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BANGSAMORO SPEAKS: Mercy is also a road for peace

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(This piece won 2nd runner up in the On-the-Spot Online Essay Writing Contest in celebration of the third founding anniversary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). 

Back in the days, homes weren’t fenced as high as the sky. The walls compounding the houses weren’t studded with shards of broken bottles. Strangers would be invited into homes to share a meal. Travelers would be offered to rest their back before they went ahead on their journey. Townspeople would have a
ready smile for the passersby — old or young, man or woman, it didn’t matter. An injury to an individual is a pain of the whole community — each man lending a helping hand. A community that had mercy for the youth and respect for the elders.

That was my homeland. That is what my homeland was like back in the days. My home has changed. Now, we say we are liberated and open-minded, so we don’t need to listen to the elders who don’t understand the trends. “They don’t get the 21st century,” some would say. Derision dripping in their voice, dismissing
wisdom earned through pains and losses. Now, we turn against each for the smallest of mistakes. Maybe we even secretly feel victorious at the losses of others. Now, we look at passersby and travelers with wariness in our eyes and suspicion in our minds. We would be grateful for the high fences and the gates that kept intruders out. We feel sorry for the poor and shun them all the same. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

Some days I would wonder what caused the drastic change. A myriad of ideas that go through my head.

But in the end, I dream of witnessing this peaceful homeland once again. As a Bangsamoro youth, I am only a drop of water in an ocean of conflicting interest. And yet, a drop of water can break huge stones.

Ideas are small things that had revolutionized civilizations.

As a Bangsamoro youth and as a Muslim, it is a moral obligation to always resort to the most peaceful plan of action. To take the road that would bring tranquility not just to me but also to those around me. Being peaceful means you won’t stand for oppression. While it is true that today is not the most peaceful of times, it is also real and true that we enjoy some semblance of peace. It may not be in the form we seek, but peace has many facets. We must protect what we already have, so we don’t lose it. Until one day we wake up to the peaceful BARMM that we have only been dreaming of.

As an individual, I can give ideas to those around me that the community can benefit from. It may be a tiny margin but even small gains compound into great changes. We already have the tools in our arsenals to effect change but our challenge is in how to wield it effectively. 

Personally, I believe that I must first better my manners in dealing with others. We might think our leaders are ineffective or that they aren’t doing enough. But the thing is, people will never be receptive to harshly put criticisms. That is a fact of
human nature. And honestly, there is no need for harshness when we can just be as effective by being merciful. 

I believe that as a Bangsamoro, we must seek to perfect our manners so that we don’t bang our heads at every turn. My role in sustaining our gains of peace is to be a peace advocate not just in words but also in actions. God willing. 

It is not uncommon today to see constituents uttering profanities at their leaders, dishing unhelpful criticisms, pointing out all their flaws and none of the help they were able to contribute to the community.

Subconsciously, we might even believe that our leaders will single-handedly transform our community.

For leaders to lead, they must have people who follow them. And yet, how many times have we ever stopped to think that we might not be holding up our end of the bargain? How many times have we considered that we might not be stellar citizens we think we are? How can we expect leaders to do their job effectively when we keep on fighting against them, instead of with them?

We say we need leaders who are morally upright. We need leaders who will give us better lives. But what can they do, when we ourselves do not step up to the opportunities given to us? How can we expect our leaders to be perfect when we aren’t? Moral governance is not governance just for the leaders but also
for us constituents. It is a two-way street.

While it is indeed true that our government is lacking, we must always take proactive actions in bridging that gap. Governance is an instrument. It is not the end all, be all of what makes a community. Yet, it is the most powerful tool we have in effecting change. It allows us to see beyond our surroundings and into
the greater sphere of the whole community.

What our community demands from us are not criticisms. It is not our woke-ness that will change the community but our actions. Still, accede that we must be aware of what is happening around us in the first place so that we know what to change. From what I see, a fair and just system must be established in our governance.

Our current government leaves a lot to be desired, but now is not the time to point fingers. Instead, we must seek solutions to establish a morally upright governing body. Laws that don’t favor the rich and privileged but is fair to each and all. A government that doesn’t seek personal gains if it means oppressing the people, robbing them of their rights. Officials who are not afraid of being taken into account because they know they are clean. 

We need a governance ruled with mercy for the people.

Once again, this trickles down to the individual level. As individuals, we must always seek to be the kind of persons we want our leaders to be. We ourselves must be morally upright first because whether we like it or not, at some point in our lives we will be responsible for others’ lives. It may be a small thing for you,
but it just might be what another desperately needs.

Most think that they can cheat others because it’s not really a big deal—it’s just one person. They believe they won’t do this if their status is better. Yet that never happens. Instead, their corruption has become a deeply rooted characteristic that they can’t just shake off when the circumstance needs them to be otherwise. 

I believe that what you inculcate in yourself, you will bring with you as you grow. 

As a Bangsamoro, I believe we can still change our lives and those of others when we interact with one another, with mercy and kindness in our hearts, wanting only the best for our fellow Bangsamoros. 

(This piece, written by Sittie Ajannah M. Hadji Zaman of Barangay Cadayonan 2 in Marawi City, won second runner up in the On-the-Spot Online Essay Writing Contest on the theme, “Changing People’s Lives, Transforming the Bangsamoro: Celebrating and Sustaining the Gains of Peace and Moral Governanc,” held via zoom on January 18, 2022, as part of the activities in celebration of the third founding anniversary of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao). 

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