Sunday, June 01, 2003

Peace: the undiscovered country

When all you do is fight?
What all you know is fight?
When your glory comes from the scars pinned to your chest?
When that is who you are?
When that is your name?
When the fighting is gone?
Who will you be?

I'm still hanging out with Merci and the gang this Sunday evening. Merci heads to Davao tomorrow while the rest return to Manila. We've just returned from another night at Ardent Hot Springs. The kids can't get enough of it and well neither can the adults.

Unlike last night where the winds paused to enjoy the wedding, there's a constant warm onshore breeze. There are several red dots where fishermen's bangkas mark the horizon. I return Merci's phone and charger, now that my cell is fixed.

Merci has been one of those friends I only see when Don is around. The last time I was on this side of the continent we went to Bistro together and had a few beers. Ironically, we might actually be related. She's a Ferrer and so was my grandfather. I'll have to research that some more.

We catch up on things standing on the porch of her cottage. She tells me about the work she has been doing with some peace groups in Mindanao with Christian, Muslim and Lumad (Indigenous Peoples) groups there. She talks about how she learns so much from these people. These people are trying to find peace and in searching and building that peace must be able to listen to the people who are known enemies.

Imagine for a moment. You know that this man was the one who ordered the bombers to attack your home, which killed your family. Yet, some how say, "I will hear you out. I will listen to what you have to say." She describes to me a courage I cannot even fathom.

Mindanao is a complex place. There is a long history here. There has been much violence. There is much fighting.

But how?
How does one stop the fighting?
How does a soldier find a way to live out peace?

This group that she works with, is trying to build those answers together.

I do not know the world these people live in day in, day out. But I have met people who cannot stop fighting. Some are martial artists. They are very good fighters. But their lives are hard, because all they know how to do is fight. I knew kids growing up in east Oakland. 14 years old and already battle weary. People too afraid to allow themselves to feel it any longer.

My thoughts return to my training. There must be a bridge. Some way to transform their skills are fighters to other things, besides vigilantes, body guards, and private henchmen.

War. I find that we often carry this illusion that Peace is without conflict, but that doesn't feel right. I don't believe in, "Can't we all just get along?" There will always be conflict. The question is, can we find another answer to conflict besides war. War is the easy answer. It is what our history has documented that we do. Our economies are built on war. We have a manual for war. We have no framework for peace.

This group that Merci works with is trying to build this framework, small groups at a time. They work through and help each other understand their conflicts, misconceptions to build trust and community. They do it one person at a time. I think that's the only way to create a new culture, a new philosophy on living peace. I pray they can do this.

We talk about what I should teach the Tanods. I am a person that trains for violent situations, moments where my life and other people's lives may be on the line. What does that have to do with peace and being peacemakers?

It becomes 11p, then midnight. We've been talking for 3-4 hrs. About Rex Navarette's shows, about our families, our communities. For someone I only see every few years, there's a kinship between us.

Each time we meet, I learn many things from her. Hearing about the kinds of things people are actively doing, gives me hope that all these people doing what they can in their communities will somehow snowball and build a better world.

Time for bed. It's the start of another long day. The wedding festivities are over. We are the last guests from the wedding still here. I am to meet my students tomorrow. Moreso, I will find out if they want me as their teacher.

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