the Philippines, like in other countries, over 180 indigenous ethnic communities live throughout the country together with migrant people from all over the world.

As a multiethnic nation, Filipinos, the persona identification of people in the Philippines, face hurdles in understanding the cultural and religious diversity within their society. Thus, there are also some numbers of Filipinos based out the state and existed in almost every corner of the world that shapes the life dynamic within the inhabitants.

In the middle of 2017, the Marawi siege occurred in the country. Hundreds of thousands of families displaced after escaping from the city because of this battle. So, what is the impact of this conflict on the young Filipinos community? It is very clear that since in the beginning, the pro-ISIS fighters recruited most Filipino youth for the Marawi siege. Arlene Burgos from ABS-CBN News finds money, frustration, and ideology as driven factors used by extremist groups in attracting youth in the Philippines.

By using strong narrative through social media and targeting university campuses in Mindanao, the fighters successfully convinced Muslim youth to join the battle in Marawi. The Institute for Policy Analysis of Conflict (IPAC) reports that in the name of ISIS the terrorist groups tremendously infiltrated to the university communities and student associations.

Therefore, in response to the aforementioned issue, it is deemed necessary to start our concern on improving the youth Filipinos as they are vulnerable to be the next target for other radical groups in the country.

This article will discuss the imperative of implementing social cohesion approach as a new strategy to build community resilience within the Filipinos’ millennials, or we called them as ‘the YOLO generation (You Only Live Once).’ The approach would lead to the innovations for promoting the value of “harmony in diversity.”

Defining Social Cohesion Approach and Its Contribution to the Community

Only a few people who are able to comprehend the social cohesion concept for post-conflict resolution. Social cohesion is socially constructed within the context of resilience and social systems to format a resilient society in the future. X. Fonseca et al. proposed a revisited new definition of social cohesion framework, which is defined as a complex and dynamic concept of which consists three main elements of individual, community and institutions (see the diagram below).

The framework demonstrates the relationships and interdependencies between each group. At the level of the community, the social environment aspect remains vital which is associated with the shared norms and values, friendship networks, pressure for conformity and caring. Besides that, the aspects of relationships and ties within the community result reciprocal loyalties and solidarity, and the essential ones are generating the spirit of moral support to the groups to pursue common goals.

However, the mentioned factors in the level of individuals including self-motivation, perceptions, norms, values, and participation and performance, are also connected to what is occurred at the community level. It is necessary that individuals have a sense of belonging to a group or society which derived from the cognitive norms and values they have.

The last level, the institutions, describes the concepts of conflict, decision making, human rights, and environment management which include the understanding of structures, norms, and values. It allows the government to formalize the governance system to reduce conflict, inequalities and exclusion with regards to the implementation of human rights best practice.

The Nexus of Community Cohesion and the YOLO Generation of Philippines

To promote social cohesion within the YOLO generation of Philippines, we have to examine their characteristics first. In general, at least three prominent characters reflected on the most Filipino millennials, such as digital natives, confident-driven and liberal-minded.

The survey by Rappler in 2016 reveals that Filipino millennials focus on their achievements of career, finances, and interest in advocacies. They naturally consider their dreams with their careers, so the type of ambitious generation demonstrated amongst the young people. When it comes to the questions of family and inter-generations relationship, surprisingly, they feel confused.

There is also common digestion that the young generations of Filipinos now endow with the opportunities to explore their experiences driven by global modes of communication and media.

The advancement of technology forces them becoming more ‘millennial’ and capable of adsorbing the global value of ‘stateless’ world. However, this condition is highly vulnerable compared to what the country is facing through now in terms of national security threat.

If there are no robust strategies of empowering the youth in establishing a resilient community, a greater tension of conflict among communities will tend to emerge shortly.

Kirsten Aguila (25), a young Filipino woman who now successfully works in the Central Bank, coins a brilliant idea of which contributes to the need for applying social cohesion approach within youths. She realizes that there is a lack of awareness among her peers concerning the issue of national security threat. Most of her fellows only focus on their social interest and very occupied with their own goals. Spending most of their time in social media is one of the push factors of not being engaged with people in the real world. Therefore, they only foster intimate relationships with their ‘comfort zone’ friendship circle without enriching the knowledge of diversity.

Aligned with this phenomenon, it is accurate that the lack of security threat awareness will be one of the vulnerable aspects in the new future in the context of the Philippines. As mentioned earlier in this article, the Marawi siege evoked the feeling of anger, inequalities, and other psychosocial impacts. The efforts from civil society and the government in building peace and reconciliation will be ineffective if the young generations in the Philippines are absent in supporting the strategies.

Why? Rappler interestingly articulates the significance of Filipino millennials as follows:

“In the Philippines, millennials make up one-third of the total population. They’re the ones politicians talk to. The ones marketers try to entice and persuade. The ones companies want to hire (if they haven’t started their own). They are a force to be reckoned with.”

Thus, it is possible that the effect of Marawi incident would even potentially disunite the community because of the issue of religions and ideologies. Perhaps, the millennials could participate as the new agents of change in the peace building process together with the government.

By examining the terms of Filipino millennials groups, there are two groups categories as the main target for practicing social cohesion program. The first one is the adolescents displaced by the fighting and then secondly, the groups who have never experienced conflict. For those who live as a grassroots society when the incidents happened, community and voluntary organizations play a vital role in providing them a first-hand intervention to erode disparities, inequalities and social exclusion issues. Meanwhile, the government should preserve their strategic connections with the communities and nurture the public infrastructure and social bonds on the other.

Secondly, there is also a strong tendency that young Filipinos who reside outside Marawi will be affected with the narrative of the post-Marawi conflict. After the Marawi battle finished, the government has been developing and rebuilding shelters and houses both in the evacuation center and also in the new area.

However, it is also identified that hundreds of displaced families move in other provinces and live with relatives. Therefore, the local community should be prepared for the mobility of Marawi’s displaced families. Resilience is the key point to preserve the unity within the community and prevent any potential clash or conflict among the inhabitants and the immigrants. This is the room of improvement in applying social cohesion innovations.

Conclusion: Social cohesion initiatives to manifest the peace building and community resilience

By examining the psycho-social condition of Philippines in post-Marawi conflict, we could acknowledge three main ideas of inventing social cohesion initiatives for the young Filipinos. The first one is the essence of conducting advocacies to the youths of which focused on developing a sense of belonging, promoting trust, improving norms and peace messages and also, offering the opportunity to live harmoniously in the middle of the diverse community. Kirsten emphasizes the innovations of conducting social events like music concerts or even community service among university campuses to raise massive attention from adolescents. For example, engaging the youth in social service events like cleaning the villages, visiting orphanages and involving themselves as volunteers in public activities.

Secondly, it is noticed that cohesion requires a robust commitment to diversity including multiculturalism. National identity would be the main foundation that should be endorsed to the community. People should be reminded of the context of preserving the shared histories, the shared values and the shared views of nationalism as the only way to articulate their vision in a multicultural environment. For example, to increase the nationalism binding, the schools could collaborate with the government in conducting Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC), Kirsten said.

Finally, social cohesion is not only about how to improve the sense of belonging among members of the community. However, a successful social cohesion program also involves the strategy of establishing a good governance system. As defined in social cohesion framework, institutions also construct a narrative of cohesion and integration for establishing a resilient community in the future. A good governance system is at the center of ever-changing government to provide a better socio-political environment for the citizen and trigger the community to continuously refine their resilience by promoting the values of peace and ‘sense of belonging’ concept.

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