PEACETALK: Rashid: Soldier of Peace

MAITUM, Sarangani (MindaNews/01 July) — I met Rashid sometime in 2010.  What struck me about him was he is a Muslim but he chose to join the army.  He was introduced to me by 1st Lt. Rio Anthony Gammad, Charlie Company commander  73rdIB assigned in Maasim-Kiamba,Maitum or MAKIMA.   Lt. Gammad happens to be my foster son.  Soon after,  it was not only Lt. Gammad who considered me foster mother but the whole Charlie Company.

I treat them as my “kids” and they consider me their matriarch. They are always respectful  in their dealings with me,  always careful not to cause anything that would  upset me.  They reciprocate my goodness to them by giving me gifts  (despite their limited resources)  which surprise and delight me no end.   I witnessed how these young men won the hearts and minds of the community – Christians and Muslims alike.

I submit, I did  have bad  experiences with the military in my younger years to the point of hating and uttering invectives whenever I saw military men because of their abuses. Since my work   requires dealing with them I had no choice but to work closely with them. Later on, I found out that not all military are bad and they too can be exponents of peace, especially the new breed  with their idealism, honesty,  and commitment

These young men and women were endeared to me because of their discipline, humility, respectfulness, and professionalism towards their job and the people around them.  Even in the predominantly Muslim barangays, they are highly regarded  because of their friendliness.  I was touched by their humility by apologizing to Muslim communities for the sins of war committed by  their predecessors.

I haven’t heard of any complaint from the community of any misdemeanor or abuse committed  by them.  I haven’t seen them in public having wild drinking sprees. They are always disciplined and good-mannered, that’s why they are always welcome  in my home.

I asked myself, what if one of these young soldiers or officers happened to be my daughter or son, far from the care of their parents and families? I felt pity for them.

Back to Rashid.   He was charming respectful, always smiling, and attentive.  In one of  our conversations, he opened himself to me candidly, on why he entered the military service.  He told me, “ I want  to help achieve lasting peace in Mindanao. I want to help   bridge the wide divide between Muslims and Christians.  We live in the same land (Mindanao) and we should  all help achieve this elusive peace. “

I remember when we both attended a  seminar on disaster  risk reduction,  he was so attentive.  There was an instance when  during a discussion, emotions were  high.  Yet he remained cool and smilingly reminded the group  that  bickering will lead us to nowhere. We all shut up.

Last  year of September, Rashid visited me while he was on a break from military operations.

I told him jokingly, “ Wala na yung school boy complexion mo.” to which he smilingly  replied, “Andyan pa rin mom, hindi mawawala yan.”  He was so gracious and told me  “ Nabusog ako mom, paborito ko kasi ang adobong manok. Marami pong salamat.”  That was our last meeting.

2Lt. Rashid  Karim, 28, a Maguindanaon, joined our Creator a week after  that visit. With his boots on – on mission- doing what he said he wanted – Soldiering for peace, for the community, bridging the dividing lines of Mindanao, keeping our country whole, for a Peace we all truly deserve.

He took a part of me.  I will always miss Rashid. (MindaNews’ PeaceTalk welcomes contributions from anyone who wants to say his/her piece on peace in Mindanao.Beth Ramos is the municipal information officer of Maitum, Sarangani).