‘Nonviolence is the answer’

By Atty. Gloria Estenzo Ramos |August 07,2016 - 08:53 PM

Fighting peacefully for the right to have a healthful and balanced ecology can be very daunting. But aiming for a way of life where ecosystems are healthy and people are thriving is a goal that is bigger than all of us. The knowledge that this is a cause that benefits all, especially the children and the marginalized sectors of society, now and in the future, makes it especially rewarding and a continuing enriching experience.

This crusade necessarily involves a good deal of time being and interacting with fellow earthlings from a cross-section of society. We, humans, are after all the reason why we are in such a mess, and still mindfully inflicting severe damage to our only home planet, and to ourselves, in the long run, despite clear signs of a vastly changed world that we are in.

If people are the problem, then surely, the solutions should be in our hands. This simple answer is by itself loaded with so much complexity, as changing values, beliefs and lifestyles are deeply personal.

But, constant challenges, turmoil and pain notwithstanding, giving up and raising hands in defeat is something that crusaders will never do.

We relish most the stories of triumphs by those whom fate had tested several times over — the strong women who had to earn the respect from peers to prove that they have the same leadership skills as the men, the courageous artisanal fisherfolk who risk their lives in ensuring that our fisheries laws are enforced, that in the first place, our public servants should have done; our farmers who persist even if they can no longer predict when the best time for planting is as our climate system has gone haywire, to mention a few.

Their victory is our victory as well. While we, the so-called “informed” ones, have the privilege of possessing the knowledge of the law and our rights as tool to press for changes in our society, our marginalized sectors rely on their deep-seated conviction that what they are fighting for is the right thing to do. Many of them do not even know about their human rights that the State is mandated to promote and protect.

Many do not realize that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is an integral part and parcel of our legal framework.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is described as the “milestone document in the history of human rights. Drafted by representatives with different legal and cultural backgrounds from all regions of the world, the Declaration was proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on 10 December 1948 General Assembly resolution 217 as a common standard of achievements for all peoples and all nations. It sets out, for the first time, fundamental human rights to be universally protected.” (http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights)

In view of the alarming increase of extrajudicial killings happening in our country, it bears repeating at this moment its Preamble which unequivocally states that:

1. Recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world,

2. …disregard and contempt for human rights have resulted in barbarous acts which have outraged the conscience of mankind, and the advent of a world in which human beings shall enjoy freedom of speech and belief and freedom from fear and want has been proclaimed as the highest aspiration of the common people.

Alas, we are again in the cross roads of our history — as human rights of suspected drug pushers are violently trampled upon. This has created an atmosphere of fear.

When President Duterte said that peace and order will be the hallmark of his administration, many welcomed it. In their minds was a vision of the Rule of Law prevailing over patronage politics and false sense of entitlement that most of us have gotten tired of.

Unfortunately, we are seeing ruthless summary killings and a further weakening of our already weak institutions when courts are bypassed and enforcers become executioners.

I wonder what is in the mind of our young citizens when they see nowadays on the screen news of more assassinations and dead bodies gunned down in our streets. Will they take it as a fact of life and teach them that it is going to be “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” to solve conflicts?

Will this embed a culture of fear — for their safety and worse, chill them out from speaking their mind and articulating for the truth?

May these illuminating words of an extraordinary civil rights leader and 1964 Nobel Peace Prize awardee, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. help guide us in resolving issues at home or in our communities: “Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

While authorities have the duty to go after criminals, the means to an end must always be within the bounds of the law. We cannot allow a downward spiral into lawlessness. It is not right nor is it just.

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