A Cup of Peace

— AJ Block —

coffee beansThe world today faces a variety of challenges. As such, the missions field, too, confronts adversity in the imposing array of local and global dilemmas that shadow any given context. However, and thankfully so, this adversity is also a chance to see the hand of God at work, and to ignite the potential within the Body of Christ. In a globalized world that is familiar with the interconnectedness of its own brokenness, it becomes imperative to think holistically and embody true shalom when envisioning missions. Inclusive growth, then, is a key concept that is both conducive to Kingdom values and necessary in our world today.

Mennonite Church of Canada’s own Peacebuilder’s Community Incorporated, based in the southern Philippines and active across the country, is embodying the radical inclusiveness of the Gospel in holistic and harmonious ways. PBCI started in 2006, as Pastor Dann Pantoja’s dream to bridge a relationship between Muslim groups in the southern island of Mindanao and Canadian churches back home. What began as a modest hope to establish friendly relations between two increasingly tense groups then developed, through various failures, successes, and inspiration from the Spirit, into a nation-wide peace building strategy that aims to uplift the marginalized, reconcile long time enemies, and foster a culture of peace in its various (and growing) spheres of influence.

Part of this growth was the opening of a door by God for Dann’s wife, Joji, to harness her well honed financial skills gained in Canada into an effort to help poor farmers improve their livelihood, both spiritual and economic. In realizing the potential of rural coffee farmers’ scope of impact in the burgeoning coffee market, Joji integrated into PBCI the social business vision of Coffee for Peace. Featuring Dann as the “peace” and Joji as the “builder”, the couple had found a sustainable, effective, and Gospel-centered mission by which they could bring in the Kingdom as best they could to their home country of the Philippines. With their vision of harmony with God, the self, others, and Creation, since 2006 PBCI and CfP have been practicing the transformation of the Gospel with a wholeness that has had a wide range of effect, from the common farmer, to the international intern, to entire social groups and their collective national voice.

CfP.logo

So why is the business oriented Coffee for Peace actually coffee for peace? Taking on the ideal social enterprise goals of the five P’s – people, planet, peace, profit, progress – the business has initiated shalom-inspired transformation in a host of ways. A typical progression of Coffee for Peace’s business model begins with establishing a relationship with local farmers. This includes training for effective coffee tree growing, financial management advice, and values-building through Pastor Dann’s teaching in peace theology.

CfP farmers with fresh coffee beans for market

CfP farmers with fresh coffee beans for market

Relationship is the most significant part of CfP’s business practice, as it demonstrates to everyone involved the values of mutuality and reciprocity in the economic partnership. As time goes on the farmers will ship their coffee cherries to the processing plant in the backyard of PBCI’s Davao City office, and there they will learn the next step in coffee production – with the eventual goal of self-sufficiency. From this point the coffee cherries are processed into beans, then roasted and made into drinks at CfP’s own cafe. Not only there, though, the farmers’ product is also sold to other coffee shops in the city, as well as in Manila and even to certain international buyers in North America. Profit from this venture is split fairly to the farmers and baristas, and also partly to fund further operations by Peacebuilder’s Community.

Through this whole process of taking coffee from “crop to cup”, the previously mentioned “four harmonies” which guide the organizations’ actions are made manifest. The peace training and values-building given to the farmers increases social cohesion in their communities. The improvement in their spiritual and economic livelihoods facilitates psycho-social transformation. Next, the coffee trees themselves are ecologically beneficial, as they can be shade grown with taller trees, strengthening soil and fortifying mountainsides against erosion. This brings the bounty of God a much needed measure of protection against the decay it so often sees, a taste of ecological harmony. From the mountains to the mug, we increasingly see how faithful stewardship of God’s resources can bring exponential abundance.

As the coffee fulfills its potential as a tasty drink, so too do those involved in its fruition. Baristas employed by Coffee for Peace’s humble cafe receive not only a steady job and an employable skill, but also the peace theology and values-building common to all those involved with Peacebuilder’s Community. On many occasions, baristas have moved on to work with PBCI, have received financial aid for seeking a college degree, or have discovered strengths in management, accounting, and cooking. As individuals learn the value of service and are exposed to the Gospel of Peace while also earning a living and discovering who they can be, the inclusive and wholesome vision of Coffee for Peace becomes clear, and transformative shalom is the result.

Perhaps this is why the business is growing. With more small-time cafes becoming interested in the fair-trade product, including international buyers, there is enough interest to have created the “problem” of not enough product to meet the demand. A newly opening cafe in a prime location as well as improving processing infrastructure are reasons for joy, not to mention the local attention and accolades given to the business. All of this goes to show how God can grow something as humble as a coffee bean (albeit much bigger than a mustard seed…) into something that connects, improves, and transforms. Shalom.


Find out more about PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee for Peace

Mindanao Times: “In just less than five years of migrating to Mindanao, Joji and Dann, with their community of peace-builders, have trained 17 indigenous tribes in fair trade coffee farming and more than 450 families have benefitted from the fair trade price they are paying for the coffee they produced.” 

Level Ground Trading: “Coffee for Peace is promoting justice for farmers through increasing sustainability including improved techniques for harvesting and processing green coffee; diverse inter-planting, offering coffee seedlings to other communities for replanting and bridging the gap between farmers and consumers through education and info sharing. For some communities visited by Coffee for Peace the message of justice and fair payment sounds “too good to be true” because of their experiences with local traders and marketers who typically offer farmers 12¢ – 47¢ for a kilo of green coffee. However, the vision of justice is now being realized.”

Originally founded by PeaceBuilders Community as a conflict transformation space in the field, Coffee for Peace (CFP) has been growing as a community of conscientious individuals who are passionate about business-for-profit, addressing social issues that concerns the farmers, the environment, and the peace situation in our land by advocating Fair Trade in the coffee industry.

CFP Core Values

  • transparency in partnership with the farmers
  • protection of our environment
  • empowerment of the community
  • peace in our home, community and our land
  • excellent quality of products and services

CFP looks at fair trade as a business approach to achieve justice and peace in our society and in our environment.
Coffee For Peace, as a business corporation and as a community, includes:

  • A Board of Directors who are made up of business executives, community leaders, creative communication professionals, and academics.
  • A management team led by a business talent with 20 years of world-class financial planning experience in Canada. She is a degree holder in Food Service Administration and a coffee connoisseur.
  • The wisdom, knowledge, and experience of a team of dedicated agricultural engineers and agriculture specialists with a combined experience of more than 75 years.
  • A community-network of well-trained and justly-treated farmers who supplies us with their produce at fair traded prices.

Since the inception of CFP in 2008, the company has been gaining many awards and recognition because of its efforts in addressing the social issues that concerns the farmers, the environment, and the peace situation in our land.

Information from Peacebulders Community Website