Peals of peace

Sun Star Bacolod - - Opinion -

WHO wouldn’t be con­cerned with the spate of killings in Negros Is­land? I’m an en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist, a for­est con­ser­va­tion­ist. I man­aged a com­mu­nity for­est pro­gram in Sal­vador Bene­dicto and Cala­trava. There, in Barangays Bagong Si­lang and Marcelo, the ties that bind us project staff and the com­mu­nity is to share our so­cial and tech­ni­cal knowl­edge with the com­mu­ni­ties’ lo­cal knowl­edge. How­ever, the knowl­edge shared weren’t just lim­ited to trees at di­am­e­ter at breast heights and state poli­cies on nat­u­ral re­source man­age­ment. Dur­ing camp­fire talks af­ter a day’s rest of sur­veys and in­ven­to­ries of for­est re­sources, the crews swapped story when they were at each other’s crosshairs as former NPA fight­ers and armed vig­i­lantes. Later, they would sleep to­gether in peace, side by side. In in­ter­na­tional con­fer­ences and brown bag dis­cus­sion in Europe and the USA, I cited these ex­pe­ri­ences as best prac­tices of right-based ap­proach to sus­tain moun­tain de­vel­op­ment. From best prac­tices on sus­tain­able de­vel­op­ment, Negros Is­land has to of­fer grave con­cerns of peace and or­der. It is thus sad­den­ing to see armed vi­o­lence flar­ing up again across the is­land. Ac­cord­ing to San Car­los Bishop Ger­ardo Almi­naza, the list of EJK vic­tims in Negros since Pres­i­dent Duterte came to power in 2017 has risen to 84 from across the en­tire is­land. The four Catholic bish­ops is­sued a joint pas­toral state­ment con­demn­ing the killings and call­ing on the faith­ful to pray an Ora­tio Im­per­ata (oblig­a­tory prayer) for an end to the blood­shed. We can add to the list of the slain are po­lice of­fi­cers Pcpl. Rele­bert Bero­nio, Pat. Raffy Callo, Pat. Roel Ca­bel­lon, and Pat. Mar­quino de Leon, am­bushed at Si­tio Yamot, Barangay Ma­bato in Ayun­gon town. Yes, both sides are killing each other again, where civil­ians are the col­lat­eral dam­ages, in­clud­ing a 1-year old baby. “This un­fold­ing cy­cle of vi­o­lence and vendetta mat­ter of grave con­cern for us. How many more killings will it take for us to be able to hear these cries, and be moved to say, we are our ‘brother’s keeper’?” the Negros bish­ops said. And for that, Church bells on Negros Is­land will start ring­ing daily at 8 p.m. start­ing on July 28 to call for an end to the blood­shed that is now grip­ping Negros Ori­en­tal prov­ince and claimed the lives of at least 13 per­sons in just five days. “In the still­ness of night, the tolling of the bells sig­ni­fies our com­mu­nion as Church. We are to re­mem­ber those who have gone be­fore us—in­clud­ing those whose lives have been snuffed by these killings—they, who are our broth­ers and sis­ters,” the prelates said. May we again hear ring of bells to peal for peace and reconcilia­tion. The United Na­tions’ hand­book on reconcilia­tion states that it is both a process and a goal. For the sake of the fu­ture, it needs to be­come a way of life. The bells of Leu­ven, due to ring again, will be a sym­bol of what is pos­si­ble.*

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