May your 2018 be filled with love, joy, peace, and patience!

We’re projecting what we need as we face the New Year. We need to be embraced by love, joy, peace, and patience. And we pray that you also would be embraced by love, joy, peace, and patience this coming year.

Love. We’re facing a global reality where there is increasing divide between people and nations because of race, politics, religion, culture and other factors that make us different from each other. Perhaps this is what John Naisbitt predicted two decades ago: the more global our economies become, the more tribal our identities will be. And these are exacerbated by the interests of those who make billions of dollars when people and nations engage in armed conflicts.

It is during these times of alienation between nations and people when we need most the harmonizing energy of love. We worship a God of love. The DivineLove transcends our differences and bridges us with each other. This is best communicated by this video from Sojourners community, whose mission “is to articulate the biblical call to social justice, to inspire hope and build a movement to transform individuals, communities, the church, and the world.”

Joy. The year 2017 has been filled with fear and sorrow.  There were 1,123 terror attacks and 7,571 fatalities around the world. More than ever, we need the angelic message that went hand-in-hand with the proclamation of the Incarnation. Addressing the terrified shepherds, the angels’ comforting words are so needed by the world’s marginalized people groups whose human security are in great danger: “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people.” God’s presence, the Joy of the world, was given to us through a very gentle intervention of the Eternal One into the chaos and painful realities of the temporal: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” (Luke 2:10-12)

As we learn and grasp the extent of humanity’s cruelty against humanity in 2017, we invite you to focus on God’s Joy—for our focus determines our reality. It is through the lenses of God’s transcendent reality that we can see the beauty and the goodness of this world—through the eyes of the Emmanu-El.

One of my most joyful days was with my Vancouver family—whom I terribly miss this Christmas Season. When I’m psycho-socially down, I look at this video and can’t help but swim in the pond of joy.

Peace. The Arabic word salaam and the Hebrew word shalom basically means, “completeness, soundness, welfare, and peace.”  Completeness has the idea of being whole—that is, all the parts are connected with each other.  Soundness can be understood also as safety of the body and clarity of mind.  Welfare can be viewed as wellness—that is, holistic health and prosperity.  Peace can be read as tranquility, contentment, and healthy relationships with God and other human beings, and thus, the absence of any hostility or war.

In a conflicted world, unpeace characterizes the alienated life of human beings—that means, alienation of humanity from the Creator, from our being, from others, and from the creation. This is the prevailing construct of reality in the world today.

But there’s an alternative way to look at Reality—the Creator’s Ultimate Reality. It is the Creator’s will for us to enjoy the quality of life that is characterized by harmonious relationships — with the Creator, with our being, with others, and with the creation. This is Salaam-Shalom Reality. This Reality is the vision of life where spirituality, community, identity, and economy-ecology are harmoniously connected with each other.

One of my most peaceful afternoon in 2017 was in Ligawasan Marshlands in Maguindanao. There, at a territory mostly controlled by the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, my fellow peace workers and I had an experience of peace among local folks whose lives are truly submitted to the Creator—whom they refer to as Allah.

Patience. We experienced a bad year in the Philippines due to increased human rights violation, increased poverty despite so-called economic growth, and betrayal of trust by duty bearers. Observers and analysts are predicting that 2018 would be a more dangerous year. We need a kind of spiritually-energized patience to sustain us through these challenging times. My greatest human inspiration as far as patience is concerned are the people of the Cordilleras. Their rice terraces are the monuments of such patience. Their cultural and political perseverance to protect and defend their ancestral domains show a strong people’s deep awareness of their being. The Cordillera people encourages me to hope for genuine autonomy as they stay true to the peacebuilding and reconciling aspects of their indigenous values and principles.

A timuay—an indigenous people’s leader—taught me that patience is inherent in the inner being of each indigenous person. “Natural spirituality,” he said, “is spirituality of patience.” Both the Christian and Islamic faiths regard patience as a spiritual virtue. The Arabic word sabr is the Islamic virtue of patience, endurance, or more accurately perseverance and persistence. Patience, in Christianity, is one aspect of the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22). A dictionary defines patience as “the capacity to accept or tolerate delay, trouble, or suffering without getting angry or upset.”

Love, joy, peace and patience are the virtues that energize us in our peace-and-reconciliation work with the Indigenous People, with the Moro people, and with the Settlers here in the beautiful island of Mindanao in Southern Philippines. It is this unconditional love that motivates us to joyfully serve these peoples towards peace. Together, we face our challenges with patience from our respective spiritual resources.

Joji and I are followers of Jesus. Our worldview is shaped by our humble understanding of God as our Heavenly Father. We seek to be shaped by the life and work of Jesus of Nazareth in our words and actions. Our spiritual strength comes from the Holy Spirit who energize us with love, joy, peace, and patience. We are convinced that the spiritual power within us is greater than the threats of the greed-oriented, war-mongering powers of this world.

May our 2018 be filled with love, joy, peace, and patience!

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