*Editorfs Note: This inspirational message was delivered at Philippine Launching of MANIFESTO 2000 for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence -- UNESCO's "Signatures-for-Peace" Global Campaign to Celebrate United Nations' Proclamation of Year 2000 as "International Year for the Culture of Peace", Mondragon Bldg., Gil Puyat Ave., Makati City 1000H 13 July 2000.
This launching of "MANIFESTO 2000 FOR A CULTURE OF PEACE AND NON-VIOLENCE" has much more than a merely symbolic value for us Filipinos.
In some regions of our country, the culture of war and violence still rages.
Even as we gather here to reaffirm our solidarity, and our shared longing for peace - soldiers, policemen and rebels are fighting and are dying - including innocent civilians - in central Mindanao, in Basilan, in Sulu, and elsewhere. And, more seriously, the culture of war and violence still rages in the hearts and minds of many Filipinos.
But this harsh reality should not obscure our vision of the oneness of humanity - and the boundless potential of joint action for human welfare.
On the contrary, the presence of conflict should redouble our striving for peace in our country - in ourselves - and in our world.
MANIFESTO 2000 offers us an idealistic, but nonetheless practical way, of striving for peace together - in solidarity with peoples all over the world.
Of all the titles a public servant or a concerned citizen can aspire for, there is none greater than that of PEACEMAKER - because according to St. Matthew, peacemakers are particularly favored. He said,
"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)
I emphasize this because, in this period of unsettled conflicts in many parts of the world, peace - whenever is achieved - is never the work of just one or two men. It is always the collective achievement of many.
In February 1986, the Philippines regained its democratic system and culture of peace by a peaceful "People Power" revolution that overthrew a dictatorship whose authoritarian ways had triggered secessionist movements, communist insurgencies, military mutinies and extreme poverty.
Our collective achievement at Edsa infused a new spirit to our efforts to achieve an honorable peace and reconciliation with the secessionists and other rebellious group.
PEACE AND DEVELOPMENT
MUST ALWAYS GO TOGETHER
Because peace and development must always go together, the equally difficult task of insuring sustainable development in the affected areas became a top priority of the Ramos presidency.
From this historical experience, we Filipinos know that peace does not mean merely the absence of conflict.
Peace - if it is to endure - must be much more than that. It must also be the means to the fulfillment of the hopes we share - of lifting up the common life, and of winning the future for every Filipino.
In the larger historical context, I am proud to say at this important gathering that the Filipino people have taken up the burden of peace - especially in fighting poverty - as bravely as they had taken up the hardships of conflict. And, I am confident we Filipinos will continue to bear this responsibility of keeping the peace - for we know only too well the terrible costs of conflict.
Filipinos have come to realize we cannot develop separately - as regions or cultures isolated from one another. Indeed, our basic strength must come from our unity, solidarity and teamwork in spite of our diversity.
From long suffering and bitter experience, we have learned that we can develop only as one country and one people, even as we continue to learn from the history of other peoples.
Filipinos have undergone the entire spectrum of bloody conflict during these past 200 years ? rebellion and revolution against Spain, war with the United States, invasion and occupation by Japan, A nationwide guerrilla resistance movement, a devastating allied liberation campaign and - after World War II - communist insurgency, separatist movements and a string of military coup attempts.
OUR PEACEFUL PEOPLE-POWER REVOLUTION
On the other hand, the Philippines claims credit for the first ever peaceful, people-empowered revolution that toppled a dictatorship - the first such victory achieved without violence in the history of modern times. This act of the sovereign people, supported by a democratically-oriented military, manifested to the world in February 1986 the peaceful character of Filipinos and their love of freedom.
In this millennium year 2000, new threats to our democracy and culture of peace have emerged, but we have survived all such vicissitudes and even worse crises through our native spirit of self-reliance and our traditional values of CARING, SHARING and DARING - the Filipino assets we now call upon to promote and expand the culture of peace and development in the Philippines and around the world. CARING and SHARING may be easy enough to do, but DARING to change, DARING to make a difference for the common good would be the real test!
As we stand on the threshold of a new century and a new millennium, MANIFESTO 2000 invites us to a new beginning - to a concerted effort to transform the culture of war and violence into a culture of peace and non-violence.
Our generation has lived with the reality of conflict for so long that we have forgotten one obvious truth.
Since it is in the hearts and minds of men that conflict and violence begin, it is in the transformation of people - be they leaders or common folk - that peace and non-violence are ultimately to be found.
MANIFESTO 2000: A CULTURE OF PEACE
Thus, MANIFESTO 2000 seeks no grandiose promises from global statesmen.
MANIFESTO 2000 does not demand the disarmament of armies - the destruction of nuclear weapons - nor the breaking up of security alliances.
It is to the human heart and mind that MANIFESTO 2000 appeals.
It is to us - to every concerned citizen of the world - that MANIFESTO 2000 calls.
And it is from everyone of us that MANIFESTO 2000 seeks simple pledges that we must fulfill ? in our daily lives, in our families, in our work, in our communities, and in our countries.
MANIFESTO 2000 calls us to keep six simple, doable pledges: TO RESPECT ALL LIFE - TO REJECT VIOLENCE - TO SHARE WITH OTHERS - TO LISTEN AND TO UNDERSTAND - TO PRESERVE THE PLANET - AND TO REDISCOVER SOLIDARITY.
These pledges may be simple. But I imagine that keeping them - at all times and under any circumstances - can be a trying experience, and a daily, mind-boggling challenge - but, likely to cause a transformation in the character of the individual seriously intent on keeping his pledges and commitments.
Over time - and given enough of such individual transformations - MANIFESTO 2000 can help bring about the "Culture of Peace" to which the United Nations general assembly has dedicated this epochal year 2000.
As UNESCO defines it, a culture of peace implies "the creation of an environment for living... Consistent with human dignity, in which all those who are excluded, isolated, and marginalized would find an opportunity to genuinely become part of society."
A culture of peace implies the elimination of poverty and its attendant ills - more equitable sharing of both prosperity and knowledge - and the opportunity for everyone to receive an education, or to return to education.
A culture of peace also implies the strengthening of democratic processes and institutions - since only democracy can insure the right to the rule of law and respect for people's rights.
A PERSONAL EXPERIENCE:
THE MINDANAO PEACE PROCESS
Peace in our times means much more than the absence of war or conflict. This is what guided us in trying to bring about peace and development in the southern Philippines during my tenure as President.
For me, the GRP-MNLF peace negotiations that took all of four years - from 1992 to 1996 - are a valuable experience of how extra resolve to follow the way of peace can achieve success ? even under the most adverse conditions.
Peace in Mindanao was the work of many hands - the fruit of many good people from many countries - joining together.
It was also the work of faith - of faith in peace and in ourselves - despite disappointments and setbacks.
I remember receiving the bad news - in April 1995 - just when our peace panels had reached 31 points of consensus on education, and on economic and financial systems for an autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao.
In the middle of our quiet rejoicing, a terrorist raid took place on the town of IPIL, in Zamboanga Sur: in the course of which some 200 heavily-armed men razed the commercial center of the town of 150,000 people, robbing seven banks, killing more than 50 civilians, policemen and soldiers - and wounding many more.
Soon enough, we identified the terrorists as belonging to a mix of the Abu Sayyaf, the National Islamic Command Council (NICC), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), and various "lost commands" - the extremist group fighting for a Islamic state in Mindanao, and seeking to break up the negotiations between government and the mainstream Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF).
The violence on IPIL could have broken the back of the peace negotiations. We could have accepted the futility of ever achieving peace in Mindanao - and returned to the decision of using the force of arms.
But both sides reined in their emotions - held their tempers - and doggedly pursued the peace initiative.
The government tightened its security of all the vulnerable towns and cities of western Mindanao, pursued the band of terrorists all the way to the Hinterlands of the Zamboanga Peninsula, and finally eliminated them in the towns of Sirawai and Siocon in Zamboanga Norte.
And the lesson I learned then is that in any peace effort, one must focus on the long-term view - the strategic vision - and to refuse to be stampeded into contrary action by tactical pressures from the enemies of the peace process.
And without delay, the government supported by the callable sectors of civil society took up the task of restoring, reuniting and rebuilding IPIL to a better condition of peace and development than before.
WINNING THE FUTURE
Peace - if it is to endure - must be much more than the absence of conflict.
Peace must also be the means to the hope we have - of lifting up the common people, and of winning the future for every Filipino.
Events - and personalities - did not give the peace we forged in Mindanao in 1996 a chance to take hold.
But failure should not discourage us.
On the contrary, failure should heighten our resolve. And we in civil society can exert the moral force that peace needs - to compel our leaders to heed the people's voice - on Mindanao, as on every other major issue of public interest.
At this very moment - all over the world - concerned citizens like us are gathered in solidarity - to make the ideals of MANIFESTO 2000 a reality.
Can ordinary people really affect issues of war and peace purely by their resolve and their goodwill? My answer is Yes.
I doubt whether Jose Rizal and Andres Bonifacio a hundred-odd years ago - or Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, and Nelson Mandela in our time - stopped to think about whether or not an individual can make a difference.
Everyone of them simply tried to do what he could - and what they as individuals accomplished has become the very stuff of history.
This is a perfect time - as any - for us - individually and in solidarity - to bid for a new world order: where premium is given to peace at every opportunity.
This year is a confluence of ages - a time when outdated modes are giving way to more open patterns of thought and human interaction. This is a time for us in civil society to be engaged in propagating the culture of peace.
The promotion of a culture of peace is our individual - and collective responsibility - as taxpayers, parents, teachers, journalists, religious groups, intellectuals, humanitarian workers, diplomats, managers, community organizers, and decision-makers.
Is a world at peace - is a global culture of peace - a native and utopian goal?
By coming here - by pledging ourselves to the ideals of MANIFESTO 2000 - we declare our belief that such a world is within reach - if not by our generation, certainly by our posterity.
That pilgrimage to a peaceful world may take years - but we must not shirk the long journey.
Here and now, let us - together - take the first step.
Kaya Natin Ito (we can do it) !!!
Thank you and Mabuhay (Best wishes) !!!
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