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Following the Path of Peace

Fr. Amado Picardal, CSsR

 

 

I. My Personal Journey

 

 

            The  early 70s was for me a time of awakening to the reality of poverty and injustice in our society. I became involved with Lakasdiwa – a Democratic Socialist youth movement that promoted Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha   the non-violent means to transform society.

 

            When Martial Law was declared our group in Cebu continued to operate. By that time, I began to doubt whether the non-violent option was still feasible. I was arrested on the first anniversary of Martial Law in Cebu. I was tortured for one week and detained for seven months. I got to know many CPP & NPA cadres whose argument for armed struggled I found very convincing.

 

            After my release from prison I was in contact with the Democratic Socialist party who had by then formed an armed group. During my years of studying for priesthood, I became more convinced that armed struggle was the only means for changing society.

 

            After my ordination I lost touch with the SocDems. Most of my contacts were the NatDems. In fact, the NDF head and the NPA commander in Lanao were my friends whom I occasionally met. After my mother was killed by military men in December 1985, I went through a crisis of faith and vocation. I began thinking of the possibility of leaving the priesthood and joining the armed struggle.

 

            But in February 1986, the EDSA I took place. It was a religious experience for me and it proved to me that a peaceful, non-violent means was possible for transforming society.

 

            After EDSA I, I worked in Arakan Valley where the armed conflict between the NPA and the Military continued. I engaged in dialogue with the NPA leaders and the military. I became more convinced that the time has come to promote the peace process. The sufferings of the people made it very urgent.

 

            When I was working in San Fernando, Bukidnon, I was involved with the people’s struggle to protect the forest and stop the logging operations. This time, we made sure that the means that we used would be peaceful and non-violent. We  stuck to this even if the NPA sent feelers that they would support the people and even when the military brutally dispersed the barricade. After two years of struggle the  government gave in to the people’s demand for total log ban not only in the municipality of  San Fernando but also the whole province of Bukidnon.

 

            While studying in Berkeley, California (1989-1991), I got involved with the Pax Christi , a Catholic Peace Movement. I joined the anti-war rally in San Francisco and made a vow of non-violence. I continued my involvement with Pax Christi when I did my doctoral studies in Rome.

 

            When I came back to the Philippine in 1995, I spent most of my time teaching. It was in 2000, as the clashes between the gov’t and the NPA & MILF escalated, that I cycled for peace across the Philippines. The following year, I helped organize the Caravan for Peace, prayer rallies & vigil for peace, in response to the all-out war declared by the Erap government. I also organized a bike for peace across Mindanao. Since then I have become more involved in peace advocacy.

 

            My commitment to the way of peace, has been inspired and sustained  by the teachings of Jesus in the Gospel,  by Mahatma Ghandi’s satyagrah and the writing of Dom Helder Camara.

 

            I firmly believe that the way of peace is the only to stope the spiral of violence. It is the humane way to transform society.

 

           

II. Synthesis/Deepening

 

 It is clear from our sharing that our commitment to peace did not develop overnight. There is a story behind every commitment. It is like a journey, with its twists and turns.

 

There is a pattern in our stories. We all started with an awareness of the reality of poverty, injustice, oppression,  the division, etc. in our society. We felt we had to do something about it – we wanted to change society. The basic question that confronted us: how do we transform our society?

 

Many probably started with a pacifist stance. Others already thought that bloody revolution would be necessary.

 

The Martial Law, led many of us to a position that the only viable means for changing society was through the barrel of the gun – through armed struggle. But others continued to believe that a peaceful, non-violent means was still possible.

 

The EDSA I has shown many of us that they way of peace is feasible and effective.

The effects of the spiral of violence has made us aware of the senselessness and futility of violence as a means for changing society.

 

Our commitment to the way of peace is not just based on our repugnance to violence and its effects on us and our people.

 

It is also based on the moral and spiritual imperatives of our faith (whether Christian or Islam).

 

For us Christians, we opt for the way of peace because it is the way of Jesus – it is the way the cross, the way which as disciples we are called to follow. Let us listen to the Beatitudes (read the gospel).

 

The Gospel teaches us to love everyone including our enemies, to do good even when we experience evil and to be compassionate. We are taught not to harbor hatred for others nor to  be vindictive. We are called to offer our life in self-sacrifice but not take life. To die for others but not to kill.

 

This is the only way to overcome evil. This is the only way to stop the spiral of violence.

 

Thus, we follow Jesus who said: Blessed are the Peace-Makers.

 

Peace be with you! This is how Jesus addressess his disciples.

We need to experience this peace within ourselves. To experience healing within our selves. To rid ourselves of anger, hatred, and other violent thoughts.

 

Peace be with you! This is how we Christians address others even those who harbor anger and resentment against us.

 

Peace is not just the absence of war, it is not just the absence of armed conflict – although it presupposes it. Peace is above all the healing of relationships, of dialogue. It is also development – total human development. As Paul VI tell us: development is the new name of peace.