MY STAFF and I had an interesting discussion over a late lunch we had the other day. We usually have meetings once or twice a month just to keep track of where we are going as a team. Because they are mostly youth, I get to have very interesting points of view. One of the sentiments we shared is about how repetitive our statements have become regarding extremist behavior.
One staff member said, “It is that time of the year again where, after we offer our condolences, say our prayers, and post our statuses on Facebook, we forget about it by the next week. It happened with the Zamboanga siege. It happened with Marawi. It happened with the SAF 44. And now, it is clear that it will be much of the same regarding the attacks on Jolo.”
It made me think about how we view the news and our reaction to it. In an era where we take pictures of what we had for lunch and share memes about our work day to an online network that we barely even see, we have to ask: Is that all we have to offer?
Another staff member said, “Well, why don’t we become peaceful extremists?”
At first, I was confused as well. I understand that the two ideas seem contradictory. How can you be peaceful and be an extremist at the same time? Can extremists even be peaceful? The more I think about it, however, the more it makes sense.
The news cycle that is being reported can be such a dark, depressing place. Peace does not make exciting news. How would that sound like on TV? “Muslims, Christians, and Lumad people All Living Peacefully In Mindanao” does not make a statement. It does not incite a reaction from us.
We have gotten so used to being angry, to being offended, to having our hearts broken. Is that all we have to offer? We have to find a way to make peace in such a way that it does not become passive. A peace worth fighting for is an active peace.
In fact, we can learn a thing or two from extremists. Extremist narratives are full of passion, direction, and have an easy target. You are either with us, or against us. You are wrong, and I am right. We feel better about ourselves because, of course, who wants to be wrong?
It would be so easy to pin the blame on the tragedies around us or on other people. To be honest, however, that is not the case. The problem has always been our lack of action; we never go beyond our Facebook statuses and Twitter feeds.
In order to beat the extremist narrative, let the narrative we create be one of peace. Write of an exciting peace, a passionate peace, a peace that can make the news because of how radical it is. With a peace in action, we can beat the violent extremists at their own game, and even bring them to our fold. We are all brothers and sisters under one God, no matter what faith or creed.
This is what the Bangsamoro Organic Law inspires in us. An active peace, one that can bring structure to our government and sustainable initiatives to our homeland. An active peace would be booming investments, an active public and private sector, Moros and Christians and Lumads working hand in hand to achieve our common goals. It sounds so idealistic, but it does not have to be. Let us make these a reality.
This is why it is good to listen to the youth. I suggest you take lunch with your friends, colleagues, and team where you can offer different perspectives over a good meal. If only we can replicate this behavior, not just in the Bangsamoro, but in the country as a whole, we would make a better place.