‘Tug-of-war’ – ‘a tug-of-reconciliation-and-peace’

By Sister Sonia Sangel FdCC

 Sister Sonia wrote in our September-October 2003 issue about the Maestra di Campagna, or ‘Rural Teachers,’ whom she trains in East Timor. Here she tells us about an unusual way of working for reconciliation.

I never used to like playing ‘tug-of-war’ before, but I do now! I knew that the consequence of losing the game was to fall on top of the others causing bumps, bruises and scratches on everyone’s hands and legs. The losers cry and the winners laugh seeing the losers in pain. Terrible!

Recently, I used this game as an activity to conduct a session on reconciliation and peace. I also joined the game and to my surprise it was a ‘win-win’ situation for every one of us. The winners pulled the opponents into their territory and embraced them. No one felt defeated. It was rather as if they were coming home.

Through the process

East Timor, as the newest independent nation in the world, needs to begin the effort toward ‘Progress and Development with Reconciliation and Peace.’ With its 400 years as a Portuguese colony and 25 years under the Indonesians, passing from a painful history of stress and strain to freedom has left hurts engraved in many hearts, the bitter wounds of memories from the past. They need to admit past traumas, take them and believe that they’re gone, learn to confront the present and meet the future with much brighter hope. Liberty is not only freedom from those dominating us but also from our own grudges and hidden unforgivingness.

Game of Peace

As a missionary, I wish to share the great social concern of the Church in Asia, which is the building of peace. Asia is an arena of intermittent violent ethnic, religious and political conflict. We are called to be builders of peace in such a situation. As the Gospel says: ‘Blessed are the peacemakers; they shall be called God’s children’ (Mt. 5:9). Yet the road to peace is long and arduous. Somehow we can begin to play the game that brings us to reconciliation and peace.

While playing ‘tug of war,’ people’s assertiveness is shown in their effort to pull. But this time it was a different experience. I saw the winners helping the losers to stand up. I saw them embracing one another and soothing bruises, one saying, ‘I didn’t mean to hurt you,’ – an entry point, the beginning of deep sharing . . .

I hope and pray that this may the beginning of a culture East Timor needs right now, one of reconciliation and peace.

I believe that when reconciled to one another, the men and women of East Timor can begin to think globally. Looking at themselves as citizens not only of their own small half-island -- West Timor is part of Indonesia -- but as citizens of the whole world, they will learn to appreciate cultural diversity so as to work in partnership even with their neighboring Indonesian brothers and sisters.

And you, my co-Filipino missionaries: do you have time to play?

Take time off and play the game you never liked before. It might be a new and pleasant experience to play, not ‘tug-of-war,’ but ‘tug-of-reconciliation-and-peace.’ Try it!