A reflection from the young people

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.” Psalm 82:3-4

The Context of our Ministry:

Mindanao’s human rights situation from the Aquino until today’s Duterte regime continues to spiral downwards.

The statistics are at once staggering: All of alternative Lumad schools are under various forms of military attacks and are ordered closure by the Department of Education upon the recommendation of Ex-Generals the Presidential Security Adviser, around 40,000 have been internally displaced due to militarization and the terror of more than 20 state-backed indigenous paramilitary groups, hundreds of activists and community leaders are facing false criminal charges, and more hundreds of indigenous, peasant, and environmental defenders have been extra-judicially killed by suspected state security forces.

Lumads forced evacuation. Photo by Dann and Joji Pantoja
On September 1, 2015 three leaders of the lumads were killed in Sitio Han-ayan, Brgy. Diatagon, Lianga, Surigao del Sur – they are Emerito Samarca, the School Director of ALCADEV Inc. https://alcadev.wordpress.com/; Dionel Campos, Chairman of Malahutayong Pakigbisog Alang sa Sumusunod (MAPASU) an indigenous people’s organization and Datu Jovello Sinzo, the community Tribal Chieftain. Together with one Lumad Datu in the photo taken the Manilakbayan 2016 are Bishop Rudy Juliada – Diocese of Libertad in Misamis Oriental, Bishop Denny D. Dapitan – diocese of Davao and Bishop Noel Lorente – Diocese of Surigao. , https://youtu.be/ogZ6w0vacTE, https://bit.ly/32CiN8P

Behind these figures are the trauma of schoolchildren and the denial of their right to education, the anguish of widows and orphans left behind by those killed and missing, and the widespread fear and deep divisions among communities. These are effects of land-grabs and plunder by corporations with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) posturing as if their biggest security force. Please also read: https://bit.ly/2X6Gc0V

The people’s responses to these attacks, aided by the quick, determined, and courageous efforts of human rights defenders and workers, have been demanding the accountability of the AFP, PNP and other state security forces. Now, the human rights defenders like Karapatan and community and leaders of people’s organizations themselves are being pursued through surveillance, intimidation, psychological warfare, trumped up charges, and physical neutralization.

Why are all these happening in Mindanao?

Upon a closer look into the extrajudicial killings, one will see the far too obvious reality that large-scale mining and other commercial extractive business ventures kills, and its twin face is militarization of communities.

The Reflections of the young people:

Last October 1-4, 2015 I hosted and facilitated the 3rd West District Meeting and holding of the Bible-In-Context Seminar for young people (YIFI). I was very much inspired then by the amazing presentation of the reflections of the three-group participants in their application through workshop of their learning’s in the seminar using the Sunday readings of October 4, 2015. Let me just share the gist of their reflections/messages. In the backdrop of the recent human rights situation in the country especially the lumad killings with the viral #StopLumadKillings!

The first group presentation:            On the first reading choosing Job 1:1, 2:1-10

The book of Job in the Bible is the story of a devout man who lived thousands of years ago. But tragedy hovers over this righteous man. When the book opens, we notice Job is about to lose everything — children, property and wealth, good name and even his health. Why will Job suffer such tragedies? It was because God is about to challenge the devil with Job’s obedience and faith. God himself says Job is “blameless and upright.” Job suffers because he is among the best, not because he is the worst.

In their creatively presented reflection, the first group depicted a community of lumad/peasants happily living in their farmyard. They are prayerful Godly people. One day intruders came in bringing a document of land ownership, manhandled the people in the community and warned to vacate the place because a mining industry will occupy the area. The second scene depicts an organizer among them who encouraged them to stand for their right while remaining faithful to the ancestors and their God who always abide with them. The last scene was that of the intruders coming back and harassed the community and killed their leader. But it did not make them stop and withered but they remain in their faith in God and continue to defend their land even if it means offering their lives.

The second group presentation:       On the second reading: Hebrews 1:1-4, 2:5-12

Those to whom the author of Hebrews is writing seem to have begun to doubt whether Jesus could really be the Messiah for whom they were waiting, because they believed the Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Scriptures was to come as a militant king and destroy the enemies of his people. Jesus, however, came as a mere man who was arrested by the Jewish leaders and who suffered and even died under Roman crucifixion. And although he was seen resurrected, he still left the earth and his people, who now face persecution rather than victory. The book of Hebrews solves this problem by arguing that the Hebrew Scriptures also foretold that the Messiah would be a priest (although of a different sort than the traditional Levitical priests) and Jesus came to fulfil this role, as a sacrificial offering to God, to atone for sins. His role of a king is yet to come, and so those who follow him should be patient and not be surprised that they suffer for now.

The second group presented a ‘sabayang pagbigkas’ with themes such as: Why people like the lumads are suffering? The suffering of the lumads is the suffering of all. What the church people, the people of God, are doing? Where is the Church in this human situation? And later, they would tell the audience that cry no more, continue the fight for God in Jesus who is the High priest will save His people from all these maladies and will reign with His people in the end.

The third presentation:         On the Gospel: Mark 10:2-16

“Therefore, what God has joined together let no one put asunder.” Mark 2:9. This has reference to the Law of Moses in the Old Testament but is rebuked by Jesus. Traditionally, this has become the basis of the union forever of the marriage entered into by and between the husband and wife.

Very interestingly, the group presenter progressively showed us a portrayal of a husband and wife separated by the evils of society. An overseas Filipino worker (OFW) husband who left his family for a living and was separated because of circumstances brought about by the institutions of government. His wife was asking for his “padala” that the wife did not receive any even if the husband was sending severally through “balikbayan box” which apparently did not reach to his family.

In an all group presentation, the whole participants depicted the plight of the lumads whose wives and husbands were separated either by the better half’s struggle for justice and separated forever by death of either the husband or the wife.

My reflection:

“Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked.”

Bishops joins members of the Manilakbayan-Kalikasan in a protest rally inside the Mines Geosciences Bureau head office in North Ave., Quezon City on Wednesday to demand the closure of mines with track records of destruction and militarization of IP communities and ancestral lands. The group urged to government to issue statement v/s mining paramilitaries. Photo by: JOEL LIPORADA

Psalm 82:3-4

Two questions I asked individually and collectively to the participants.

One, if you are one of the lumad evacuees, what would you ask God? Two, what will you do as a Christian?

And the answers were “I want to ask God for a just society”. “As a Christian, I will have to strive hard for a just society by speaking out and to fight for what is right.”

Indeed, the participants of this Bible-In-Context Seminar were very progressively in the right path of their contextual reflection.

Today, we are faced with the opportunity to live out our Christian faith. Amidst all the attacks to human dignity which is also an attack to the creator of mankind like what happened to the lumads who represents the vast majority of the poor, deprived and oppressed Filipinos – the anawim, we are challenged.

We are challenged as God is challenged by all of these. We are challenged to live out Christ – The Christ who died for the anawim, the marginalized of the Israel’s society, in parallel with the marginalized sectors of our society today.

Now, answering to the same questions I had to the young people and the challenge of my Christian faith, I will stand for and struggle with the lumads.

As a Filipino belonging to a nationalist church, I would echo the principles of General Antonio Luna as strongly depicted in the popular movie ‘Heneral Luna’, “Bayan muna bago sarili. Kalayaan bago negosyo” (people first, before self interest; indedpendence before business).

How about you? What will you do as a Christian? What will you do as a Filipino? Will you just let all these pass on doing nothing? Now is your opportune time to take a position. Express it now!

#StopLumadKillingsNow!

2 Comments

  1. Let me offer a solution to the alleged injustice in Zamboanga. Instead of perpetually protesting, which will most likely not solve a problem, get a couple of lawyers who are your church members. Have them talk to the lawyers of the military about their way of dealing with the Lumads. The government lawyers, in turn, should find out the basis for military actions taken so that they can communicate to your lawyers whatever justifications the government forces are using to act the way they act. Show me a transcript of the government lawyers’ communications to your lawyers for evaluation. What I always hear are the side of the church favoring the Lumads. To be impartial, we should also know the side of military intelligence through their lawyers.

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    1. I really appreciate your suggestion. Very ideal. Unfortunately, that is not what is happening in the ground. They are doing things against the lumads which they do not officially acknowledge that they did those things. So, there is no way of a dialogue because what they often do is to deny. One example is that we ask the battalion commander during his visit about a missing lumad leader whom according to the witnesses was taken by the soldiers. The BATCOM denied having knowledge about it only to find out after a month that the missing leader was in their custody from the beginning. We have only seen the lumad leader when the latter was with the regular soldiers patrolling the village and have already opted, allegedly forced, to become a CAFGU so he will save his life. He was not even presented as a surrenderee, which often happens, so he did not receive the minimum of 15K for a voluntary surender person but accordingly he was pressured and is warned that a case will be filed against him because the army tagged him as an NPA.

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