What happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, on March 15 exposed a truth that many refused to see—that in the realm of terrorism, Muslims are victims, too. The harsh and sad part is that it had to be at the cost of 50 innocent lives. But this event, no matter how tragic, was still not enough for people to come together and realize that there is a common enemy. In fact, one particular Australian senator labeled the terroristic attack as “vigilantism,” and that the victims were not entirely blameless simply because they were Muslims and that they had it coming.
The terrorists, regardless of the beliefs to which they prescribe, and fascist politicians, who share the views of that Australian senator, represent everything that is wrong in this world. They are the anomaly. Their values and everything they believe in are the enemy. They are the two sides of the same coin that has a common purpose—to sow fear and bring out the worst in us.
Racism and bigotry have both escalated in recent years, and we may have to thank Maga (“Make America Great Again”) people for that. About a week ago, National Basketball Association star Russell Westbrook was heckled by a couple in Utah, who told him to “get down on your knees like you’re used to.” This was clearly a remark on how slavery once existed in the United States.
In 2015, during the height of the Mamasapano incident, deeply rooted prejudices between Bangsamoro Muslims and Christian Filipinos resurfaced. Suddenly, the gains made over years of peace negotiations were eroded. A great divide between the north and south ensued.
Sadly, when I tried to defend the peace process, some friends even unfriended me on social media.
Then, earlier this year, bomb explosions claimed the lives of churchgoers in Jolo, Sulu. About a week after that, more people were killed inside a mosque in Zamboanga City.
There has to be hope.
Despite all of these, we have to believe in the goodness within each and every one of us. It is safe to say that those with extreme views, whether Muslim or Christian, comprise a very small percentage of our population, although usually they are the more vocal ones. And when their voices become excessively loud, the sober and sound among us are drowned by their own silence.
What happened in Christchurch, New Zealand, is a call for all of us to finally take a stand. We cannot be consumed by indifference anymore. All of us can be victims of this environment of hate, and our silence is a submission to this hate. The drums of peace should be beating louder than ever.
Coincidentally, we commemorated the Jabidah Massacre recently. This event gave birth to the armed Bangsamoro struggle, and for decades, the government had to deal with rebellion in the south. But hope persisted, and the former rebel leaders are now part of a government that is trying to answer the Bangsamoro question.
Our world has seen the worst of times, but for as long as we refuse to succumb to hatred, violent extremism and irrationality, there will be hope. And with this hope, we will continue to believe in the innate goodness of humanity—that deep in our hearts, love and kindness reign, and that together, we all can move forward to see the light in these very dark times.
Humanity is calling. It is time we answer.
Ameen Andrew Alonto is a former legislative officer in the Regional Legislative Assembly of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. He is a member of the Young Moro Professionals Network and cofounded We Are Marawi, a fund-raising organization, during the Marawi Siege.
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