As a body of Jesus’ followers, PeaceBuilders Community seeks to constantly sound the Gong of Harmony to call peace-loving people to help build bridges between conflicting parties in this land. Our desire is to demonstrate peace-and-reconciliation principles and practices as embodied in our community.

The conflicting parties in our divided society are becoming more and more militant — that is, combative, aggressive, violent, confrontational. Their various justifications sound so final: to advance their correct worldview; to propagate their more righteous value system; to demonstrate a set of behaviors they believe as right and proper. Militant behaviors are visible in religious, social, or political advocacies or programs.

PeaceBuilders Community seeks to build bridges based on the character and teaching of Jesus Christ. As followers of Jesus, we are invited to a loving relationship with the outsiders as neighbors. The outsiders are those who are considered not part of our community. In the story of the Great Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37), Jesus described the neighbor, the Samaritan, as actually ‘the other’ who is the insiders’ object of prejudice — not trustworthy, not pure, not clean, not lawful, not our people.

Jesus teaches us that loving the outsiders includes accepting help and protection from them — being vulnerable, humble, and transparent; and also, extending help and protection for them in their time and condition of need.

After listening to Ka Luis Jalandoni and Ka Coni Ledesma (chair and member respectively of the National Democratic Front of the Philippines’ Peace Negotiating Panel), I requested a photo with them during the 2016 Summit of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform in Davao City. 21 September 2016.

From the modern Christians’ context, these outsiders are the groups we refer to with negative prefixes: non-Christians, unchurched, unreached, unsaved. Let’s re-think the social-ethical implication of our labeling, which we subconsciously or consciously believe is correct!

We are invited to a loving relationship with the enemies as neighbors (Mt. 5:43-48). The enemy is the person who doesn’t love us, and whom we do not love, but whom we are invited to love. The enemy may be a party or another community who persecutes and oppresses our community. As soon as we identify these enemies, we feel the need to label them: “terrorists,” “bandits,” “thieves,” “murderers,” “rebels,” “insurgents.” They become statistical data. They become mere pieces of information. The tendency is to dehumanize and thingify them. It becomes easy to harm and kill the enemies when they are seen as not human but as mere things.

In the context of the Church today, we tend to listen and follow the state or the political party as to whom we will regard as friends or enemies. On one hand, many Christians, instead of following the command of Jesus to love our enemies, have regarded the New People’s Army (NPA), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and other non-state armed groups as enemies. On the other hand, some Christians have regarded the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) as enemies because their ideological views define them as such.

We need to see our land and our people from the eyes of Jesus! This means that we are called to love the New People’s Army (NPA) and other non-state armed groups! We need to love our land and our people through the heart of Jesus! This means that we should regard the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) as friends even when their ideological views are different from ours!

In this militant 21st century reality, there are those who want to make good business in a world at war. They like us all to be militant against the outsider-other, as much as they like the outsider-other to be militant against us.

Some elements of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) welcome the bridge-building peacebuilders from various civil society organizations, led by the Initiative for International Dialogue. Carmen, North Cotabato. 02 September 2018.

As peacebuilders, we insist on building bridges rather than building up walls. We’d rather work for peace-and-reconciliation rather than feed the war-business through armed conflicts.

When peacebuilders and conflict transformation workers insist on being ‘neutral’ in the midst of polarizing and divisive positions — like ideological lines, party-colors, and personality-oriented alignments — it doesn’t mean the peaceworkers are neutral in their conviction about truth, justice, compassion, and love.

Peacebuilders are committed to stand with what is truth and authentic; we’re against lies or the taken-for-granted facades of social realities. Peacebuilders are committed to walk with the poor on the side of justice; we are against injustice and oppressive systems. Peacebuilders are committed to act with compassion; we are against self-righteous indifference and oppressive silence. Peacebuilders seek to act in love; we are against all forms of hatred.

We listen to the voices that are being silenced. When those voices are consistent with our faith-based understanding of justice and peace, we help amplify them.

Some peacebuilders are called to be negotiators and are therefore expected to position and align themselves with one side of the parties in conflict.

Some peacebuilders are called to be mediators and must be faithful to provide a safe space and a neutral team of facilitators for both sides of the parties in conflict to engage in authentic dialogue.

The peacebuilding negotiators must not accuse the peacebuilding mediators as ‘those sitting on the fence’. Peacebuilding mediators are actually ‘those who are building bridges.’

Please do not shoot the bridge-builders! Please respect the calling of the bridge-building peacebuilders.

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