Myla Leguro is Technical Advisor for Social Cohesion and Church Engagement at Catholic Relief Services (CRS) in the Philippines, and founder of the Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute.
Since she was 17, Leguro has been engaged in peacebuilding in her native Mindanao, Philippines, where the roots of conflict among rival indigenous, Muslim, and Christian groups extend more than 100 years.
"I was born here, I studied here, this is home," says Leguro. "My work as a peacebuilder began with an awareness that I needed to participate fully in changing the situation."
Leguro has more than three decades of experience working with Catholic Relief Services (CRS), where she has helped forge peaceful relationships among rival communities and with the government in Manila. As a peace practitioner, her work focuses on advancing the inclusion of women in peace processes and political decision-making.
“I have been engaged in peacebuilding work in Mindanao for 25 years now,” she says. “I am passionate and committed, even with the ebbs and flows of peace in Mindanao. I continuously explore various pathways to sustainable peace. It is an ongoing process of creative engagements, which makes the work always exciting and fulfilling.”
Before becoming a student at Notre Dame, Leguro temporarily left her CRS post to spend three months on campus as a CRS-Kroc Institute visiting fellow in 2006 where she documented the peacebuilding experiences of Mindanao in peace education, interreligious dialogue, zones of peace/spaces for peace, and civil society advocacy.
Her work with CRS introduced her to Kroc Institute faculty including John Paul Lederach, with whom she worked to develop the Reflective Peacebuilding Toolkit in collaboration with CRS. Through this initiative, Leguro became interested in deepening her academic learning on peace studies and peacebuilding, and enrolled as a full-time master’s student in 2008.
“In this learning journey, I resolved to use my studies at the Kroc Institute to enhance my peacebuilding practice in Mindanao,” she says.
As a master’s student, Leguro was invited to take part in an apprenticeship program, which provided her the opportunity to be mentored by Lederach for two years, supplementing her formal classroom learning. "My time at the Kroc Institute was a chance to step back, reflect on my work, and learn how to make my practice more effective," she says. "Having been exposed to the rigors of research, I can help communities develop indicators to measure their peacebuilding efforts."
Following graduation, Leguro returned to CRS’ Philippines peacebuilding team to support the start-up of a program focused on integrating governance and peacebuilding work, where she learned the process of setting up the monitoring and evaluation processes and systems to enable CRS and its partners to measure impact and outcomes of work on the ground.
From 2016 to 2018, Leguro served as program director of a CRS global program, Advancing Interreligious Peacebuilding. This initiative covers four projects on interreligious dialogue and cooperation in Egypt, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Niger, Nigeria, and the Philippines.
“I engaged in reflective learning processes with colleagues and partners to develop a definition for interreligious peacebuilding and other thematic guidance in relation to gender, youth and political/institutional engagement,” she says.
From 2019 to 2020, Leguro provided technical support to various peacebuilding engagements in Asia while continuing to hone her civil society engagements in Mindanao.
Leguro shares this advice with aspiring peacebuilders, a quote from Louise Diamond: “‘Connect the disconnected, energize peace and relate to the divine potential in the other.’ These nuggets of wisdom have inspired me in relation to my peacebuilding engagements across different actors and different levels.”
Updated February 2023