21 September 2011 - After 20 years of travelling across the Asia-Pacific region spreading seeds of peace, the founder of Young Ambassadors for Peace (YAP), Uniting Church Peacemaker Joy Balazo has indicated an intention to retire.
Ms Balazo has decided it’s time to “dirty her hands” in the soil of her home island of Mindanao in the Philippines.
On this the International Day of Peace, National Director of Uniting World, the Rev. Dr Kerry Enright, has paid tribute to Ms Balazo’s contribution to the work of the Uniting Church in Asia and the Pacific.
“Over these years Joy’s ministry through Uniting World has contributed to the mediation of tribal conflicts in Papua New Guinea, brought together Muslims and Christians in Ambon and Mindanao, and been part of peace-building efforts in Sri Lanka, Burma, Bougainville, India, Solomon Islands and Timor Leste.
“This year YAP has taken a big step forward by beginning a new program in Mindanao that integrates peacemaking and community development. This is an exciting opportunity to contribute to the development of an inclusive and just peace in this volatile region.”
Ms Balazo was nominated for Australian of the Year in 2007 and YAP was described as “the most remarkable program offered by the Uniting Church” by Dr Jill Tabart, Uniting Church President 1994–1997.
Ms Balazo is excited to be moving back to Mindanao to be close to the project and contribute to its success as a model for peacemaking in the region.
She will continue to be engaged in and an important supporter of YAP’s work of peace-building across the region but will step back from day-to-day involvement in the program to focus her energy in Mindanao.
Ms Balazo said, “I have decided to retire from this role in order to live and work among the Subanen in the Philippines.
“In the past year I have felt increasingly burdened by their plight while being moved by their optimism for the future. I see a unique opportunity and feel a sense of calling to return to my homeland.
“I want to be part of this integrated peace and development cooperative on a day to day basis.”
This year Uniting World took an important step by appointing a second staff member, Peter Keegan, to focus on peace-building programs.
Ms Balazo said of Peter, “Having him in Uniting World assured me that YAP will continue on as a brave and strong peacemaking program. Peter relates to the YAP centres with humility, listens intensely and is already fully integrated into the program. Peter has the spirit of what it is to be a true peacemaking agent.”
Dr Enright said, “YAP remains an important Uniting World program and will be fully supported and continued into the future. The journey toward peace is always for the long-term and Uniting World remains committed to continuing to walk this journey with the networks of dedicated and passionate volunteers in YAP centres across our region.
“Over the years ahead we will continue to strengthen and deepen our existing programs and look for new ways to contribute to efforts to build peace.
“We are immensely grateful to Joy for her inspiring leadership in establishing YAP, look forward to that continuing in Mindanao and pray for this next stage of the journey for Joy and for YAP.
“You may wish to support the project Joy will be managing by contributing to the appeal also launched today called ‘More than Peace’ where Joy’s future vocation will be expressed.”