Think, Speak, Act Peace

By | June 1, 2017

 

Among Filipinos in social media:

Trending: Mindanao’s Islamic City of Marawi beseiged by Maute terrorists. Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte places Mindanao under martial law.

Breaking News: Earthquake hits many parts of the Philippines.

First post: Woke up. Disunited nation. Back to dreaming.

Another post: My bed rocks. Hi, ho … nightmares away!

ATM: Blasts, firefight between military and NPA rebels in Kidapawan City.

Sign-off post: Really? These are happening? Humor me, please.

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This Christmas, never be surprised to receive — again — a message that reads: Peace on earth and goodwill to all men.

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Meantime, amid all the tragedy that has beset Marawi City and its people, let us draw inspiration from a statement Orlando B. Cardinal Quevedo, O.M.I. issued on May 26, 2017. The statement was approved by the Bishops of Mindanao.

The statement, entitled Pursue What Leads to Peace, in full:

“To All People of Good Will:”

“We, Catholic Bishops of Mindanao, address this Statement to every Mindanawon. We originally intended to respond  to the requests of our Catholic faithful who asked for pastoral guidance on the issue of Martial Law.

“We pray for all the murdered innocent victims in Marawi and ask the Lord to protect all the families that have fled to safety.

“We condemn the terrorist acts that have caused the loss of many innocent lives, the burning of homes, public buildings, including a Protestant school dormitory and a Catholic Cathedral.

“We condemn the unconscionable kidnapping of teachers and church personnel.

“We pray for the safety of all the kidnapped, of Fr. Teresito Suganob and his companions. We appeal to the hostage takers to release all of them unharmed. The victims fear death but they also have the courage to give ultimate witness to Christ.

“In the strongest terms we condemn terrorism in its various forms. It is an ideology that is totally against the tenets of any religion of peace. Especially so when terrorism is perpetrated while our Muslim brothers and sisters are preparing for the holy month of Ramadhan. Terrorism distorts and falsifies the true meaning of any religion. It destroys harmonious relationships among peoples of different faiths. It creates a world of suspicion and prejudice, of hatred and hostility.

“The President of the Philippines has responded to the Marawi crisis by declaring Martial Law in the entire Mindanao. Many criticise the decision as reminiscent of the horrors of a past dictatorship. Others support the decision as justified.

“We are aware that the problems of peace and order, of the continuing disruptive activities of other rebel groups, the problems of criminality and drugs, of corruption and underdevelopment are in every nook and corner of Mindanao. Mindanao problems go beyond the city limits of Marawi.

“Our Catholic faithful have asked for pastoral guidance regarding Martial Law. We are guided by the Sacred Scriptures and by the social teachings of the Church. St. Paul exhorts us to “pursue what leads to peace” (Rom. 14: 19).

“Martial Law is a means of last resort. Are moral principles fulfilled? Were other means to resolve the deep and wide serious problems of Mindanao impractical and ineffective? Will the positive effects of Martial Law outweigh the negative effects? Will there be probability of success? Will it bring about a culture of accountability and end a culture of impunity? Will Martial Law increase human rights violations? Will Martial Law be abused for evil purposes?

“The answers to many questions are speculative. We have many fears. But at present we simply do not have solid and sufficient facts to absolutely reject the declaration of Martial Law as morally reprehensible. But we are certainly agreed that Martial Law must be temporary.

“We shall condemn any abuse of Martial Law and as in the past will condemn it outright if it goes in the way of evil. Let us be vigilant.

“We exhort everyone to be calm in the face of Martial Law, to be obedient to the just commands of lawful authority, and not to provoke violent reaction. We urge the government to remove the causes of terrorism, such as poverty and injustice, through just and accountable governance focused solely on the common good.

“The focus of every religion is peace on earth, peace in heaven. Let us pursue together what leads to peace. Let all religious teachers and leaders quell the tendencies towards the terrorist ideology. Together let us pursue what leads to peace. Let us pray for peace and work for peace.

“God bless the people of Marawi. God bless all Mindanawons.”

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The Christian hierarchy in Mindanao is not alone. I am sure that Muslim political and religious leaders have aired similar condemnations of the terrorist act perpetrated against the people of Marawi and their city. I believe that similar pleadings and prayers were invoked for calm, justice and peace in the area, and in the region of Mindanao where martial law had been declared.

That the terrorist attack on the Islamic City of Marawi City came at a time when Muslims in Mindanao and the Philippines – and all over the world – were preparing to observe the Holy Month of Ramadhan (which began at the sighting of the Crescent Moon on May 27, 2017) was doubly hard to comprehend.

Yet, amid all the arising fear and confusion, from Muslim homes of peace in Mindanao echoed that solemn prayer for the gunfire and violence, fleeing and displacement, fiery rampage and hostage-taking, and the evil of terrorism to end, so that all may share in the nearness and blessings of Allah. The call for peace was clear, with the coming of Ramadhan, one of the pillars of Islam.

I should know. I received a lot of well wishes and invitations to pray with my Muslim brothers and sisters from different parts of Mindanao during Ramadhan. I am glad to know that a lot of Christians like me received the same greetings too. Happy Ramadhan, everyone.

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A friend and his children went to Ashbridge to see the fireworks display during Victoria Day. The children were amazed by the sights and sounds of it.

One of them later asked: “Tatay, why did the fireworks in Ariana Grande’s concert in Manchester hurt many children like us?”

The friend wanted to give a seven-year old a discourse on terrorism, but he hesitated and instead told his child: “Those fireworks were made by evil men who do not wish their neighbors well. Meanwhile, let us thank the many good men who provides us with every bit of spark and light to make our life better.”

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With this note, I ask you to help me THINK PEACE, SPEAK PEACE and ACT PEACE. Let us go on hoping that peace will come, as we overcome all the hurdles as we seek peace. #####