An organic peace
On Oct. 17, a day after two rebel leaders in Marawi were killed, President Duterte declared the city “liberated” from the terror that had gripped it in the last five months. He added, in a statement that was loaded with hope and confidence, that this marked the beginning of the city’s rehabilitation.
Such a beautiful thing—to be free and allowed to rebuild, to have reason to look forward to peace again. Except that we’ve seen this scenario several times before, and just as many times, the peace and rehabilitation we have supposedly achieved turned out to be ersatz and short-lived.
We’ve seen that even when the armed fighting had ceased, even when there are no more threats and when houses have started to rise again, the air of unrest lingers. This, despite the curfews and the checkpoints, despite the sense of physical security that uniformed men provide.
We have come to accept this physical order as the achieved goal of violence, but in truth we know that the peace we want is not merely a product of brute force. There is no true peace when there are still unspoken segregations based on religion, race, and class; when some groups are still denied their rights by others; when many are still deprived of the opportunities to raise themselves from the margins of society.
The peace we desire—the peace that allows true rehabilitation of lives and communities—is organic. It is the peace that naturally springs among people who are sensitive toward one another, are able to be meaningfully productive, and are inclusive in their collective development.
We are fortunate to have mechanisms for physical security that are evidently effective in their functions, but physical order is only one of the many requisites of organic peace. There are more deeply rooted needs for cultural consonance and economic equity that need to be cultivated, especially in diverse localities like Marawi.
An unprejudiced economic environment is an example of these crucial needs. There is less room for conflict where entrepreneurs and employment-seekers can compete fairly in their respective fields without their cultural background handicapping them. In the same vein, support services for livelihood need to be accessible to everyone, even and especially to those who are commonly pushed to the sidelines due to their perceived social standing.
Another crucial element to this peace is at the very least an awareness of each other’s cultural and historical contexts. Being inclusive requires, for instance, that we are aware of the background and proper usage of certain nomenclature; “Moro,” “Bangsamoro,” “lumad” and the like are culturally important words we can’t just mindlessly throw around. They represent the identities and histories of peoples, and these peoples are not distant groups to forever talk about in third person but part of the “we,” part of the harmonious coexistence we aim for.
With such needs as these, we cannot stop at just the end of guns and bombs or at the laying of bricks. Beyond physical order and security, other mechanisms have to be in place to form a strong foundation for the rebuilding: policies based on actual economic and anthropological data; well-informed and culturally sensitive cooperation among stakeholders; and, perhaps most significantly, a genuine mindset of tolerance and kindness in every person.
An organic peace does not magically appear at the deaths of terrorists. “Peace,” said John F. Kennedy, “is a daily, a weekly, a monthly process, gradually changing opinions, slowly eroding old barriers, quietly building new structures.”
Democracy advocate Hafsat Abiola adds: “Peace comes from being able to contribute the best that we have, and all that we are, toward creating a world that supports everyone. But it is also securing the space for others to contribute the best that they have and all that they are.”
And Pope John Paul II, in a New Year’s address, urged us this, saying that the peace that will satisfy us “will be a peace built on justice, a peace founded on the incomparable dignity of the free human being.”
In Marawi, or in any other place where we have to rise from rot or rubble, this is possible.
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