Goodwill and peace this Christmas season

For as long as people can remember, there has always been a ceasefire – a Suspension of Millitary Operations (SOMO) for the Armed Forces – at Christmas time between government forces and the rebel forces of the New People’s Army (NPA). There were fears that there would be none this year after President Duterte ended the peace talks and declared the NPA a terrorist organization.

The President appeared to have reached the end of his patience as NPA attacks continued in the countryside even as the CPP officials were talking peace with government negotiators in Oslo, Norway. With the cancellation of all negotiations, the Armed Forces braced for rebel attacks in the run-up to the CPP founding anniversary on December 26.

Then last Tuesday, the President had a change of mind. Speaking at the Cabinet Christmas party in Malacañang, he declared a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA. He said he was doing this not so much for the NPA as for the Filipino people. Government forces will refrain from attacking the rebels from December 22 to December 26 and from December 30 to January 2. The CPP-NPA-National Democratic Front last Friday reciprocated with a similar gesture of goodwill.

Around the world today, there are many places where violence persists, rights are violated, and people live in constant fear. Islamic extremists are behind much of the fighting but there is fear and antagonism of various other kinds – in the exchange of threats between North Korea and the United States, in the plight of Rohingya refugees fleeing Myanmar’s police attacks, in a lone gunmen raining bullets on a crowd at a festival in the US.

In the Holy Land itself, where Christ was born, in Bethlehem just nine kilometers south of Jerusalem, international enmity is at its highest over the US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. It is still a war of words that has reached the halls of the United Nations, but it may yet erupt into violence that would shatter the quiet of the night in the hills of Bethlehem.

Peace thus remains elusive in many parts of the world. It remains uncertain too in our country, but President Duterte has chosen to declare a unilateral ceasefire with the NPA this Christmas season. And the NPA has responded with its own ceasefire.

We would go one step further and hope that after the ceasefire, new efforts will be made to end the 48-year rebellion of the NPA. Much progress had already been made in the previous sessions of the peace talks. They could still resume and, with goodwill on both sides, there can finally be peace.

What do you think?

Written by Tempo Online

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