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Why should we make peace with our enemies?

We will not have peace nor will we defeat violence in the Philippines unless we make massive changes. We have to keep in mind that no one is born a terrorist or a member of New People’s Army (NPA), Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), or Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), and no one is born innately good either. We are all consequences of our heredity, our environment, and the choices we make. Therefore, the government, with its purpose of ensuring liberty and the rights of its citizens, has to figure out the root causes of the problems and to address the grievances of victims. The President’s priority is to shore up the safety of the all the Philippines and to stabilize every corner of the country, so that Filipinos and international visitors alike can have freedom of movement in all zones. The state holds the monopoly on law, power, and order. It will be the duty of President-Elect Duterte to provide security and protection to all the Philippines, by negotiating and making peace with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the NPA. To do so, it will be useful to understand their point of view, because negotiations have thus far been unsuccessful due to human rights violations on both the government’s side and the guerilla’s side as well as due to internal disputes.

War is not a solution to such problems anymore. Ronald Reagan once said, “There will be no negotiations with terrorists of any kind,” but studies shows that counterterrorism policies that respond to a group’s more legitimate demands are more successful than punishing measures. Therefore, President-Elect Duterte’s offer to give some cabinet positions to NPA members to incentivize peace is a great idea. Leaders can reduce violence by rewarding people not by punishing them. Filipinos should support Duterte’s policy. Understandably, those who argue that democracy never gives in to violence and that governments should never reward terrorists for using violent methods are correct on one level. If we negotiate with terrorists, we legitimize the terror organization and their methods simultaneously undermining actors who are trying to use peaceful means. But the problem with this kind of policy or argument is that it has not worked and is not working now. Actually most of the democratic countries often end up negotiating with the terror groups. For example, the Spanish government came to the negotiating table with the Basque insurgent ETA, the British government sat down with the IRA, and currently the Colombian government is negotiating peace with the FARC after fifty-two years of violence. Last year the Turkish government allegedly tried to discuss peace with the PKK, and the Israel government mediated with the Palestine Liberation Organization. It clearly shows us that we do not make peace with friends; we seek peace with our enemies.

Every country has enemies or problems whether with internal factions domestically or external opponents internationally. Even Jesus had enemies; if we did not have enemies, then God would not have told his disciples to love their enemies. Most of the time our response to enemies is either to fight back or to negotiate. Both are natural responses. But when we respond with aggression, we take on the character of our enemies. If we strike back at our enemies, we set in motion a downward spiral of attacks and counterattacks that quickly gets out of control. It is very interesting that the Philippines is largely a Catholic country and that Catholics also believe Jesus’ teaching. According to his lessons, everyone should love their enemies and treat them justly, because God made his sun to rise on both of them, the just and the unjust.

If President-Elect Duterte is going to make peace with the NPA, considered by many as the enemy of the state, then people should support him and stop the bloodshed of innocent people because the consequences of violence fall on the poor with nothing happening to politicians or rich men and women. Therefore, since approximately eighty-three percent of Filipinos are Catholic, since Catholics claim they follow Jesus’ teachings, and since Jesus teaches his disciples the way of peace is through love, then those who claim to believe in him should also follow his way to peace. If God makes peace with his enemies, then so should his followers. According to his teachings, blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God. When followers of Christ work for peace, they are demonstrating that we are a family in his likeness.

That does not mean we must compromise with the enemy. Peacemakers must keep in mind the wrath of God as well and that commands require obedience . So when Christians respond to their enemy, they should not give the same response as their enemies; they should not retaliate or seek revenge, but instead they do well to those who want to harm them. That, however, does not guarantee that Jesus’ followers will win over enemies. In fact, Christians are still persecuted and even killed by their enemies often in particularly heinous ways. But followers of Jesus believe that there are worse things than dying, because they prefer to die than to take the life of another of God’s children, since they believe in eternal life.

There are some lessons we can learn from our enemies as well, so we should listen to our enemies. What are they saying to us about who we are? What do we learn from them about ourselves? We cannot be reconciled with our enemies unless we are able to see the situation from their perspective. Most recruits who join rebel groups do so because of being greedy about money or being completely brainwashed. Killing the NPA insurgents will not and did not end violence: it will only make the hostility worse. President-Elect Duterte has a very strong mandate from the people, and he has been a friend of the NPA for a long time, so most assuredly, he knows exactly what Jose Maria Sison and other NPA affiliates want. He knows that such an intractable conflict requires a new approach.

The NPA ‘s war in Mindanao has been going on for decades, and the conflict has taken many lives and displaced thousands. Because of a lack of peace and order, the region has been underdeveloped. Consequently, the poor end up paying the price and continuing to live lives of misery. I would agree with Duterte in that if we want to make peace with our enemy, we have to work with our enemy and then become partners in the social and economic development of the whole nation and in combating together the rising transnational tensions.

Dr. Aland Mizell is President of the MCI and a regular contributor to Mindanao Times. You may email the author at aland_mizell2@hotmail.com