Joy was born and grew up in Mindanao in the Philippines, where as an adult she became passionate about overcoming injustice and human rights abuses. During the 1980s Joy was a part of the Ecumenical Movement for Justice and Peace in the Philippines, through which she campaigned for people’s rights and was involved in inter-faith dialogue. Joy migrated to Australia in 1987 where she continued this focus. From the early 1990s Joy worked within the Uniting Church in Australia to take this campaign further as Secretary for International Human Rights.
Her early years in this role led to the development of what would become Young Ambassadors for Peace – a network of people across Asia and the Pacific committed and resourced to build peace.
In 2001, a number of young people from six countries gathered in Canberra for the first YAP workshop, equipping them to go back to their countries to start local initiatives to address conflict and injustice. In 2002, workshops were held for the first time in Sri Lanka and Ambon, Indonesia.
Over the years Joy’s ministry through UnitingWorld and its predecessor organisations has contributed to the mediation of tribal conflicts in Papua New Guinea, brought together Muslims and Christians in Ambon and Mindanao, and been part of peacebuilding efforts in Burma, Sri Lanka, North East India and the Solomon Islands.
Central to Joy’s life, and subsequently her work, has been her strong conviction that all people are created in the image of God and that there is goodness in every person regardless of race, culture or religion. Conflict is part of life but can and should be resolved without the use of violence.
From the start YAP focused on building better understanding and respect of peoples’ differences as key elements in the peacebuilding process. The YAP program recognised that every member of the community can be a peace builder given the appropriate skills. Participants gather at workshops to share stories and experiences, to address prejudices and to be equipped with the tools they need to foster peaceful conflict resolution in their own lives as well as the broader life of their community.
Joy returned home to the Philippines in 2011 where she continues to work with local communities to cultivate peace. Over the 20 years Joy worked in the Uniting Church in Australia her work touched the lives of many individuals and communities in our region, as well as here in Australia.
Joy’s legacy has helped inspire and form the building blocks of the Uniting Church in Australia’s approach to overcoming injustice, restoring human rights and building peace through agencies such as UnitingWorld and UnitingJustice. UnitingWorld continues to develop initiatives in partnership with local communities that address violent conflict, always recognising the very close relationship between peace, development and justice.