Valle: In the name of peace

“PEACE to all people and to all nations on earth! Peace, which the angels proclaimed to the shepherds on Christmas night, is a profound aspiration for everyone, for each individual and all peoples, and especially for those who most keenly suffer its absence. Among these whom I constantly keep in my thoughts and prayers, I would once again mention the over 250 million migrants worldwide, of whom 22.5 million are refugees.”

This is the message of his holiness Pope Francis for the celebration of the 51st world day of peace Monday, January 1, 2018. In his message, the Pontiff has recognized that for the migrants to find peace, they are willing to “risk their lives on a journey that is often long and perilous” to face challenges including putting their lives on the line.

Acknowledging that it is not enough to open the heart to the suffering of others, there’s a lot yet to be done before our brothers and sisters can once again live peacefully in a safe home.

But it seems we can no longer understand nor come to terms with what is happening all around us.

The environment has gone awry, with storms ravaging through vast tracks of land covering distant regions. Gauging from the number of casualties among affected communities, it seems that we are still far from that desired readiness that government and other sectors are trying to fill the gap by providing skills training particularly among functionaries in the communities.

If we look at the bigger picture though, no amount of palliative measures can protect our people from calamities if still many among government officials do not have the political will to enforce the law against land conversions that continues to threaten the balance of our ecosystem. The state of our environment continues to be dismal as reflected in a report in July this year. “Nobody is blameless for the sordid state of the Philippine forests,” forestry expert Adolfo Revilla was quoted as saying

Among those responsible for this state he faulted the greedy logging companies who are “in collusion” with unscrupulous officials and authorities. These people are also responsible in denuding even the country’s critical watersheds, national parks and other protected areas.

Also to blame are the “lawless greedy,” mostly logging companies of old, with illegal loggers and tree cutters likely in collusion with the authorities. They destroyed the forest resources not only in the productive forests but also in critical watersheds, national parks and other protected areas.

Every one of us are also responsible with our “small” contributions to the destruction of our environment with our waste products, which many Filipinos still practice. The “throw-away” mentality that Filipinos are generally guilty of, and are shamelessly practicing makes us as guilty as the big players.

“Karaniwang tao saan ka tatakbo, kapag nawasak iisang mundo (Common people where will you run, if the only world we have is destroyed)", so goes Joey Ayala’s lamentation on the continuing degradation of our environment. This was over three decades or so, and yet so little has changed about our attitudes particularly on the importance of keeping our share in preserving our ecosystem.

This brings us back to the message of Pope Francis on the woes of migrants and refugees all over the world. “Welcoming others requires concrete commitment, a network of assistance and goodwill, vigilant and sympathetic attention, the responsible management of new and complex situations that at times compound numerous existing problems, to say nothing of resources, which are always limited.”

It seems however, that with the capitalist system that rules the world, nothing much will ever change in directions towards the preservation of our environment. It has always been said by common folks that no matter who is installed in the seat of power if the current system persists, no amount of campaigning for change will make any difference to the lives of people, especially migrants and refugees among whom are the Indigenous Peoples, who are constantly being threatened of annihilation.

And so we continue to dream and pursue the work for that illusive Peace that can only happen if there is Justice.
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