Saturday, November 10, 2007

Becoming peace-makers: Peace begins with me

The tents have sprouted in the grounds of the parish since yesterday. There are around 400 youth delegates coming from the various Basic Ecclesial Communities in our parish who are participating in the Parish Youth Encounter.

This morning the delegates were divided into smaller groups to listen to various speakers on various topics. I was assigned to talk about "Becoming Peacemakers." There were over 60 young people who attended. During the first part of the morning I divided them into 4 groups and asked them to prepare a drama on 4 various topics (domestic violence, neighborhood/gang violence, Christian-Muslim Conflict, the armed conflict between the NPA and the military). After 45 minutes of preparation they were able to present dramas that depict the spiral of violence and culture of death in society. Afterwards, I gave my talk on "Peacemaking." Here's the gist of my talk:

1. There's violence all around us - in the home, in the neighborhood and communities, between religious/ethnic groups, between the revolutionary armed groups and the military. Violence has become a way of life that leads to suffering and death. For many violence is a means for expressing anger and frustration, of getting even, an instrument of achieving their goals (justice, freedom, social tranformation), or for defence or security. Violence may be fueled by anger, fear, or cold-blooded calculation/rationalization based on an ideology.

2. Amids this spiral of violence and culture of death, we are called by Jesus and our Church to become peacemakers. "Blessed are the peacemakers, they shall be called the children of God."
To be Christians is to be peacemakers.

3. "Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me." Peace begins with me, in me. In order to become peacemakers, we need to achieve peace within each one of us - inner peace. This means rooting out the seeds of violence in our minds and hearts. This requires being healed of the wounds within us, of overcoming the anger, hurt, resentment, and the desire for vengeance. This means turning our heart of stone into a heart of flesh - capable of compassion, love, care, forgiveness and reconciliation. This also requires learning to respect others - their dignity, their rights, and the differences - and to value life. This requires recognizing one another as brothers, sisters and friends, and entering into dialogue with them.

4. Promoting a culture of life and peace in our homes, neighborhood and communities. This means inculcating the values that promote peace (respect, compassion, love, friendship, dialogue, reconciliation, forgiveness, sharing, harmony, justice). This also means avoiding violent thoughts, speech, behavior and action.

5. Peace is not only the absence of war. It must be based on justice. There cannot be true peace without justice. But we can only achieve justice and social transformation using peaceful and non-violente means. Concrete examples of this (Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Ninoy Aquino, EDSA people power, San Fernando struggle against logging, peace zones, Christian-Muslim dialogue, etc.)

6. We need to work for peace in our homes, neighborhood, communities, in Mindanao and the rest of our country, Think globally and act locally.

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