Our second “Journey of Peacebuilding” features Arizza Nocum, an Extremely Together Young Leader and Founder of KRIS. Raised in a family that harmonized Christianity and Islam, Arizza is a living testament to the peace attainable through understanding and respect.
Born in the Philippines to a unique family — a Catholic father from Zamboanga City and a Muslim mother from Sulu — Arizza learned early the value of peace and acceptance. “It’s a marvel that my parents discovered each other and established a harmonious family against such odds,” she muses.
Her upbringing inspired a personal mission for Arizza: to foster peace and harmony between religions and people facing various societal challenges.
KRIS: Planting Seeds of Peace
The Philippines has a long history of insurgent groups, with over 150,000 people killed in political and religious conflicts over the past five decades. This context twinned with Arizza’s background, became the driving force behind her family’s non-profit organization, KRIS (Kristiyano-Islam Peace Library). KRIS focuses on education and youth leadership, with an ambition to build unity among Christians and Muslims.
Arizza emphasizes, explaining that when young people don’t have the opportunity to go to school, they become vulnerable to recruitment by armed groups.
In addition to boosting academic growth, KRIS plants what Arizza calls “seeds of peace” between Christian and Muslim kids. “When these children learn together, they form bonds. These bonds become peace pillars in communities,” she says.
A Global Commitment to Peace: Extremely Together and Kofi Annan Foundation
In 2016, Arizza’s local commitment found an international platform when she joined Extremely Together. “Being in the same room with Kofi Annan and receiving his affirmation that I am the future and need to act now, was incredibly validating,” Arizza recalls. This partnership allowed her to connect with a network of young leaders working globally for peace.
“My commitment – and our commitment – is to keep growing what we’ve started with the Extremely Together Philippines chapter.”
Under her guidance, ET’s efforts have reached thousands of young people in the Philippines and beyond. Over 1,000 young people were trained across the country, and selected youth groups were awarded seed grants to conduct 15 initiatives aimed at building trust and togetherness in their communities.
Even after the formal project ended in 2022, the ET Philippines chapter continued to grow, providing opportunities for youth leadership and peacebuilding. The initiatives expanded to include education and practical measures like addressing the impact of tropical storms and offering seed grants for peace-related projects.
“Many young people here feel it is great to be part of a national network of young leaders working for peace. Even more exciting is that this network is part of an international initiative launched by Kofi Annan,” Arizza said.
Addressing the Climate Crisis
The Philippines faces some of the harshest impacts of climate change. Super typhoons and rising sea levels pose a danger to the over 7,000 islands in the nation-archipelago. Arizza understands how climate problems can ignite conflicts. “Extreme weather events cause harvest failures that exacerbate competition over natural resources and lead to conflict and displacement,” Arizza notes, “it’s heartbreaking to see so many of these impoverished and conflict-affected communities suffer even more because of climate change.”
The Philippines Extremely Together Chapter acted in response. They aided over 3,000 storm-affected individuals during the tropical storms in Mindanao. This initiative marked a significant shift in the group’s focus. “As climate change became a primary concern for young people, it naturally transitioned into one of our top priorities,” she explains.
“It’s really turning our gears,” she shares, reflecting on the new challenge climate change has posed on top of poverty and conflict. “We now regularly see the need to face the impact of climate change,” emphasizing that young people’s concerns for the environment show that they are critically thinking about a future where the environment plays a central role.
Arriza’s Vision for the Future
Arizza envisions a future marked by growth and interconnectedness for ET Philippines. “My and our commitment is to keep growing what we’ve started with the Philippines Extremely Together Chapter, and hopefully to keep connecting with the ET leaders in different countries,” she expressed.
“I hope there’s always that openness to talk about taking ET to different directions, still looking at the original spirit of ET, which is working across diversity, being together, collaborating, approaching things in a non-violent manner, believing in the capacity of youth, investing in youth.”
A Legacy of Hope and Unity
In all her endeavours, Arizza Nocum’s journey embodies transformation, dedication, and the enduring influence of Kofi Annan’s legacy. Her story serves as a beacon of hope and a reminder of the power of youth-driven initiatives in building a more peaceful and united world. As we celebrate Arizza’s accomplishments, let us also be inspired by her firm belief that diversity is a strength and that there is more that unites us than divides us.
This is the second story in our “Journey of Peacebuilding” series, which explores what it means to be a “peacebuilder.” Young leaders from our Extremely Together (ET) initiative share their stories and explain how they got involved in peacebuilding and how their journeys have evolved since joining ET in 2016. Discover inspiring stories of young peacebuilders working to counter and prevent violence in their communities and beyond!