Walk in Silence for Peace

Interfaith Walk for Peace. Rizal Park, Davao, 4 Feb 2014.
Fr. Joel Tabora, S.J.

I would like to thank all of you who have walked with us this afternoon for peace. We are away from Mamasapano. But I believe this afternoon we have walked with its children for peace. We have walked with the families of the 70 victims of the Mamasapano killings. We too want justice. For members of the Philippine National Police, certainly, but also for the Mamasapano combatants and civilians, who perished there. For peace and for justice this afternoon, we have walked together in silence and prayer.

Perhaps silence in this situation is needed. There have been so many varied versions of the same dark event, so many passionate points of conflicting views, so many grand analyses of grim events, so many judgments and condemnations. Emotions have run high, fueling incendiary statements of anger, even of hatred, awakening old prejudices and stereotypes we had long thought dead, resurrecting – incredibly! – even calls for all-out war and annihilation of the demonic enemy. Yet in our world of flesh-and-blood people, all struggling to live, to earn a living, to survive in difficult environments, to cherish our loved ones, and build our communities where we can worship our God in peace and little children can go to school in hope, where really are the demons? Are the demons swirling about us, and undermining us from beyond us? Are the demons training their guns on us threateningly, laughing at us treacherously? Or are they demons within, stoking the hatred, fueling the cynicism, pushing the bad judgments? This afternoon it is good to be able to step away from the din, the noise, the cacophony, to enter into silence.

We wish to enter into silence. And fill the silence with prayer. We know, it is often difficult to pray. We are too busy, the noise is too loud, the anger too great, the frustration too painful, the sadness too overwhelming, the time given us to produce solutions too short. We feel we must solve the problems of our world on our own with our own rationality, our own brand of justice, our own ways of punishing and making new.

But today, Lord, we come to you, acknowledging anew that in our pride we fail, we mess up, we miscalculate, we err, we turn good intentions into folly, military power into fear, fear into ferocity, decisions for peace into violence, violence that begets violence, hatred that begets deeper hatred, and war, unending war. Humbly, in our sorrow, we ask you, O God, for your help.

We come to you because you are our God. Moving in our hearts, in the geniuses of our differing religions, you are our Father, you are our Allah, you are our Manama, Magbabaya, Dawata, Krishna, Vishnu, Brahma. You call us to peace.

We beg you, do not abandon us in our march for peace, lasting peace. Walk with us. Guide us. Lead us.

Lead us to where it is truly you who reign over us with your power and your compassion. Rule, O Lord, to free us from the terror of guns, the destruction of bombs, the spirit of vengeance. Rule, O Lord, to lead us in our differing ways, our differing tongues, our differing traditions, our differing ways of calling upon you, to a peace where we all can live together in respect and love. Rule, so that in your name, each of us may be ready, O God, to sacrifice our private desires for the greater shared desire of living together in peace. Rule, O God, and lead us to a way of living together where every person and all persons can find happiness, prosperity, self-worth, and flourish in peace. Where you rule, Lord, we will bow. We will prostrate ourselves in obedience. We will obey. Thy kingdom come.

Lead us now, O God, so that we do not abandon the path of peace. In the wake of Mamasapano, we grieve for all, 44 members of the SAF-PNP, 19 members of the MILF or of the BIFF, for the 7 Mamasapano civilians, 70 Filipinos all, who lost their lives. We too join our voice to the voice of widows in Mamasapano, in Digos, in General Santos, in Davao, in Zamboanga, in the Cordilleras, in Manila, that cry for justice.   But we do not direct our plea to the President of the Republic, nor to the MILF. We direct our plea to you, O God, who have a special love for the widow and for the orphan. We direct our plea to you and ask the President and the MILF to join us. You, O God, do justice to our widows and orphans. Do justice in your mercy and compassion. Bless whatever sincere efforts are being undertaken to ferret out the truth, pinpoint responsibility, and serve justice. But in the end, O God, let it be not just retributive justice that reigns, an “eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,” nor just legal justice, which is not satisfying. Let it be your justice, O God.

In your compassion and mercy, O God, we beg you, keep us on the path of peace. With the children of Mamasapano who march for peace, keep us on the march for peace. Work things out, Lord, so that the tragedy of Mamasapano not lead us into temptation. Lead us not into temptation, O God. Deliver us from evil. Temptation comes from untruth, half-truths, lies, dishonesty, pride, recklessness, self-destructive hatred.   Deliverance comes from telling the truth, the whole truth, owning error, asking for forgiveness. Sometime, Lord, this is all that we humans, in the depth and shame of our sin against you and each other can do: ask for forgiveness. It is you, God, who teach us this, you who work out justice that can never be adequately served in forgiving. You work out justice not by trampling us down, casting us into our man-made hells and abandoning us, but by staying with us, lifting us up, drawing us to higher levels, greater values. So today, O God, in the great grief we all feel in the wake of Mamasapano, we beg you: Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

Lead us, O God, partners in peace, forward on the path of peace. Heal the broken trust. Moving forward for peace needs first and foremost trust. And before we place our trust in the Malaysians or the Organization of Islamic States or the United Nations or the distant United States, we beg you, O Lord, to bring us again together in trust. Help us to forgive our mistrust. Help our resolve to move on. Today, more than ever, it is you, O God, who entrust us to each other to move away from our histories of violence and bloodshed into the society in which you rule.

As far as the Bangsamoro and the law which would implement it are concerned, Lord, you rule! You know how arduous the path that brought us to this proposal has been; you know how much is at stake. This is the law which shall allow us to leave our ways of violence and war, to beat our swords into ploughs, to transform our factories of death and destruction into factories of life and prosperity. This was the law that would freely integrate the Bangsamoro into the Republic of the Philippines. This has now been entrusted to our legislators. It entrusted, we pray, to the wisdom of statesmen. In our hopes, in their work, Thy will be done.

Thy will be done, Lord. Forgive us our trespasses. Lead us not into temptation. But deliver us from evil. For yours, O God, is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever. Amen..

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About Joel Tabora, S.J.

Jesuit. Educator
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