Sometimes it’s difficult to expect of people that they pray. Their relationship with God is dysfunctional. They go to Mass. They follow rules. They say rosaries. They are pretty self-satisfied about themselves. But they have difficulty praying. Especially about praying, “Not my will, your will be done.”
Sometimes it’s difficult to expect of people that they think. They talk a lot. They judge a lot. They are great at rationalization – using reason to draw conclusions from presuppositions they hold true. They defend their every action through such rationalization. But thinking involves challenging presuppositions in order to find truth. That’s what people have difficulty with. Challenging presuppositions is threatening. It is dangerous. It may push us from a comfort zone to a zone of danger. To avoid the dangerous, one avoids thinking.
Sometimes it’s difficult to ask people to imagine. Imagination today is often done for them by others. No need therefore to use imagination themselves. Images of love, of friendship, of war and peace, and even of God are provided in the movies, in cinema, in YouTube. Imagining is recalling someone else’s images. What is love? What is war? What is peace? What is the situation where diverse people can live together and flourish? Beyond recalling canned images of others, people have difficulty imagining.
Consider a stone. Consider a heart of flesh. Imagine the difference. That may be something to think about. It may indeed be something to pray about.
But it’s easy, you say, to imagine the difference? A stone is lifeless. A stone is hard. A stone has no feelings. A heart of flesh is a human heart: it feels, it loves, it suffers. It is especially a human heart when the suffering of another human heart becomes its suffering. That is when it is a center of compassion.
There are human beings though whose hearts are like stone. They do not feel. They do not feel the suffering of others. They are cold and heavy, sunk in the darkness of their self-centered worlds. They are angry about the traffic, and angrier about the MRT. And in the world that Shakespeare said is but a stage they are pleased to have something to be angry about, for otherwise in their grandstanding they would have nothing to say.
People of hearts of stone have difficulty themselves imagining the suffering of others. The images of suffering on TV can be turned off; the images of suffering in the movies are entertaining – or they are not. But such suffering goes away after less than two hours, is talked about over a cup of coffee, then forgotten in favor of the pressing concerns of one life. Their jobs, their boss, their families. Such people have difficulty understanding their alienation. And their boredom.
Against such odds, whisper a prayer today for what is going on in Maguindanao. The peace process had been going well. Then Mamasapano. Both the President and the MILF have taken a beating on this. In fact, the nation has. Certain legislators have distinguished themselves giving them the beating, allowing themselves triumphant pleasure in their flogging. The peace negotiations have been vilified. The process that promises peace has been caricatured as treacherous stupidity. The arrogance of ignorance has trumped the humble search for lasting conditions of peace. Political grandstanding has replaced the wisdom of statesmanship. Pray. Certain demons, the Lord said, can be expelled only by prayer and fasting.
Beyond prayer, think. The Mamasapano tragedy was a half success, and an entire failure. The police went after two terrorists. They got one, lost the other. Forty four were killed. From Mamasapano, eighteen, including combatants, civilians and one child were killed. In this failure, the MILF and the BIFF were conflated. The actions of one were confounded with the actions of the other. Ideological differences of stone gave way to the self-defensive instincts of human being with hearts. In its wake, they know they ought not have. The MILF is different from the BIFF. The MILF is for the peace process, the BIFF is not. So the military action today is to get the BIFF. That’s what the “all-out offensive” is about. The presupposition is that the military solution will succeed. Based on that presupposition all can be rationalized.
But think about what the peace process was about. It was a process born of the insight that military solutions are non-solutions. War only brings suffering and death to human beings. Human beings have hearts. And relatives. Human deaths must be avenged. Relatives of whatever ideology killed will have to be avenged. Further killings will have to be requited. The peace process was a way out of this violent madness. Think that the peace process was about bringing about a situation where even ideological difference might be overcome in peace and prospertty, or at least solved civilly. Think that with the peace process being wantonly scuttled, the legislators are delivering us back to this madness. The legislators. Because the ball is now in their hands. If they fumble, the game is lost.
Imagine the suffering of a family that is displaced from a home due to the warring of others. All the family wishes for is to live in peace. Then armed forces from elsewhere, usually from the north, engage various armed forces around. That means the family cannot work in the fields. That means the family cannot find food. That means the family must flee the horror and dangers of others warring in order to find safety. The baby is crying and hungry. Lola is weak and sick. Yet there is need to flee.
It is difficult to imagine just one family suffering. One’s imagination is blocked by Manila traffic. It goes no further that the latest MRT bogged down for lack of spare parts.
Today there are 5,721 families – some 31,400 persons – who have been displaced from their homes in Maguindanao due to aerial strikes and ground attacks against the BIFF.
Imagine the suffering. Imagine it yourselves. It doesn’t go away by turning off the TV. It doesn’t go away. Think about it. And pray.
Where is all this taking us in Mindanao?