We must have peace

ROSES & THORNS - Alejandro R. Roces () - September 2, 2008 - 12:00am

As I read the papers now, I am sad that the conflict between the government and the MILF still continues in Mindanao. I cannot help but think abut the plight of the poor civilians, both Muslims and non-Muslims. My heart goes out to the small and innocent children who must suffer from hunger and fear while the war goes on. Many children have even died in crossfire. At a young age they are deprived of experiencing the joy that a simple and quiet life together with their family brings. For some barrios in Mindanao, gone are the days when families would settle down to eat a simple dinner at dusk before lying down on the papag or mat for a peaceful slumber. Now, they live in uncertain conditions. Those who were displaced when their houses were wantonly burned by the Muslim rebels have to live in evacuation centers, unable to work in the fields or earn a decent living for their families.

I am relieved to know that Ramadan will start soon and I am hoping that somehow, the ongoing wars will slow down because of this Muslim tradition. I have always known Islam to be the most peaceful religion. Muslims would greet each other with Assalaam allaikum, meaning “May God’s peace be upon you” and answer the greeting with Wa allaikum assalaam, “And upon you be peace.” Ordinarily, we would greet each other with a simple “Hi!” or “Hello!” or “How are you?”. Now, how did a peaceful religion turn out to become a religion of huramentados?

The Holy Qu’ran clearly sets the guidelines in establishing peace. It says — “A person who kills a person unfairly or who kills someone who had neither rebelled, nor became a source of violating peace amongst the people nor created disorder in the land, it is as if he has killed the whole of mankind” (Al Maidah, Ch.5; v. 33). The book further sets the guideline that war is permitted for defense and to end evil, not to engage in battle because their true job is to establish peace. In permitting war, the principle of defense and peacemaking means — “No woman be killed; No children be killed; The old not be impeded; Nothing be said to the refugees, monks or hermits; No person be set on fire; No animal be killed; No tree be cut down; unlike your enemy, no person’s nose or ear be cut off.” And if victory is obtained, “No injured should be killed; anyone who escapes should not be pursued unnecessarily.”

Sadly, these are the very atrocities committed by the Muslim rebels that have inflicted suffering and pain on the poor villagers of the towns they ravished in Maguindanao. These are the very incidents that substantiate the growing belief that Muslims are violent and warlike thereby distorting the principles of a peaceful religion by extremist calls for jihad and war. The situation is made worse especially that our government soldiers with a sworn duty to protect the citizens and the country at all costs, have to fight back the Muslim rebels.

During this National Peace Consciousness Month, we pray that each Muslim and Filipino will realize that every action, whether good or bad, will surely affect the people around them. Any peacemaking process is doomed to fail if selfish ambitions prevail. As citizens of one country, Muslims must realize they are also Filipinos and all must go beyond themselves to obtain peace. English poet John Donne expressed this thought when he said “Any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved with mankind”. We are united as mankind and we share the same fate for we all live in one world. We must first be at peace with ourselves. Only then can we continue to seek peace with others and pursue it.

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