Thursday, September 24, 2009

Peace Forum (Brokeshire College)

A Peace Forum was held at the Brokenshire College here in Davao as one of the activities for the peace week observed by the college. There were two speakers invited: a Muslim scholar and religious leader (Aleem Jamal Munib) and yours truly. ALeem Jamal gave a talk on peace from Islamic perspective. I gave a talk on peace from a Christian perspective. After the talks, the open forum followed with the students asking questions and each of us giving answers from our respective religious perspectives.
What struck me while listening to Aleem Jamal was that there were so many things Muslims and Christians hold in common especially about the theme of peace. Aleem Jamal started his talk with the the greetings "peace be with you" (which is the english translation of the Arabic aSalaam' Alaykum) and I also started mine with the same greeting which echoes Jesus' greetings to his disciples during his post-resurrection appearance (shalom aleichim in Hebrew). Aleem Jamal also spoke about the theme of the love of God and the love of one's fellowmen and the golden rule which is found both in the Qur'an and the Bible.
Aleem Jamal reminded the audience that Islam is a religion of peace. When asked about Jihad he corrected the popular misconception of Jihad as referring primaly to Holy War. He said that terrorism perpetrated by extremist groups such is Abu Sayaf, which targets innocent civilians, does not represent Islam. He said that Jihad means striving for peace, justice and freedom and defense against oppression. The greater Jihad is the struggle against evil within oneself. These are ideas that are similar to Christians themes of struggling against sin and evil within oneself and in society. I am reminded of what Pope John XXIII said: "what unites us is greater than what divides us."
In my talk, I emphasized the mission and responsibility of Christians to be peacemakers (echoing Jesus' sermon on the mount - Blessed are the Peacemakers). I started by talking about the situation of unpeace - the spiral of violence and the culture of death. I then asserted that peace must begin within each one, in the homes, in the neighborhood, and extends to the region and nation. Echoing Paul VI, I emphasized that peace is not just the absence of war. Peace involves justice, reconciation, healing and forgiveness. It is brought about by dialogue. The sources of conflict must be addressed and the injustice corrected. The fruits of peace are development and harmony. I ended my talk by quoting Isaiah and by sharing my own version of Isaiah's vision of peace:
"He shall judge between the nations
and impose terms on many peoples,
They shall beat their swords into plowshares
and their spears into pruning hooks
One nation shall not raise the sword against another
nor shall they train for war again." (Isaiah 2:4)
This is my own vision of peace which I shared during the focus group discussion for the Konsult-Mindanaw:
Someday we will live together as neighbors, friends
and brother/sisters rather than strangers and enemies.
The battlefields will be transformed into rice-fields.
The tanks will be turned to bulldozers
The only blood shed will be that of chickens and cows for feasting.
The only explosions will come from fireworks in the sky.
The land and its resouces will be shared by everyone
and no one will wallow in poverty.

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