Last Friday, November 13, extremists groups attacked six separate locations throughout Paris, killing 129 people and wounding 352, of whom ninety-nine were reported to be in very serious condition. Immediately afterward, Francoise Hollande, President of France, went on national TV to express his sympathy towards the victims and to declare three days of national mourning. He also went on to vow vengeance upon the perpetrators and warned that France would be “ruthless in its response.” State leaders around the world followed in condemnation of the attacks and voiced their support for France.

On Saturday, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying this was in retaliation for France’s support in the attacks against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. The group warned of “more attacks to follow” and that France was “a key target.”

On Sunday, France started bombing ISIS targets in Raqqa, Syria. It announced more to follow.

Today, we mourn in conjunction with the families of those who died in the attacks. We offer our condolences and sympathies, and give them our solidarity in their time of need. We also offer our prayers — that in all of the chaos happening around the world today, love should win out, not hatred.

As an international organization, Junior Chamber International (JCI) supports all efforts at worldwide peace. In fact, just two months ago, JCI celebrated World Peace Week, in support of the United Nation’s Annual Day of Peace, held every 21st of September. Local JCI chapters around the world came out in support of the event, holding peace rallies, initiating flash mob dances, and organizing various community projects aimed at raising awareness about peace worldwide.

JCI World Peace Week aims to bring 100 countries together for 100 years of JCI existence. JCI aims not just to raise awareness about peace worldwide, but also to collaborate with chapters across the globe so that we can all create a positive impact in our communities.

There is a line in the JCI creed which says “We believe that the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations” that resonated deeply within me. It is the same belief that ran through John Lennon when he composed and sang the song “Imagine.”

“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion too. Imagine all the people living life in peace…”

In one of the JCI seminars I attended regarding peace and conflict resolution, the speaker told us that the first step to peace is communication. She said that most conflicts arise from misunderstanding; that most of the world’s conflict can be resolved if sincere and genuine dialogue will be undertaken by all parties involved. That is why ambassadors and diplomats are required to be fluent in more than just one language. That is why in any negotiation, parties in conflict meet and talk before signing any agreement.

But how do you communicate with hatred? How do you hold a dialogue with religious fanatics whose aims are, as stated in their magazine Dabiq “to conquer the world and put to the sword anyone who does not believe in its interpretation of the Koran?” How do you communicate with people who believe that “all religions who agree with democracy have to die?”

How do you get through hatred?

In the words of a very wise man, LOVE.

“But I say unto you which hear, love your enemies, do good to them which hate you. Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which use you.”

As Salvor Hardin, a fictional character in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series says, “Violence is the last refuge of the incompetent.”

This is not to say that the competent uses violence as first resort. Rather, briefly explained, the maxim implies that incompetent people do not possess the skill and wisdom, so that when they exhaust their limited options, they invariably resort to violence. Hence, anyone using violence must therefore be incompetent. Stated in the affirmative, a competent person will never use violence because he is capable of solving any problem. A person who uses violence as a first resort may not necessarily be incompetent, but he is certainly evil.

Going back to the JCI creed; that one line that states that “the brotherhood of man transcends the sovereignty of nations,” is JCI’s way of saying that humanity’s kinship with each other is not limited by borders, nationality, race, or color. We are the citizens of the world. We belong to one race, one family.

I joined this organization for this one great ideal, this one line that resonated deeply within me. And like John Lennon, I too dream of the day when I can sing the lyrics of “Imagine” but not have to tell people to “imagine.” Because then, we would be living the dream.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”

First published in Bicol Mail, November 2015.

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