THE THEOLOGY OF ENMITY hatred consumes, forgiveness restores

 
Courtesy of the National Geographic Archives

 

A story based on an old Filipino Movie.

Hatred Consumes, Forgiveness Restores

 

Just as there are forgiveness and reconciliation, or hatred and enmity on the individual level, so also are there on the communal or social level – family, clan, tribe, national, international, and finally global. Individual forgiveness can heal communal hatred, as in a protracted feud between clans or families. And individual hatred can undermine the harmony between clans or families.

Gerald Cruz (not his real name) was a rich doctor whose father and two brothers were all gunned down separately in a clan feud with another rich family, the de Guzmans. Their ancestors have been killing each other in the last hundred years. Hatred had reached such a high momentum, that the four-year-old daughter of Gerald, Sarah, knew all about it – who killed whom, or how gory the ambushes were. At age ten, she would rattle off casually both murderers and victims and the tales of horror.

One could not possibly imagine the storm that went on inside Gerald, losing father and brothers in separate ambushes. Terror mixed with hatred – that was what Gerald felt when his youngest brother of ten lay in a pool of blood in their common bedroom. And so time went by. Sarah was now a lovely lass of eighteen surrounded by men. She was fresh, innocent, a blank paper ready to be written on by the world of men who surrounded her.

Cris de Guzman, a rich vegetable trader, also had deep wounds. His mother had been killed by a Cruz a year ago. The wound was still fresh. The thought of his mother lying face down at the market place, shot in cold blood in public still lingered in his subconscious. Cris’ son Steve, about the same age as Sarah, witnessed the killing of his mother. He was so shocked, he could not cry. He did not speak for three whole months, and just stared at the wall.

So there they were, two families at war. There was Gerald with daughter Sarah on the Cruz side, and Cris with son Steve on the de Guzman side. Having been witnesses to the gory killings in their families, Gerald and Cris hated each other to the bone. Sarah and Steve, the next generation, understood the hatred of their fathers intellectually, but, because they did not experience the massacres and only heard stories, they did not possess that hatred. They just did not care. The hatred was theoretical in their minds from stories, but not in their hearts.

Sarah and Steve were good children. One could not see a trace of spirit battered by a cen­tury-old culture of vendetta and violence. On the surface, they symbolized youth – overconfident, decadent, intelligent, arrogant, irreverent, experimenting, tasting the feel of brinkmanship. But they were never vindictive nor vengeful. They were half in and half out of the world of family. The other bigger half was school life and then, later, a professional career.

And so the inevitable happened. Steve and Sarah met in a party and fell in love in the blink of an eye. They did not even know they were “arch-enemies” when they fell in love. And the inevitable happened. They accidentally discovered they were ”arch-enemies,” one Cruz and one de Guzman that were like oil and water, as dictated by their blood lines. Sarah recounted Cris’ uncle killing his father. Cris recounted Sarah’s grandfa­ther killing his mother.

Suddenly, they looked at each other, smiled, shrugged their shoulders, and embraced each other. They could not care less. They erased in their hearts in one act of love all the hate of a century building up into their lives, one act of love against a hundred years of ven­detta and hatred, one tiny candle lighting the darkness and void.

One day, Steve was shot by a rival who was jealous over Sarah. Sarah brought the dying Steve home to ask her father doctor, Gerald, to save his life. As Gerald looked into the youthful face of the bloodied Steve, he saw nothing but the viol­ence his family had endured. The storm inside instantly raged. He could not possibly “save the enemy,” not for a mil­lion pesos.

In tears, his lovely Sarah begged on her knees to save her loved one. The hurt of Gerald was two-fold. First was the killing of his family. Second was the enemy had stolen his precious daughter. Sarah threatened to kill herself if her father refused to treat her dying boy friend. It was a Romeo and Juliet situation. He would not save Steve for a million pesos but he would save him for her beloved daughter. And so, Gerald suffered in saving the life of someone he hated, for the sake of his beloved daughter, a feat not very many people could do. Gerald operated on Steve and saved his life. His daughter embraced him.

Steve’s father, Cris, came rushing in to pick up his wounded son. And there it was, Gerald face to face with his arch-enemy Cris. Gerald wanted to pick up a knife and kill him on the spot. As Gerald and Steve  stared at each other for a millionth of a second, time froze into eternity. They both saw the violence and the hatred of a hundred years compressed into an atom of time. But there was Steve saved by his arch-enemy, Gerald. Hatred was snuffed out totally in the blink of an eye.

Cris smiled and awkwardly thanked Gerald for saving his son. In that awkward forgiveness, in that fleeting smile, a hundred years of hatred vanished. Forgiveness is so powerful because it is the shadow of love. The chain of hatred was broken by a semblance of love, love of a father for her daughter, and forgiveness of a father for someone who saved his son. A hundred-year-old feud of vendetta and violence was stopped in one clean stroke by an act of love.

Now we start to understand the meaning of the ‘momentum’  or speed of hatred. It can gather cumulative force through the centuries. There is such a thing as past hatred gathering force and becoming seemingly unstoppable. The Biblical hatred between Jews and Arabs goes as far back as the Exodus, Jews enslaved by Egyptians. And it lives today because of that momentum. The wars of the Israelites against the Philistines a millennium ago is the same war today between Israelis and Palestinians.

In the same way, the later momentum of hatred among Christians and Muslims spans centuries today. The Christian Crusaders massacred the Muslims, and the Muslim Saracens took vengeance. The Moors conquered Spain, and the Spaniards drove them back after eight long centuries. The momentum of their hatred was exported to the Philippines. Filipino Christians called their brother Malay Muslims as Moros with the same stigma. For hundreds of years, the momentum of hatred and wars among Christians had no end. Today, we can feel the momentum of that hatred in our daily lives. The wars in the Middle East, the acts of terrorism, the bombings and kidnappings in Mindanao, are all part of this momentum.

But the love story of Steve and Sarah stopping dead on its tracks the momentum of hate by Gerald and Cris and their forefathers shows us that a single candlelight can conquer the total darkness. The power of love can snuff out the gathering speed of hatred. But remember it also works the other way around. The power of hate can snuff out instantly decades of peace. The momentum of love can also be snuffed out in the blink of an eye by an act of hatred. The wind can snuff out the single flickering candle threatening to kill the darkness.

The example of the reverse is shown in our society today where a handful of extremists on both sides, say Muslim rebels and Christian soldiers, can destroy the peace established by the majority. A handful of people can create a war involving the rest of a peace loving nation. The reign of peace for a century can be destroyed by the murder of an individual. For example, Christian soldiers hunting down Muslim rebels, kill innocent Muslims civilians suspected of hiding and feeding the rebels. In retaliation, the rebels plant bombs in bus stations killing Christian civilians. This can go on forever, the momentum of hatred. And it may be hard to find a Steve-Sarah love partnership to overwhelm the flood of hate. These are how big wars evolve, with small hatreds triggering a cycle of vendetta.

Another example is terrorists blowing up the twin towers of the World Trade Center in 2001, killing 5,000 civilians. In retaliation, the Americans kill 50,000 in Afghanistan and Pakistan, hunting down the perpetrators. The Biblical adage of “an eye for an eye” is no longer applicable. It has become “ten eyes for an eye,” total vengeance. Now the Muslims may up the ante and escalate to the next level, nuclear terrorism. The vicious cycle may now rapidly escalate into a gigantic hurricane never before seen, namely, nuclear war, a war where there are no winners, where both superior and inferior armies are decimated.

One last example is World War II. When Hitler decided to bomb the innocent civilians of London, he inadvertently was ushering in the bombing of the innocent civilians of Berlin. The British were arguing with the Americans. The Americans wanted to bomb only the industrial centers which were supplying arms and weapons to the Germans. The British, remembering the bombing of London, wanted to bomb population centers. Alas, the Americans, feeling the brunt of losses in the war earlier, later on, succumbed to the British plan, “two eyes for an eye.”

In the same way, when Japan bombed Pearl Harbor, they were inadvertently ushering in the first atomic bombs of human history at Nagasaki and Hiroshima. The motives of the Americans, according to historians, for the atomic bombs were not just to end the war and save the lives of American soldiers, but also in retaliation for Pearl Harbor, a hundred eyes for an eye.

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