Peacemaking, peacebuilding, peacekeeping (the “no-guns” kind), peace advocacy, active non-violence. Though each one has a nuance, they basically belong to the same field of endeavor: PEACE WORK. Regardless of the variations, peace is BOTH the process and the end result. As Mahatma Gandhi had said, “There is no way to peace. Peace is the way.”
I have worked in the field of “peace and conflict” as a member of the “development sector” here in Mindanao since 2002. Becoming one was happenstance. Working in villages where battles were once fought between the military and the freedom fighters, or doing actual shuttle diplomacy with my bosses between a brigade or battalion commander on one end and a base commander on the other, was definitely far from my mind as a career path. And in the beginning, I never realized I could actually draw a straight line connecting peace work to the ideals of Alpha Phi Omega. But it happened. And now I am living the life (well, at least part of it) that Frank Reed Horton had envisioned for the APO member to live. How so? Let me expound.
The Literary Basis
One of the envisioned expressions of the Cardinal Principle of Friendship of Alpha Phi Omega can actually be gleaned from two written sources, among others. They are:
1. The articles written by Frank Reed Horton himself about the founding of APO, and
2. The articles written by others narrating how Frank Reed Horton founded APO.
In particular, “The Story Behind the Founding (the Torch & Trefoil, December 1960 version), and the document “In the Beginning”. Both documents narrate the “rationale and background” of how and why Alpha Phi Omega was conceived, relevant excerpts pointing to that envisioned expression of “Friendship” can be lifted from these. They are:
1. Though quite ambitious, Horton had made it clear in the quote below that, aside from that “standard of manhood” he would like to hold up before us, he wanted to try to help the nations of the world settle their disputes in a more sensible and legal manner than by war (through us the members, or more accurately, through the help of APO organizations that may be established over the course of time).
“Because of these experiences, I made a firm resolution within myself that if I returned alive, I would try to do two things and do them with all my power: First I would try to help young people to get the right start in life. I would try to hold up before them a “standard of manhood” that would withstand the test of time! Second, and just as important, I wanted to try to help the nations of the world settle their disputes in a more sensible and legal manner than by war.”
2. The quote below implies Horton’s acknowledgement of the reality that pervades the world even today, and it is – regardless of the root causes, which are largely overlooked by mankind – wars are triggered by groups based on differences in affiliation to race or ethnicity, to nationality, and to belief systems (creed, religion, ideology, etc.), among others, and the distrust, suspicion, or animosity that accompanies this difference.
“During the Summer of my Junior year, I became Associate Camp Director at Camp Weygadt, Easton Boy Scout camp near the Delaware Water Gap. Here I was impressed with the religious tolerance in the hearts of boys – this I had not found so easily among older people. Scouts of the Catholic, Jewish and Protestant faiths worked together in everything at camp, except that, because of their dietary laws, the Jewish troop had separate meals, and everyone had an opportunity to worship on their Sabbath in their own way.”
3. In the two successive quotes below, Horton goes on to explain his belief that, if only people and their leaders carried in their hearts and minds the twelve values or traits that are found on the Scout Law, and also those on the Scout Oath – which to Horton are among the highest form of ideals – unneccessary war and bloodshed can be averted, whether at the international, national, or local level. And this can be done if – carrying this standard of manhood – men and women “find more constructive and peaceful ways of settling their disputes.”
“Through these experiences I became aware of two things; I found in the Scout Oath and Law what I had been seeking – a standard of manhood that would withstand the test of time; ideals that had been created and accepted by some of the greatest leaders the world has ever known.”
“My thoughts went beyond these ideas. I knew that college graduates became national and international leaders. I believe that with chapters of this organization in the colleges of the nations of the world, national and international leaders would be motivated by these ideals and would not be satisfied with war as a solution for international disputes. I wanted men to find more constructive and peaceful ways of settling their disputes.”
Of course, this is easier said than done. First, few among us will ever get to be national and international leaders. Second, “it takes two to tango.” Third, we cannot promote this particular expression of Friendship by simply smiling, or (in the case of APO Phils members) inviting a perceived “enemy” over to a bar and have “fellowship” with. But we don’t necessarily need to be national or international leaders to make a difference in peace and conflict scenarios. We just simply have to be APO. And more specifically, a specific skill set for actually promoting Friendship is required. That will be discussed later.
4. On the quote below, which Horton wrote on the March 1929 issue of The Lightbearer, he shared his vision of what Alpha Phi Omega, will look like. More particularly, he shared the “motivating idea” which is supposed to drive Alpha Phi Omega to the future.
“Alpha Phi Omega is destined to be one of the greatest college fraternities in the world because it has as its foundation the highest ideals of the ages, the most perfect standard the generations have been able to produce, a standard accepted by all nations, all religions and all people, where the MOTIVATING IDEA is TO LOOK for the GOOD and TRY to DO GOOD to everyone regardless of who or what belief….” (The Lightbearer, March 1929)
Looking for the Good in Others
Now, let me take out that key component phrase of that last quote which stuck out the most for me: “Where the motivating idea is to look for the good and try to do good to everyone regardless of who or what belief.” – Here is the core and the very standard of the Cardinal Principle of Friendship. Plain and simple.
BUT… that’s easier said than done. Indeed, how can his brain-child, Alpha Phi Omega, help the nations of the world “settle their disputes in a more sensible and legal manner than war”, when even at the individual and inter-group level within the fraternal circle, members and groups could not even settle their own disputes? Worse, they have “extreme difficulty” in looking for the good in others and trying to do good to others.. even if others are so wrong and so bad. More likely, it is the tendency for APO members to look for the bad in others and then judge them for that. As to how we came to carry this ersatz set of values as APO members, that is another story to talk about, for another time. The bottom line is, we are waaay off the mark if we are to measure ourselves on whether we have been sincerely practicing what has been originally preached by FRH and what we are preaching now to our pledges and to the world about who and what we are as individual APO.
By “looking for the good and try to do good” is not only about the “Good Turn” Principle. Looking for the good in everyone and doing good to everyone” means that the individual APO is required to carry that set of values and the attitude AND the basic skills to resolve disputes or conflicts in such a manner that the ISSUE is not only resolved, BUT ALSO the POSITIVE RELATIONSHIP, or spirit of fraternalism and friendship, between disputing parties is preserved or even strengthened in the process. Case in point: how many person-to-person conflicts (inside and outside APO) has the average individual APO resolved? How many inter-group conflicts inside the campus has the average APO chapter resolved? How many community disputes has the average APO AA resolved? At all three levels, how many of these disputes have been resolved where both issue and relationship are addressed? We dont need to be the school guidance counselor or the community’s Lupong Tagapamayapa to assume this role. If you are an APO, it is your sworn duty to assume this role. You made your oath to do this 24/7 on the day of your initiation rituals.
Yes, it is difficult to do, but it is what Horton has in mind for us – his successors – to do. He does not want World War III to ever happen. That was why he founded Alpha Phi Omega, so that he can multiply himself in a global scale and try to stop conflicts big and small from happening. Tall order? Yes. Definitely. But we have sworn to follow his footsteps. Not because we hero-worship the founder, but because we have committed to embody the ideals of that very ssame organization FRH has founded. So we better “level up” on Friendship.
Friendship Development – Conflict Resolution
While “Leadership” has been expanded by APO USA through APO LEADS and APO IMPACT in order to grasp both its conceptual and operational aspects, “Friendship” has until the present time been the least explained of the three Cardinal Principles. With the exception of the several articles published on the Torch and Trefoil of APO-USA on Friendship, Friendship and Service, and Brotherhood, more often than not, is simply explained rhetorically as “brotherhood, fellowship through social activities, and fraternalism” by the fellow APO beside you. There is nothing wrong there. But we must realize that, while it is one story to make friends and gain brotherhood, it is another story to maintain it. Conflict is natural. Conflict is embedded in all human relationships. Conflict is dynamic. So, how do we promote friendship despite all the conflict?
As universally explained in several APO documents and websites, Friendship through brotherhood/sisterhood and fraternalism within the APO, is about “overlooking differences and emphasize similarities as we join together in unselfish service”. However, it is a stark reality that in the context of APO Phils., this ideal standard is very difficult to attain and maintain. Look at us now and how strained is the relationship that we have with each other. We could not even embody that “anecdotal” explanation of Friendship. Brotherhood and fraternalism has lost its meaning. They have become words without substance. It cannot be carried, even by some of the most active and most senior members of our fraternity.
Promoting Friendship (brotherhood and fraternalism) is not something that appears out of nowhere simply because we all have undergone “the same rite of passage” in Alpha Phi Omega. It most certainly will not appear from out of a bottle of beer, rhum, or gin sitting in the middle of a table surrounded by drunk APO members. It is not supposed to be a small set of words that “fly with the wind” as quickly as the breath of the speaker can say them. There is supposed to be a system to maintain and even strengthen Friendship. First within the circle, and then later on, to the greater outside world as envisioned by Frank Reed Horton.
How can we do this? Here’s how it goes: There is a difference between acknowledging or realizing diversity and working to move past diversity. Aside from having that individual (or group) uniqueness as a creation (creations) of God, each individual APO has a unique set of perspectives in life, brought about by one’s upbringing, environment and kind of education. When interacting with other individual persons or APOs, he or she brings that unique personal identity and perspective to the fore. If this happens as part of a sharing process, then all is well. That is peace at work. However, when one’s (or one group’s) uniqueness or set of perspectives are brought to the fore with the intent of “insisting” it on others, disagreement will definitely take place as a natural occurrence. If this divergence of perceptions is not levelled-off for purposes of mutual enlightenment at an early stage of the interaction, where both parties mutually acknowledge the difference of the other, the disagreement can deteriorate to become a “dispute”, and then becomes “discord” and then becomes “antagonism” or “antagonistic conflict” and then to “violent conflict”, as the feeling of anger deteriorates to rage. All these various stages constitute what is called “conflict”. And like fire, such is the potential damage and the life cycle of conflict. Though conflict is natural and embedded in all human relationships, what is being avoided here is the “antagonistic” form of conflict, where people attack each other’s person (argumentum ad hominem), instead of heatedly discussing about the issue or disagreement at hand in the hopes of looking for an agreed solution. This leads to unresolved issues, sense of woundedness, and broken relationships.
Potentially antagonistic conflict can be averted properly, and friendship inside and outside the fraternal circle can be promoted effectively if an individual has the skills to properly respond to the conflict. These skills are collectively called Conflict Resolution Skills, or Dispute Resolution Skills. If an APO member has been trained early on with basic Conflict Resolution Skills, that APO member can respond in a timely fashion to a brewing disagreement which may lead to a violent conflict, whether inside the campus, in family life, or in professional life. An APO member thereby becomes an effective promoter of Friendship by practical application, and more importantly, is one more step closer to that expression of the vision of Frank Reed Horton on Friendship.
There are a few basic skills related to one’s ability to resolve conflict. Among these are:
- Communication Skills (how to convey the message and thought 100%)
- Negotiation Skills (how to peacefully agree to solve a common dispute)
- Conciliation Skills (how to start bringing two antagonistic persons / parties to the negotiation phase)
- Mediation Skills (Peer Mediation for college students – how to mediate between to disputing persons / groups)
- Dialogue-ing Skills (how to use openness, wonder, and respect as foundations for a peaceful and sober exchange of divergent ideas)
These five (5) skills, over and above “arbitration” (imposing rules and laws over disputing parties to resolve issues, but not caring about relationships), uphold the essence of Friendship. Because when properly executed, the APO member who is resolving the conflict will be able to BOTH resolve the issue, and PRESERVE the relationship of the parties in conflict from deteriorating, and perhaps, even improve it. These skills can be trained to an APO member. As he or she lives his or her college life and moves on to professional life. He or she has the ability to actually diffuse potentially antagonistic conflicts. If conflict resolution skills training is inculcated to the young APO member, he or she now has it within his or her power to actually promote Friendship, not only within the fraternal circle of Alpha Phi Omega, but also in the greater circle of humanity.
If we can do this, we are one step closer to that vision of Frank Reed Horton, where Alpha Phi Omega and its members can hoist up “a standard of manhood accepted by all nations, all religions and all people, where the MOTIVATING IDEA is TO LOOK for the GOOD and TRY to DO GOOD to everyone regardless of who or what belief,” and through Alpha Phi Omega and its members, “to find more constructive and peaceful ways of settling disputes.” It is fulfilling to live the life that Frank Reed Horton has envisioned for us.