Joji Pantoja started working in Mindanao, Philippines with her husband as a Mennonite missionary with a vision to help in peace building. They were trying to better understand one of the longest armed conflicts in the world—the war between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. While doing their peace and reconciliation work among the conflicted groups in Mindanao, they began offering coffee to both disagreeing parties. The goal was to try to encourage them to resolve their issues through dialogue over a cup of coffee. It seemed as long as coffee was available, peaceful talk would continue. Since then, they coined those events “Coffee for Peace.”
Their dream expanded as they saw the need for a safe place to talk about peace issues in Davao City. Their small coffee shop was established and became known among peace workers and non-government personnel. The need for coffee supplies increased over time and they were brought to various tribal communities who had been marginalized. Their lands were reluctantly leased for 25 years to big companies and multinational corporations at a very low price. The lease payments were not enough to sustain the tribal people, even for basic needs. They, in turn, needed to borrow money from those same big businesses, which left them dependent and impoverished. Coffee for Peace is now a social enterprise that seeks to help advance justice and peace through finding a market that would pay fair price for the farmers’ labor and produce. They strive to protect their environment by planting more trees side by side with Arabica trees and are committed to building peace in Mindanao.
Submitted by Jessica Peachey, member at Grace Mennonite Fellowship in Lacey Spring, VA.