LUIS ANTONIO CARDINAL TAGLE, Archbishop of Manila, was proclaimed Peace Awardee for 2018 by the Rotary Club of Makati-San Lorenzo, on February 23rd 2018. This was also in celebration of the 113th anniversary of Rotary International. Among its 6 Areas of Focus is Peace and Conflict Resolution. Here are some of my takeaways from his extemporaneous speech:
I – The work of making peace never ends. Peace is not the product of a completed process. It is constructed every moment, every day.
II – Peace is the fruit. But without a tree and its branches, there can be no fruit. The tree and its branches that bear fruit are love, justice, respect, and forgiveness. Their fruit is peace.
III – The seeds of peace are sown not only by designated officials of particular institutions, but by many, many more ordinary human beings in their everyday lives who show love and respect, render justice, and extend forgiveness to their fellowmen in their homes, workplaces, communities, and environments.
IV – Here are three examples of peacemakers that Cardinal Tagle met in his recent travels as president of Caritas International to areas of conflict and disaster and refugee camps for the victims of war and violence.
- Jean d’Arc, is a volunteer lawyer for migrants in Lebanon. She was paying for her ride in a taxi but the cab driver refused her payment. When she asked why, he said he recognized her as a volunteer lawyer in the refugee camp where he had once been detained as an illegal migrant from Syria. He was having a terrible headache at the time and she gave him a paracetamol tablet to relieve his headache. So powerful was that simple reflex act of kindness that, for 3 years, the man retained the memory in his heart. Now that he is free and has a stable job, he unexpectedly finds a chance to return the favor in his own small way. Peace was thus sown between a Lebanese lawyer and a Syrian refugee in a place where Lebanese and Syrians do not generally mix.
- There was a lady doctor among some 300 Caritas International volunteers in a refugee camp in Greece. They were all tired, drained, weary with exhaustion from attending to the needs of refugees from Syria and Iraq. The refugees had hiked through plains and hills and crossed seas in dingy boats and rafts with nothing but the clothes they wore from the day they left their homes to escape the war. They stank horribly from a hundred feet away. When the weary volunteers were asked if anyone had any stories of hope and optimism to share, none but the lady doctor raised her hand. She said she had also been a refugee once upon a time, so she shared the same DNA with all of the foul-smelling refugees. She called them her brothers and sisters because of their shared DNA. And that was why she was there as a volunteer doctor. Thus did this lady doctor sow peace among the victims of violence.
- In his speeches and talks to the youth in summer camps organized by dioceses in the Philippines, then Bishop Tagle of Imus wondered what his real role was in the eyes of the youth. They usually listened to his talks, asked questions, and even asked him to sing to them. Then, they would ask him for his autograph on their notebooks or even shirts.
So, he asked himself if that was all his role was to these youth, and he worried that it seemed to be mababaw, or superficial. Until one youth told him he had kept the shirt Bishop Tagle had autographed the year before. He had not washed the shirt. Instead, he would fold it at night and keep it under his pillow.
He confided that his OFW father had been away for years, and when the Bishop cared enough to autograph his shirt, he felt he had met at least a surrogate father that cared enough for him while he waited for his real dad to come home.
The unintended act of kindness, done initially to humor what seemed to be a superficial request from an impressionable fan, turned out to be an act that brought peace to the troubled and insecure spirit of a fatherless young man.
The ways of peace are often simple, commonplace, and ordinary acts towards our fellow human beings. But they catch the heart and bring peace when they are done with sincerity, respect, and love.
Peace is the fruit of love and respect and fairness.