There is an ongoing campaign now by Caritas Philippines called “I Vote God”, “I Vote Good” and we add to that campaign now with “Let’s Vote Peace!” This is intrinsically related in the sense that Peace with God, with oneself, with others and with creation is one and interrelated.  Since peace is integral, this too relates well with the theme for Mindanao Week of Peace: “Interfaith Unity Inspiring Health Protocols.” This calls for a responsive and responsible governance and leadership.

A God of Peace

“For to us a child will be born, to us a son is given, and the government will rest on His shoulders. And His name will be called Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Is. 9:6) This prophecy of Isaiah reflects well on our God of Peace.  He bestows us this gift of peace, Jesus, the prince of peace, his beloved Son.  Truly, at the heart of our faith lies the God of peace. (Rom 15:33) This too is his perfect response to the cry of the poor.  He listens to their pleas and anguish. (Ps 34) He desires peace for all far and wide. (Is. 57:19, Ps 85)

Peace in this sense as in the greeting shalom, refers to the total wellbeing of the person.  It can mean physical, social, psycho-emotional, and the spiritual wellbeing of the person. It can refer to the need to feel safe and secure, free from danger and threats wherever we are. That is why when something deprives us of these, it disturbs us. The threat of covid virus for instance makes us wary especially that some of our friends were really infected and others perished. Hence an interfaith unity following health protocols is highly appreciated. It brings peace.

Even a notice “beware of pickpocketers” in a place where we travel somehow disturbs our safety and makes one uncomfortable, rich and poor alike.  It consoles us if those perpetrators of the crime are captured and penalized.  One who shoplift for instance are penalized and at times jailed.  This gives peace too to the store owners and the customers as well.  But what is astonishing however is our reaction to those who stole from the coffins of our government.  It seems that we are already anesthetized.  Yes, people may have an adverse reaction in the beginning and yet later the news just fade away.  We no longer bother to follow up what happens to those allegedly accused of corruption.  Matud pa “ang kawat sa likod sama sa pickpocketing dali madakpan apan ang kawat sa atubang nga dinagko pa gayud tagsa ra ma sentensyahan.”  This too should disturb us as we value the gift of peace.  This one should challenge us to have responsive and responsible governance. We Need to Vote Peace!

Peace with others and ourselves

Peace is founded in right relationships.  A relationship is right when it is rooted in God’s peace, in God’s love. Peace is a fruit of justice and justice or right relationships spring from love, a love that nurtures others, nourishes our relationship with one another, respecting each one’s dignity and defending it.  As St. John Paul II said, “the human person is the way for the church and society to walk.”  This calls for conversion of ourselves.  True peacemaking can be a matter of policy only if it is first a matter of the heart.

 Jesus shows this in his ministry by healing the sick, the mute, letting the lame walk, giving food to the multitude, preaching forgiveness and compassion to the sinners signifying the fullness of life and proclaiming God’s reign in our midst.  In Luke 4:16-24, Jesus summarizes his mission proclaiming the gospel of truth responding to the cries of the poor being the prince of peace.  We learn from him that the way for truth is the way for peace. In this manner, we are called to establish the “Truth farms” against the “Troll farms” that flooded the social media to build peace. We vote for God; we vote for Truth and we Vote for peace.           

We know very well the challenges in our society until today.  There are various faces of unpeace in our midst marked by violence, conflicts, divisions, injustices, underdevelopment and poverty.  We are digitized already with so many gadgets, we are tech-savvy, especially our young people, but the problems of poverty are still glaring.  The pandemic I believe worsens our poor condition with our foreign debt amounting to trillions of pesos already. Our quality of life does not match with the advance of technology we are going through. We long for peace, which is sustainable and rooted in authentic development. As St. Paul VI said, “development is the new name for peace in Populorum Progressio.”   We need leaders that will lead us in this direction.

Peace with Creation

 We belong to the same web of life and responding to the cry of the poor and of the earth is inseparable.  We must do both.  As we long for total healing amidst this pandemic we too long for the healing of our planet which is in a climate emergency.  We are interconnected in this ecosystem hence what we have done to our environment affects us all.

There are only very few remaining forests covers now in Mindanao which need to be attended to.  The call to care for our common home must be an urgent demand for all of us. Certainly, our Indigenous brethren living in the last frontiers of the forest are primarily affected with the destruction we continue to inflict in their areas.  Due to the ongoing armed conflicts for instance, our environment and the IPs are greatly affected.  We deplore the use of bombs which cannot just kill human lives but kill the remaining forest as well.  How much is the cost per bomb thrown into this area? If that amount should have been channeled to the poverty alleviation of our poor people, improve the infrastructure and services among our IP communities that might bring peace and not more hostilities and poverty. The care for our common home needs leadership who are passionate, dedicated and strong-willed hence we must Vote for this kind of leader.  A Vote for Ecology is a Vote for Peace!

Be Peacemakers

“There is no peace because there is no peacemaker” an advocate for peace remarked.  This is a call and a challenge for all of us. We can respond to this first, in the forthcoming election.  We must Vote for Peace, we need to elect leaders who are responsive to the call of building sustainable peace in our land.  Mindanao is bleeding for peace, our people and the environment.  I believe this too reflects the whole country.  We should choose leaders who will bridge these warring parties in our land by leading them to the negotiating table addressing the root causes of all these.

A certain peasant wrote to St. Oscar Romero of El Salvador, “we are tired of weapons, bullets and wars, our hunger is for justice, for food, for good health, for education, and for fair development.”  Just like them we too need all that will bring us real peace in our land rooted in both social and ecological justice. We cannot remain uncommitted in this cause. We need to get involved, first by Voting for Peace, electing our Future by electing responsible and responsive leaders who are sensitive to the cry of the poor and the cry of the earth.

Finally let us heed the story told by a Lutheran pastor during World War II, “when the Nazis came to get the communists, I was silent; when they came to get the socialist, I was silent; when they came to get the Catholics, I was silent; when they came to get me, there was no one left to speak.”  My dear friends this coming election is another opportunity for us to speak; so let our voices be heard, let us Vote for Peace! Let us Vote for God for peace is a fruit of Godliness!!

Signed:  Bishop Jose A. Cabantan, D.D


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