Insights and opinions from our contributors on the current issues happening in the region

insight 117

 

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We need to be with Christ always

Talking about hell

“Keep the doors of the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks open”

Duterte’s ‘revolutionary government’ is nothing but dictatorship

Is the President driving us to rebel?

Tender Mercies

God and evil

Souls of prayer

Stop the killings! End impunity! Human rights for all!

Overcoming the 'tambay' lifestyle

 

 

 

Stop the attacks on Missionaries

A press statement by the Promotion of Church People's Response
June 29, 2018

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) raises utmost concern and registers our strong criticism of the Duterte administration’s harsh and inhospitable treatment of United Methodist Church (UMC) foreign missionaries.

As President Duterte attacks God and disrespects the religious persuasions of the people, foreign missionaries are being maligned under his leadership. The three missionaries from UMC came to the Philippines in response to a calling of God to missionary service with the people. They have immersed themselves with the ordinary people, learning and working with them, and journeying with them towards their aspiration and dream of God’s promise of peace and justice.

Chandiwana Tawanda, Adam Shaw and Miracle Osman are missionaries assigned by General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) to missionary service in Mindanao.

In February of 2018, Tawanda and Adam Shaw were part of an international fact-finding team looking into human rights issues in the Mindanao. They were aboard a truck that was stopped by police at a checkpoint in Barangay (village) Palian in Tupitown, South Cotabato. Their passports and immigration cards were seized by police and they were detained temporarily, but later released.

Tawanda was arrested and detained on May 9, 2018 in Davao City and later transferred to the Bureau of Immigration Warden Facility (BIWF) in Bicutan, Taguig City on June 4, 2018. While Tawanda has “no derogatory record” according to stamps on immigration papers, he is reported to be the subject of the “Watch List Order.” Tawanda’s detention is excessive, as he has been in detention for seven weeks already.

Also wholly unacceptable is the treatment of Adam Shaw, who was issued an Order to Leave (OTL) due to alleged violation of his missionary visa provisions, when he participated in the International Solidarity Mission. Defending and upholding human rights is an honourable action for any persons – all-the-moreso for a missionary – wherever and whenever in the world. Shaw participated in a mission to look into reports of human rights abuses. As a missionary and a Christian, he is guided by a faith imperative requiring him to uphold the rights and dignity of human beings and communities. The parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrated the universality of compassion, care and the upholding of human rights.

What happened to Miracle Osman was a deliberate and hostile violation of her right as a missionary and a foreign national: her passport was confiscated by the Bureau of Immigration. She is also now said to be the subject of a “Watch List Order.”

We find all these incidents of harassment exacted on foreign missionaries who have faithfully tried to integrate themselves with those seeking justice and respect of their human rights, as morally unjustified and ethically questionable. Theirs has been a humble expression of solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

As the church sends people to different parts of the world, a powerful message of being light for the world and salt of the earth is affirmed. Aiming to build and nurture a global community founded in understanding for one another and respect for human rights, missionaries like Tawanda, Adam and Miracle have simply sought to help build peace based on justice in the areas where they are assigned, while also nurturing a global community and solidarity network committed to working to create a better world.

We remind President Duterte to stop attacking God, whom he does not see, and to stop attacking missionaries, most particularly those whose good works for the poor and marginalized are evident. Missionaries are not perfect individuals, but they have committed their lives to service to others – any shortcomings can be nurtured and remolded as they accompany the Filipino people in their desire for a just and lasting peace.

Stop the attacks on foreign missionaries!

 

 

 

 

On anger

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
June 28, 2018

WITH all the toxic environment we are having these days, especially in the area of politics, and most especially when some political characters recklessly comment on religious topics, to get angry is a very likely reaction we all can have.

We just have to be wary of our anger because as St. James already warned us in his letter, “man’s anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.” (1,20) We always tend to go overboard, and our anger can already go beyond the scope of charity and righteousness.

Let’s never forget that we have a wounded condition here in our earthly life. We may appear strong and clearly endowed with powerful talents and resources, but all these good things can blind and intoxicate us also and can plunge us into a very subtle form of pride, vanity, arrogance and self-righteousness.

We can feel that we have all the truth and fairness in our side, but just the same all that can still be held outside of charity. And let’s remember that charity is the fullness of knowledge, truth, justice. Where there is no charity, the charity of God, all the other virtues can at best be only apparent. They can look and feel like virtues, but in reality are not.

While we can try to reflect God’s anger on certain occasions in our own brand of anger over some issues, we should be most careful, because with our wounded condition, we can easily fall into hatred and other forms of lack of charity.

Yes, anger is one of our God-given emotions, locked into our nature as persons. It has its legitimate use. But precisely because of our precarious human condition here on earth, we have to be wary of it. In fact, anger is also considered one of the capital sins, along with pride, envy, greed, lust, gluttony, sloth, that can beget many other sins.

If ever we have to be angry, let’s try our best to be angry in the spirit of Christ who showed anger over the self-righteous Pharisees and scribes, and over those who turned the temple into a market place. Christ’s anger is what is called righteous anger, one that is done always in charity and in the truth, and not just due to opinions and biases. It’s an anger that is meant to correct, purify, heal.

Besides, Christ’s anger is only momentary. It does not last long. As a psalm would put it, “his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime. Weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (30,5) He is slow to anger, and quick to forgive.

Again, St. James tells us that “everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (1,19) And a proverb warns us that “a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but a slow to anger calms a dispute.” (15,18)

We really have to learn how to hold our horses, especially when we feel provoked or incited. We have to lengthen our patience, our capacity to suffer. We have to broaden our mind so we can we can quickly and easily capture the more important things in a given issue rather than react immediately to things that are only incidental to that issue.

It’s always good to have a pro-active attitude in this regard, that is, that we always think well of everyone even if there are differences among us. We should not wait for everyone to prove that they deserve our good consideration. We give it at the start, and keep it all the way, in spite of some conflicts.

We have to turn those moments when we are tempted to get angry to deepen our love for others out of our love for God.

 

 

 

 

Lies and filth are no conversation

By BASIL FERNANDO & AVINASH PANDEY
June 8, 2018

The world has seen a lot of debate over falsehood being spread in the name of facts recently. This, though, is not a chance encounter. There is a very definite method in this madness. Lowering the quality of the conversation has always been a very well working mean of creating an environment of instability and violence.

20th century is full of such experiences in which deliberate degeneration of language and lowering of the quality of the social and political conversations was used as a method of garnering support for organisations creating anarchy, instability and violence. Bertolt Brecht, the great German playwright, once said that it is the (television) antenna that brings the violence to every doorstep.

Now the sophistication in means of the communication has gone far beyond that period of the antenna. Today people having mobile phones and other equipment can participate in debates all around the world even while sitting within the space of one room. Yet, if the quality of these conversations is allowed to degenerate and the kind of conversation that usually belong to the criminal and mafia elements in the society is allowed to become the common language experience of the people; the kind of chaos that would arise could be far worse than anything humankind has seen so far. It might in fact be worse than the worst days of conflict in the 20th century.

Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler and Joseph Stalin were all masters of the manipulation of the language in order to create the confusion that they could exploit to achieve their own ends. The kind of lowering of a language was not a result of some natural causes. It was a deliberate work in which political leaders employed highly educated people with the best communication systems of the times. They would relentlessly do things by which meaning of every known word would be put into doubt, every known idea of decency would also be relegated into something of insignificance and every attempt to raise the consequence to higher rational level would be resisted by thousands of means and the conversation. It all was done to pull the conversation down to the level at which these leaders wants the society to engage in the conversation.

Let us clear that we are not merely talking about lies even as lies, of course, play a big role in any attempt of lowering of the quality of the conversations. However, what often appeared in the society was not so much a direct cause for violence. The violence was rather facilitated by the kind of the statements that create considerable doubts about the validity of the ideas that humanity has held as valid for very many centuries. Lowering of quality of the conversation is essentially challenging the collective wisdom of the humanity by irrational means. It was done by investing overwhelmingly into particular channels of (mis)information and then making all these outlets create confusion. It was not aimed at bringing any positive results for anyone, not even the people in whose name such chaos was created and who, in turn, were directly involved. Sole purpose of such efforts was to bring about so much of dissention and conflict within the society that ultimately rational conversation itself becomes almost impossible to pursue.

The gigantic leap in the means of communication has made such efforts far easier and common place nowadays. Now people do not need governments and massive funds to spread falsehoods, they can do it even from within their bedrooms, all by themselves.

The triumph of Donald Trump in the American politics is an indication of the extent to which the lowering the level of conversation can affect politics. It successfully altered the political landscape of the United States itself. The vocabulary of politics in the U.S before trump basically followed the liberal democratic framework, basically a civil engagement even if there were differences of opinion. It was the normal characteristic of the Democratic Party and also to the some extent of the Republicans. It was directed mostly towards the middles classes and particularly more educated section of the middle class. The basic assumption was that these middles classes and their more educated sections in particular ultimately determine the outcome of the elections.

However, Donald Trump abandoned that whole methodology and began to speak to the people who were normally outside the political discourse. He targeted in particular the poor among Whites, the unemployed youth, the lesser paid sections of workers and so on- basically those who were hitherto not taken seriously in the political discourse in the United States.

In order to appeal to them, he chose language and political strategies which did not play much emphasis on truth. Whether he told the truth or if he even wanted to tell the truth in the first place became relevant. Whether the promises he was making could be fulfilled or if he even intended to fulfill at all was also irrelevant to this strategy. Only thing relevant was that a new language was being spoken to new people engaged in political conversation. These ‘new people’ engaged in political conversation had changed the very site of political discourse. They virtually brought down the old vocal political groups and silenced them. All this while, new conversations took place among a larger body of people, conversations which were not meant to reveal the truth or what is really going on or what would be there in future. Truth was dispensable for this conversation. What really mattered was having a language that appealed to those who lived at the margins of the site of political discourse. The chaos it caused is evident today.

Similar situation arose also in the United Kingdom in terms of Brexit and other issues in which truth has hardly, if any, role to play. We can see again that new groups are doing all they can to create newer and newer methods of diverting the political debate into matters which are not really significant but have mass appeal. The attack on the Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn on the issue of alleged anti-Semitism was one such conversation. Most of what was said against him hardly had any truth. However, it did have the emotional content capable of creating a massive conversation in which large bodies of people engaged in, mostly against him.

Closer in Asia, India had its Trump moment much before he got elected to US presidency. The tale of Narendra Modi’s rise to power is in fact also an account of both- lowering the level of conversation and rise of fake news and views. Mr. Modi himself indulged in using language insinuating insults for communities and people. He always referred to Congress government as Delhi Sultanate- a clear insinuation to erstwhile Muslim rulers of India. His supporters also spread other falsities relentless, to the extent that he is often referred to as a WhatsApp PM.

What is common to these three examples is that other than ever increasing fake news and language getting filthier by the day, nothing else was delivered to people in any of them. The jobs promised are nowhere to be seen. The peace is illusive. The economies daydreamed into rapid growth are still moribund. The people are still what they are- discontent and frustrated.

Thus, in understanding as well as dealing with the political crises in our times, it is essential to look into the deliberate modes by which language degeneration and lowering of the conversation has become a highly specialized subject in almost every country. It is only way ahead for seeing futuristically into what positive changes could be brought in.

 

 

 

 

Say NO to entitlements

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
June 5, 2018

LET’S be clear about this. We obviously are entitled to our rights but we should not feel entitled to privileges and favors that are above our rights and needs. If they come and we cannot avoid them, then let’s be thankful.

But let’s be reminded that these privileges, favors and blessings are meant for us to strengthen our desire to serve and not to be served. But as it is, we should try to avoid them, since they tend only to spoil and corrupt us.

We have to be most wary when we happen to enjoy some privileged positions or status in life because we tend to think that we deserve more entitlements. And not only would we expect them. We may even demand them for us.

That gospel episode where the two brother-apostles, James and John, asked Christ that they be seated one on his right and the other on his left in the Kingdom, reminds us of this point. (cfr Mk 10,32-45) These two brothers were already close to Christ, but they were not contented with that. They wanted more.

This, sad to say, seems to be a common phenomenon these days. It can affect everyone, of course, but it especially affects the young ones who appear to be more privileged than those in the previous generations because of the many new things they are learning and enjoying now. And they feel entitled.

We should banish this temptation as soon as it makes its appearance felt in us. On the contrary, we should follow the example of Christ who, in spite of who he is, just wanted to serve.

In that gospel episode cited above, he reminded his apostles that “whoever wishes to be great among you will be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you will be the slave of all. For the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mk 10,43-45)

The request of the two brothers really smelled of a brattish mind, since it was made just after Christ talked about his impending death on the cross. It was so insensitive of them, to say the least. And they were already two of the closest apostles of Christ!

To make his point stronger, Christ insisted in the Last Supper that he washed the feet of their apostles. Peter at first refused but Christ insisted, if only to give them an example that what he did to them should be done among themselves and everybody else. And he reassured them that they would be blessed if they do it. (cfr. Jn 13,15-17)

Should that reassurance of Christ to his apostles not reassure us also to do the same? We should indeed instill in our mind and heart simply to serve and not to be served. We should try to avoid entitlements, or the pursuit of human glory.

Remember what Christ said once: “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.” (Mt 6,1)

We need to acquire the mentality of a servant which is actually the mentality of Christ himself. Let us readjust our human standards to conform to what is actually proper to us as taught and lived by Christ. We usually look down on the status of servants. This has to change! We should be convinced that by becoming a servant we would be making ourselves like Christ.

Let’s say NO to entitlements. Let’s just focus on how to serve God and others more and better. This should be the motto of our life: SERVE, SERVE, SERVE!

 

 

 

 

We tend to replace God

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA
May 29, 2018

WE have to be most careful with this tendency of ours. We like to make ourselves our own God, defining what is good and evil, as if we were the ones who created the universe and established the law that governs the whole of reality.

It started with our first parents who, in their devil-instigated illusion that by eating the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil they by their own selves would know what is good and evil, thought they didn’t have to refer to God to know about what is truly good and evil.

And it has grown worse from then on. Even if the Redeemer has already repaired the damage caused by it, this tendency continues to hound us. That is why we cannot exaggerate the need to be most careful with this intoxicating tendency of ours.

This phenomenon is somehow dramatized in that gospel parable about a man planting a vineyard and leasing it out to tenant farmers who did not remit the proceeds to the owner. (cfr. Mk 12,1-12) They even killed the son of the owner who went to collect the earnings. In spite of the favor given to them, they decided to make the vineyard their own.

The precious lesson to be learned here is that of deep humility and gratitude. That’s because we get easily drunk by the many good things God has given us such that we can think that these good things can just be ours. They do not have to be referred to the giver or owner of these good things.

In the case of our first parents, they enjoyed tremendous privileges. They were not supposed to die. They suffered no pain. They enjoyed complete integrity in their own lives and harmony in their relation with the other creatures.

And even if it was told to them clearly that while they can enjoy all things in Paradise except to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, they thought that at the suggestion of the devil they can do away with that prohibition because the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil was enticing to the eyes.

In other words, they thought they can know on their own what is good and evil without having to bother God. In short, they expropriated for themselves what belongs to God.

This is what is happening these days in many places. Abortion is now ok. Pre- and extra-marital sex is now ok. Divorce too. Some countries have legalized euthanasia. Pornography is now considered normal and natural. Corruption is presumed to be standard procedure. And a lengthening list of etceteras.

We need to recover the right and original order of things. Everything that is true, good and beautiful can only come from God. Outside of him, we have the opposite no matter how convincing they may appear to be true, good and beautiful to us.

Let’s hope that we can make it a habit to refer whatever piece of data, information, skill, etc. we acquire to God, using it to give glory to God and for the good of all. This is what is called as having rectitude of intention. Otherwise, these otherwise good things will sooner or later fall into the play of our weaknesses and the tricks of the devil. They will soon be used for the sake of pride, greed, lust, vanity, etc.

This habit should be acquired as early as possible in one’s life. Better if even in childhood, this habit is already learned. The world would be much better off that way, keeping itself well rooted on the source and foundation of reality instead of drifting away to its own fantasy land.

 

 

 

 

From ignorance to arrogance

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
May 2, 2018

I WAS happy to read an article recently about why we are increasingly unaware of our ignorance and why it is a big problem. It caught my attention because that is also my observation. In fact, in many of my columns, I have expressed that fear at least implicitly.

The main argument of the article is that we in our time are becoming so sure of our opinions that they now become our convictions and our core beliefs, as if other opinions are completely regarded as wrong.

In other words, opinions now are considered to be absolute such that there cannot anymore be a variety of legitimate and differing and even conflicting opinions. A person’s opinions are now held as gospel truths.

The article went on to say that opinions considered as gospel truths can obviously attract like-minded people, and when they acquire a critical mass, that is when these opinions become the absolute truths for them. That is when ignorance of the absolute truth who is God becomes invincible and can easily fall into arrogance.

We have to be most careful about our opinions. We have to learn to distinguish between what merely is an opinion that can never cover everything about a particular issue and much less about the whole reality, and what is a matter of absolute truth that can come only from God through our faith, as revealed in full by Christ, and that touches on what is truly essential in our life.

Especially these days when we are bombarded with an increasing number of issues to tackle, a profusion of data and information, and a growing number of means of communication and exchanges of ideas, we need to have a good hold of our horses so as to avoid mixing opinions with absolute and essential truths.

We have to practice a certain detachment from our opinions, no matter how strongly we feel about them, so that we can give due attention to other opinions, especially those that are not only different from ours but are also opposed to ours.

In our exchanges and discussions, let us always try to be civil and courteous. Opinions are no absolute truths. They don’t deserve to be promoted and defended at the expense of charity.

The usual problem we encounter is that we tend to make our opinions the only position that is right. This is outright wrong. We would be falling into what St. Paul once said of those who are “ever learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth.” (2 Tim 3,7) We can feel that we have the truth because of the amount of data and information we have, but we still would miss the point.

We have to be wary of what looks like a common world trend now to assert our opinions to death. And this is not only in the field of politics, but more so in the area of faith and morals. We need to be protected from the subtle and silent osmotic effect that this trend can come to us.

We have to know, for example, how not to be quickly taken by the easy accessibility and speed of the Internet in giving us data and information and in sharing our views and opinions.

In this regard, we have to strengthen our virtues of prudence and tact. But, alas, how many are really thinking about these virtues today? In fact, in many talk shows especially in the US, bashing and mudslinging have become a standard practice. Disagreements are not anymore civil.

In homes and schools, let us teach the young ones the true art of opinion-making and of civil and charitable discussions. We need to teach the kids how to distinguish between mere opinion and absolute truth, and where we can have the former and where to find the latter.

 

 

 

 

Beware of Pelagianism

By Fr. ROY CIMAGALA, roycimagala@gmail.com
April 26, 2018

ANOTHER form of fake holiness mentioned in Pope Francis’ “Gaudete et exsultate” is what is known as Pelagianism that also includes its mitigated but still erroneous idea of holiness that is labeled as semi-Pelagianism. It is a heretical doctrine attributed to a British theologian, Pelagius, who lived circa 360-418 AD.

Pelagianism is the belief that holiness can be achieved mainly if not exclusively through man’s effort alone, with hardly any help of the divine grace. It goes against what St. Paul said clearly that everything, especially sanctity itself, “depends not on human will or exertion, but on God who shows mercy.” (Rom 9,16)

Not that human will and exertion are irrelevant in the pursuit of holiness and everything that is good and proper to us. They are, in fact, indispensable, but only as means, as evidence and consequence of the working of God’s grace and his mercy.

This clarification is crucial especially nowadays when there is a lot of religious indifference, confusion and ignorance. We may, in fact, see a lot of people who are doing a lot of good things, but still missing the real thing. And that’s simply because their idea of anything good is mainly subjective rather than objective. It depends on their own understanding of what is good rather than the good that truly comes from God.

Due to such understanding, the consequent actions would not be truly inspired by the love that comes from God. They would simply come as a result of their own will and effort. And a will and effort exercised in this way, that is, without God’s grace and inspiration, would only be proud and vain.

It is indeed very important that we examine closely the motives of our actions and the source from which they spring as well as the end to which they proceed. That’s because we can do many of what may look like good acts but which are motivated by self-love, by pride and vanity, rather than by the real love that comes from God alone and is lived only with God.

A Pelagian person is actually a very proud and vain person. He is like a wolf in sheep’s clothing, faking holiness through his seemingly good works that may include many acts of piety, like praying in a showy way, making a lot of sacrifices, being active in church functions, etc.

He personifies what St. Paul once said about the importance of charity in our lives and about how charity can be distinguished from seemingly good works: “If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.” (1 Cor 13,2)

A Pelagian person cannot stand the test of true love in spite of the many good things he appears to be doing. This truth was practically established by Christ in that encounter he had with a rich young man. (cfr Mt 19,16-30)

The rich young man appeared to be doing a lot of good, to be following the commandments. But when Christ asked for his whole heart by asking him to sell all he had and to just follow Christ, the rich young man went away sad.

A Pelagian person, in the end, has his own self to love rather than God. He can be exposed to be such when the true and ultimate demands of God’s love are made on him. Before this, he somehow can be known when problems, difficulties, mistakes and failures he can experience in his life would make him angry and frustrated, rather than willing to suffer.

Indeed, it’s time that we examine ourselves closely to see if traces of Pelagianism, so subtle in its ways, are marring our desire and pursuit for holiness.

   

 

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