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Love your enemy


Of all of the teachings of Jesus Christ, whose death and resurrection Christians are commemorating during this Holy Week, none is as central and important - at least to us in Mindanao -  as his admonition to “love your enemy”.  In the Scriptures (Matthew 5:43-48), this exhortation is laid down immediately before Christ’s challenge to be – and, therefore, a means to - “Be perfect, as your Father is perfect”.

By extension, to love one’s real or imagined enemies also means to exercise forgiveness and reconciliation, to practice non-violence towards them.  Just before he died on the cross, Jesus exclaimed:  Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.

In his homily last Palm Sunday, “Pope Benedict XVI urged the faithful to reach beyond technology in the ‘quest for God's face’", the news reported.  In his same homily, the Pope said there is a need for some  “concrete elements…without which we cannot be lifted upwards: clean hands, a pure heart, the rejection of falsehood, the quest for God’s face.” To metaphorically see God’s face is to achieve the highest form of spirituality, indeed to be perfect and perfectly at peace – the ultimate objective of human life itself and all its struggles.  By his self-sacrificing death on the cross, Jesus set the standard as well as the path to achieve such perfection.

But Jesus does not have a monopoly on the teaching.  Other prophets from Buddha to Mohammad propounded the same instruction.

“It is easy enough to be friendly to one’s friends. But to befriend the one who regards himself as your enemy is the quintessence of true religion,” said Gandhi.

By a further interpretation, God’s visage is also seen in the face of other people, when they who journey along with us through life are beheld and regarded with supreme love.  But for those of us who live in a multi-cultural society that has witnessed and experienced so much division and violence since recent times, this presents an almost impossible challenge.

The Bangsamoros’ armed rebellion in the past 40 years has generated serious misunderstanding, mistrust and resentment between individuals and groups in the region. Although there has been some progress in  peace settlements and peace-making, the wounds of war and conflict continue to fester and poison the atmosphere.   The continued occurrences of banditry, kidnapping and similar violence only serve to aggravate cultural prejudices and animosities.

The movement towards social reconciliation and solidarity through dialogue and advocacies would be sooner and more easily reached when motivated only by genuine compassion, empathy and sense of justice and forgiveness by all sides and intercessors. In deference to the skeptics, it would be solidarity not for solidarity’s sake, or one arising from timidity, but instead powered by invincible love and hope, by forgiveness with justice.

Thus, religious observances like or especially the Holy Week have practical benefits, too.  Achieving personal then communal peaceableness first can consequently lead to social and economic well-being.  For as Jesus said to consol those who grieved for him as he carried the cross towards Calvary and certain death, “Behold, I make all things new.”  (Peace Advocates Zamboanga)


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