As people of faith, we have a long and rich tradition of faith-based resistance to violence and faith-based adherence to love, compassion, justice, and reconciliation.
Some events happening in our world today are horrendous and we often feel helpless. However, in the midst of this feeling, let us remind ourselves that any action seeking to address these, however small it may be, has value. A good beginning action is to raise our voices for change.
We need to raise our voices to remind ourselves and others, too, about every one’s responsibility to work for positive social change. We can do this through our education work in our families, social or religious organizations, and in our communities. We may not have given it a thought but we actually educate others daily through what we say, write and do, and through how we relate with others and with our earth home.
An old proverb says: “We did not inherit this earth from our parents; we borrowed it from our children.” Are we living simply so others can simply live? Are we sharing our resources with those living in poverty so they can also experience well-being and decent human lives? Are we not over-consuming and are we resisting environmental abuse so that the future generations can still enjoy the fruits of our earth?
Part of raising our voices is to advocate for the kind of education that will help build a peaceable society, an education that cultivates peaceable values and wisdom, not just knowledge. Likewise, are there policies that are much needed in our context to address certain issues, for example, gun proliferation and violence as well as discrimination against minority groups? What about being an advocate for these needed policies? And if your organization can help address these issues through community-based dialogues, why not take the initiative?
Many women are marginalized, exploited and continue to suffer from violence in their homes and during armed conflicts. This is an important challenge to us. We can serve as catalysts to serve the cause of these women. We also have to find ways of educating and encouraging women so they can transcend this victimhood and to take their rightful place as participants and contributors to positive social change. We can begin by consulting them, because the needed steps will vary depending on the context of the women.
In the Philippines, for example, Muslim women traditionally do not have a strong voice in political matters. But a network of women, peace, and human rights organizations called WE Act 1325, whose secretariat is located in our Center for Peace Education, sought to engage with these women. They consulted groups of Muslim women in the conflict-affected areas in Mindanao, Philippines, and the results (their aspirations for respect for human rights including women’s rights, disbandment of private armies and other armed groups, gun control, etc.) have been submitted to the group tasked to draft a Bangsamoro Basic Law to implement the peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.
Raising our voices through statements, petitions and public actions of our organizations and interfaith networks can be a powerful tool, too. Again using our local experience as example- the Catholic bishops and priests, the Protestant pastors, the Imams and lay-led groups have quickly called for local ceasefires when armed clashes happened. They have assisted in easing tensions, in monitoring the ceasefire agreement, including providing early warning, and have accompanied the peace talks.
A recent advocacy of our Center is to work with the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), towards a global treaty that will ban nuclear weapons. We believe that its time has come. Our Catholic Church and various other Churches and Faith Groups have already declared nuclear weapons as immoral and illegal. The humanitarian catastrophe and environmental destruction that result from said weapons have long been recognized as reasons why the human community has to raise its voice against such weapons.
Whatever is the particular challenge that is present globally or in our own communities, one thing is clear: we can respond to the challenge better by being organized and by sharing in the responsibility to resolve it.
Working for peace and social change is a long and arduous road, and here is a quote from Aung Sang Suu Kyi that can help us keep going: “A perfect peace may not be possible because it is not of our world, but still, we should journey to it…”
Center for Peace Education
Miriam College, Philippines