This is based on a true story. Early 70s. Zamboanga del Sur, Philippines. The town of Dimataling was a “no man’s land” after Christian soldiers and Muslim rebels had been killing each other for a decade. Settlers from both sides had left. Sister Josephine of the Medical Mission Sisters stayed on to service the health needs of the few brave Christians and Muslims who dared to stay. She clung like oyster to a tiny bamboo chapel and a clinic, her paradise in no-man’s-land. She tried hard to keep her clinic out of the war. How did she do it?
eastwind journals, September 7, 2021 (archives tr91)
In the dead of night, Sr. Jo was awakened by gun shots from afar. She ignored them and went back to sleep. She was used to it, as it happened so often. Later, someone banged at the door. Three rebels were carrying their Commander Usman, mortally wounded, bleeding profusely on the left shoulder. No questions asked, no words exchanged. Immediately Sister Jo went to work. It took her one hour to remove the bullet, and clean and bandage the wound. Then she fed the rebels. (Dialogue reconstructed in English.)
COMMANDER USMAN – I am deeply grateful, Sister.
SR. JO – Think nothing of it. That is my work. I am a medical mission sister. Our mission is to heal.
CMDR. USMAN – You did not hesitate to help me. I am amazed how you can help your enemy. You even feed the enemy. The soldiers will not like that.
SR. JO – What enemy? I don’t see enemies. I see only a wounded man. The soldiers can think what they want. They cannot touch me.
CMDR. USMAN – Soldiers are known to rape and abuse even Christians, am I right, Sister?
SR. JO – I have heard rumors.
CMDR. USMAN – The name is Commander Usman. I have great respect for you. If the soldiers abuse you, I want you to send a messenger to the Muslim side. I will protect you from them.
SR. JO – That’s very nice of you, Commander Usman, but I can handle them better than you, believe me. I don’t use bullets, just my habit (She flicks her sleeve.).
CMDR. USMAN – The offer stands anyway, just in case there are crazy drunk soldiers around.
SR. JO – My gratitude, Commander. I am deeply honored. I will remember your offer.
Suddenly five soldiers barged in. Soldiers and rebels were face to face. They cocked their guns and pointed them at each other. Sr. Jo quickly went to the middle.
SR. JO – Oh no, not in my house. Keep your war outside my house. My house is a medical mission for all who are hurt, Muslims or Christians.
There was a long uneasy silence. Lt. Reyes was bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound in the upper right thigh. They kept guns pointed at each other.
SR. JO – (With absolute authority). Lt. Reyes, Commander Usman, I order you to respect my home. If you cannot, then kill me first before you shoot each other down.
Cmdr. Usman was the first to order his men to put down their guns. Lt. Reyes followed.
CMDR. USMAN – I think it is time for us to go.
SR. JO – Yes, Commander, go. Lt. Reyes, promise me you will not pursue them.
LT. REYES – How can we, when I am wounded?
CMDR. USMAN – Sister, please remember my offer. Thank you for everything.
SR. JO – I will remember. Thank you for your kindness.
The rebels quietly and calmly filed out. Sister helped Lt. Reyes to a seat and began to tend to his wound as his men lingered around. Lt. Reyes was about to speak.
SR. JO – Not a word, lieutenant. I know what you want to say. I have no war in my heart. Can you not understand that? You cannot force your world of bullets into my world of love. This is one tiny space in this large island full of wars where there is no hate or vengeance. It is my space. Can we keep it that way?
LT. REYES – Yes, Sister. I understand. But I want you to send a messenger to me if the rebels come to disturb you. I will protect you.
SR. JO – Sounds familiar.
LT. REYES – What’s that again, Sister?
SR. JO – Nothing, lieutenant. I just said we are one big family.
In the oceans of war and hatred, there exist tiny islands of peace and understanding that persist. They are flickers of a candle light. It takes one tiny candle to destroy total darkness.
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