Revenge ,forgiveness and making peace
by Fr. Shay Cullen
The terrible crimes we witness against women and children, bombings against the innocent people in Boston, Iraq, Syria and elsewhere cause us to feel not only pity, but compassion with the victims and their families. Many people feel anger that cries out for revenge and vengeance. The perpetrators are acting out of the same desire for revenge against the perceived injustice and crimes they experienced. One act of revenge calls for another in retaliation. It becomes a sickening and maddening cycle of violence, one attack followed by another that seems to go on without end. In this Tsunami of hate and revenge seeking, peace doesn’t have a chance. In the Philippines this cycle of hatred between warning factions needs a new approach. Killings of social workers,justice advocates, and community organizers, branded as enemy combatants must stop. Rebels with or without a cause must review their positions and end revenge killings and make peace.
Revenge or “Honor” killings are a horrific crimes and is increasing around the world especially in the United Kingdom 47 percent increase in 2011. Family “Honor”, is difficult to define, but for some it is a family’s prestige, worth, and status. To violate that “honor” ,in there misguided view , damages the family name and the value of the members. The member who “betrays’ the family is the enemy. This leads to mutilation,abuse and the murder of daughters by their own families.
So too in the wider world where one religious sect or political rebel group, like a family, it feels its “honor”, sacred identity and cause for national honor and sovereignty is being lost by the betrayal by government or another group and wages violent resistance. In the name of survival,they call for continued military action, revenge and in some places a holy .
The Syrian protests began two years ago as a result of a terrible revenge attack by government forces against teenage boys. Their crime was to spray paint graffiti slogans on their school walls calling for an end to the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The government retaliated revengefully against the children with terrible vengeance and severe violence. They arrested them and subjected them to brutal torture and execution. This sparked the street protests that led to further repression and ignited the civil war that is still raging. An estimated 70,000 have been killed and 2 million are refugees in neighboring countries. Revenge seeking has now escalated into a sectarian civil war.
In the Philippines ,dialog ,negotiation is under way with the Muslim Communities but the longest running communist rebel group ,the national People’s Ary(NPA) is as yet in conflict with the government. More must be done to make peace.
There are those voices of moderation that call for an end to violence and say that peace can only be found through forgiveness and amnesty. While these virtues and acts of mercy,understanding and forgiveness are essential to peace something is still missing.
The most essential need of all is social and personal justice. Anyone of us who have been hurt ,deprived or wronged feels it as a blow against one’s dignity and self worth and value as a human person. We naturally desire and long for that wrong to be righted. A group or nation that has suffered injustice desires that a wrong be righted, the pain, emotional or physical, must be acknowledged,apologized for and victims compensated, justice must be guaranteed to be done,only then is peace possible.
When it is proven that there has been injustice,then Justice demands the person or group who did the hurtful act must accept guilt, repent, and receive a just punishment for the crime committed and make restitution. Compromises many have to be made ,but not with the granting of basic justice.
However, the complaint and demand in all cases must be proven to be true, right, and proper. Not a fake contrived complaint that is for personal monetary gain. Those complainants making false money-seeking demands are abusing justice for self-enrichment.
Without real justice for proven wrongdoing peace and reconciliation, mutual respect and happy coexistence will not come to be. The warring parties have to end hostilities, stop the cycle of revenge with a cease fire and move to a non-violent sage of discussion and mediation by neutral respected third parties. This ought to focus on the causes of injustice and seek ways to put it right. Later, when justice is restored, then there can be forgiveness. It’s the only way to restore true honor in the family of nations and communities and bring about peaceful coexistence.
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)
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