08/03/2020, 12.43
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Parables can teach how the military and NPA rebels can make peace

by p. Peter Geremia, PIME

A PIME missionary with 50 years in Mindanao gives his thoughts. Are the parables of Jesus impossible dreams or can they become reality? Killing people and destroying property can be stopped. The money now used for war and revolution can be used to create more jobs and provide everyone with good wages.


Zamboanga (AsiaNews) – In our area, on the island of Mindanao, the military and the New People's Army (NPA) rebels have been fighting for over 50 years. Lately, President Duterte has sent battalion after battalion to put an end to the NPA insurgency, offering them the choice to surrender or be exterminated.

I am a modest missionary who got caught in the crossfire after I arrived in the Philippines in 1972. Most of the casualties on both sides come from the poorest families and many widows and orphan children have asked me to bless the victims of this seemingly endless conflict. Two of my fellow missionary priests have been killed along with many civilians . . .

I keep on praying for peace and I dream of discovering some magic that would suddenly melt the weapons in the hands of both armed groups who, once disarmed, can start asking, “Why are we killing each other? Aren’t we brothers and sisters?”

While waiting for the magic solution, I was struck by two parables Jesus told long ago.

I wish to propose to the military and their Commander in Chief the story of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-31). A father had two sons. The younger one rebelled and took half of the family property and wasted it. He ended up come close to starving to death, like some rebels now. Finally, he decided to surrender expecting to be treated like a slave. To his surprise, his father ran to embrace him and overwhelmed him with so much affection and joy, inviting all the neighbours to celebrate because the son who was dead came back to life; he was lost and was finally found.

Everybody welcomed the lost sheep, except the older brother who remembered all the harm and shame that the foolish brother had caused to the family. But the father pleaded with his law-abiding son to “Join the celebration, all the children and all people pray for you to be reconciled with your brother and forget your grudges and give peace a chance!”

Can rebels return to their communities and be welcomed like the prodigal son?

I wish to tell another parable to the NPA (Matthew 20:1-16). At the time of Jesus, most poor people did not have decent jobs or fair pay. Here comes a strange landlord who gives jobs to everyone, even to those who are late to work. Then, he gives a generous salary starting with the late comers. Those who worked all day under the heat of the sun expected double pay, but they all received the same pay.

Those who worked more than the latecomers cried out “unfair! This is a rotten system; some landlords give charity to the lazy ones, but we can have fair wages only if we eliminate all landlords!”

The strange landlord in the parable replied, “I only wish that all have enough for their families, jobs for all and a ‘family salary’ for all”.

Can landlords become so generous?

The parables of Jesus surprised His listeners as impossible dreams. Can such dreams come true? This kind of dream can stop the killings and destruction of property; the money now used for war and revolution can be used to create more jobs and provide good wages to everyone.

Peace can make us all winners, while war makes us all losers.

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