Peace be with you


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At the time when the disciples of Jesus hid from their brothers after his death on the cross, a strange man suddenly appeared in the middle of their company and greeted them, “Peace be with you,”(1)  and peace they received, their fears removed and their missionary passion ignited.

Greetings of peace is common among Jewish people. They use the phrase Shalom aleichem (שָׁלוֹם עֲלֵיכֶם) which means a variety of things but pointing to the holistic meaning of peace.

Shalom is not plain and simple peace, or the absence of war or distress, but it means completeness, it means happiness, it means good health, it means prosperity and so on and so forth.(2)

When Jesus sent his disciples to spread the good news of salvation, he asked them to leave their peace to those who welcome them. This peace is the good news of the kingdom, of liberation from oppression, of the great jubilee, of the salvation of Christ.

But have we been bringing the peace of Christ into the lives of the people we meet?

Peace in the Philippines
Mother of disappeared activist Jonas Burgos and Secular Discalced Carmelite Edith Birgos, OCDS and NDFP peace negotiator Loida Magpatoc.
Shalom, the peace of God is something that many Filipinos have yet to experience despite the almost 500 years of the good news being preached in the islands. Ironically, with the coming of Christianity, hell was unleashed in the islands as war, division, oppression, discrimination, and individualism replaced the communal, simple, and peaceful lifestyle of pre-Hispanic tribal Filipinos. 

Since then poverty remained to be a major problem in the country bringing social consequences like criminality, prostitution, illegal drug trade, and others. 

When I stayed with the fisherfolks of a depressed fishing community in North Luzon, I was told that the illegal drug trade was rampant in the community. What surprised me was the apathy of the people, only to realize that for them the drug trade is what feeds them because rarely do they get a good catch that could actually feed their family.

What kind of society do we have that drives people into desperation to the point that they would resort to anti-social, unlawful and immoral acts just to survive?

The peace process

But there is hope.

The recent peace process between the government and the revolutionary National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP), hopes for the realization of the peace of Christ, of shalom in the lives of the poor, the oppressed, the exploited, and the marginalized. 


After the dictatorship government of Ferdinand Marcos was toppled by the people, the government under President Corazon Aquino opened its doors to the people’s movement for the possible realization of peace in the country. The national democratic movement in the country have been waging a war in behalf of the poor, oppressed, exploited, and marginalized sectors since the founding of the revolutionary New Peoples Army in 1969. 

However, because of the insincerity of the Aquino government marked by the protection given her family’s estate, the Hacienda Luisita, from inclusion in the agrarian reform and the subsequent massacre of poor farmers right at the doorstep of Malacañan Palace, the peace talks collapsed.

It wasn’t until former president Fidel Ramos took office that some hope was given to the peace process. In 1992, the Hague Joint Declaration was signed. The document defined the substantive agenda for the talks that included human rights and international humanitarian law, socio-economic reforms, political and constitutional reforms, end of hostilities, and the disposition of forces.(3) 

The first major document in the agenda, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Respect for Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIL), was signed in 1998. 

Sadly, the succeeding leadership did not take the peace process seriously and the signed agreements were disrespected and not implemented.(4) The peace talks was put on hold.

Recently, however, with the election of former Davao City mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the country’s 16th president, hope looms for the possible actualization in reaching an agreement at least for the next agenda in the peace talks which is socio-economic reforms.

Read: Duterte vows to bring peace to PH

Socio-economic reforms

The negotiations, facilitated by  the Royal Norwegian Government, is making progress and already the negotiating panel have signed a framework and outline of the Comprehensive Agreement on Socio-Economic Reforms (CASER), adapted from the proposed draft of the NDFP.

The draft envisioned the following outcomes of the CASER: 
From the Twitter post of Rep. Carlos Zarate
1. Rural equality and development to achieve food self-sufficiency and security;
2. A sovereign, self-reliant and industrialized national economy;
3. Protected and rehabilitated environment, just compensation for affected populations, and sustainable development.
4. Social, economic, and cultural rights of the working people upheld and discrimination eliminated;
5. Sustainable living incomes for all;
6. Affordable, accessible and quality social services and utilities;
7. Sovereign foreign economic policies and trade relations supporting rural development and national industrialization; and
8. Monetary and fiscal policy regime for national development.(5) 
Taking from this, one could not help but notice that the intention of the NDFP is not merely for the glorification of its leaders, but for the end of a repressive and oppressive structure that has for centuries enslaved many Filipinos and buried them deep into poverty. Should the CASER be signed and made binding, and should both parties work together in its implementation then perhaps it would not be long before we get a foretaste of the peace of Christ, of shalom, especially for our poor, oppressed, exploited, and marginalized brothers and sisters. 

Peace be with you

“Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, ‘Peace to you’…. ‘Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations’...”(6) 

Repentance and forgiveness of sins are vital elements in the achievement of peace, for, after all, peacelessness is brought about by man’s sinful ways. But what is sin?

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines sin as “an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods. It wounds the nature of man and injures human solidarity. It has been defined as ‘an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.’”(7) 

The issue on peace is brought about by our common sin of not taking care of the poor, oppressed, exploited, and marginalized. By ignoring their plea for help, we separate ourselves from God. By leaving them hungry and homeless, literally with nothing, while we feast on our excesses, we separate ourselves from God.
The extreme poverty experienced by many Filipinos encouraged them to organize and fight a repressive and oppressive system leading to a war that lasted for almost 50 years. 

Called to be prophets

The recently concluded General Congregation said in its final statement:
The majority of our peoples share in the experience of suffering, pain and woundedness due to the ravages of war, violence, exploitation and manipulation. Left to ourselves we would feel overwhelmed and crushed by these contemporary challenges. We however look to Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour for inspiration, strength and healing. Jesus, by his life, ministry, death and resurrection, effected a revolution of tenderness and love. He refused to be indifferent, hard-hearted or join in the heartless exploitation and manipulation of peoples.... In response to his tender love we make a clear preferential option for the grieved, and anguished, especially of those who are poor or afflicted (cf. GS.1) by attending to their cry and walking in solidarity with them. We are called to the ministry of evangelization by the witness of our lives testifying to the fact that God looks out for every lost person because he loves and cares for each one.(8) 
It adds:
In the figure of the Prophet Elijah we draw our inspiration of prophecy reaching out to the halls of power as well as the peripheries through his dual passion for God and the people. Like Elijah who prophesied from the intimacy of his relationship with the God of the Covenant so also must our personal relationship with God be the foundation of our mission. In the person of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother and Sister, is revealed the image of a contemplative woman who reaches out with haste to be of service to others. This example of the Blessed Virgin Mary challenges us to hear the cry of the poor. In these inspirational figures of Carmel we recognize that each Carmelite is being challenged to cultivate a personal encounter with the Lord Jesus Christ and serving him ‘faithfully from a pure heart and a good conscience’ (Rule # 2). It is from this encounter that we can learn to experience and witness the call to being wounded healers by being missionaries of God’s tenderness and love to those who live in both the geographical and existential peripheries. We believe that in going out to the peripheries we will find Jesus Christ there ahead of us (cf. Mt 28:10; Jn 4:4).(9) 
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As Carmelites, we are called to follow the footsteps of our spiritual father Elijah, who could not tolerate the injustice done against God’s people by the idolatrous culture of the time. Remember Naboth who was killed by Jezebel just so King Achab could claim his vineyard?(10)

Such injustice the Lord could not tolerate and so he sent Elijah to express His outrage.

What about the farmers of Hacienda Luisita who continue to experience injustice from the hands of a government who continues to protect greedy landlords? How many more farmers, indigenous people, labor leaders, urban poor organizers, student leaders, religious and church workers have to offer their lives before peace is realized? 

While Elijah was bold enough to express God’s outrage over the injustice done to his people, are we also bold enough to express resentment over the many injustices done to God’s people?

While the peace process is making progress and the hope for peace a step closer to actualization, there continues a need for prophets to help protect and ensure its success because many and powerful are those who oppose peace.

“Peace be upon you,” is Christ’s blessing to us, and peace is what we as Carmelites, as prophets of the modern times, should bring to those we come into contact with. Peace is the message that we should bring to the poor, oppressed, exploited, and marginalized whom we are pledged to serve. Peace that is holistic. Peace that means good health, freedom from hunger, a comfortable home, a full life. This peace is what we, as followers of Christ, should defend.

Let us support the peace process. Let us continue our work for just peace.

This article was first published in The Brown Prophets, the official publication of simple professed friars of the Order of Carmelites, Province of Bld. Titus Brandsma (Philippines). For more similar articles visit the electronic version of the magazine through Scribd.
1. See John 20:19-21 and Luke 24:36.
2. See
3. See 10 things to know about the peace talks between the communists and the government of the Philippines by Mong Palatino,, June 9, 2016,
4. Many NDFP consultant to the peace process were harassed and arrested, while until today many farmers, labor leaders, student and youth activists, church workers and religious, and mass leaders were arrested, killed, tortured, and disappeared.
5. From a facsimile of the signed document posted in the Twitter account of Rep. Carlos Zarate (Bayan Muna), October 8, 2016,
6. See Luke 24:36, 46-47.
7. See CCC 1849.
8. General Congregation (OCarm), Final Statement: Missionaries of God’s Tenderness and Love, Retrieved from on October 16, 2016.
9. Ibid.
10. See 1 Kings 21.


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