This Young Filipina is Promoting Peace One Book at a Time

MANILA – A 21-year-old college student is changing the world and promoting peace, one book at a time.

Arizza Nocum, who has created libraries in remote areas, has highlighted the plight of Filipino Muslim and Christian children living in conflict areas in the Philippines at the One Young World Summit in Bangkok.

The industrial engineering student at the University of the Philippines, feels lucky to be part of the summit as a delegate speaker for the 2015 Peace and Security Plenary Session.

“I don’t think that words are enough to describe my experiences, the things I have learned, and – most especially – the people I have met during the One Young World Summit,” she said on Facebook.

At the plenary session, Nocum was introduced by Olympic gold medalist and 2015 World Cup champion, Hope Solo to a crowd of over a thousand young leaders from all over the world.

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In her message, Nocum told the audience how her parents, who come from two different faiths–her mother being a Muslim and her father, a Catholic–taught her about peace.

“My parents who come from these two different faiths taught me that these two religions can co-exist under one roof. They taught me about peace. But more than that, they encouraged me to go a step further by starting a non-profit organization that promotes peace through libraries,” Nocum said.

When she was just 16, Nocum founded the KRIS (Kristiyano-Islam) Peace Library. The non-profit organization builds libraries and provides educational materials and scholarships to students in poor and conflict areas in the Philippines.

“My family started building libraries to provide a venue not only for young people of different religions and backgrounds to come together, but also to provide access to educational materials that are sparse in these areas,” she said.

The family was able to build six libraries around the Philippines since 2008. Three of them are located in regions where there are terrorist camps and where there are child soldiers being recruited, she said.

“We already know that poverty compounds conflict and we are also using education as a tool to address poverty,” she said.

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The libraries, she said, have 50,000 books and over a dozen computers, some with Internet connection. The library receives 6,000 visits each month.

“When we first started our libraries, children would come in and separate. Muslim children would go to one side and Christian children would go to another. However, as time passed, they began to talk to one another, ask questions, read books together and even teach one another. Eventually, they would walk out of our libraries as friends,” she said.

Aside from the libraries, the Nocum family also provided 400 scholarships to Muslims and Christian students.

She encouraged the youth to not use the slogan ‘war on terror’ anymore.

“With every terror committed, our first response must not be war, but empathy. The first step is to understand conflict and what drives it–poverty, injustice, and history. The second step is to create tangible expression of empathy through dialogue and cultural exchange and to build solutions that solve the backbone, the root cause of conflict. The third step is to lobby against governments that wage war.

She ended by saying, “One Young World, if our own countries wage war, it is our responsibility to wage peace instead.”

According to the One Young World website, Nocum was one of the five global recipients of the Zonta International Young Women for Public Affairs Award and one of the youngest of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World. She was a recipient of the C Asean scholarship that sponsored her to attend the summit.



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