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Risking life itself

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There is nothing worse that can happen to dedicated Christians in the Philippines or elsewhere than to be branded as "an Enemy of the State" for exercising a prophetic role and taking a stand for the poor and the oppressed, the wretched of the earth, the unwanted, rejected and deprived whom Jesus of Nazareth said deserved to inherit the land.

Those who hunger and thirst of justice and peace are blessed in his eyes but in the eyes of the military, authorities and the ruling elite who feel threatened by the preaching of prophets in the wilderness about social justice. They are branded and marked as dangerous subversives.

Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza has taken his stand with the families of the victims who were murdered and cut down by assassins' bullets, bayonets and killing knives in the past ten years during the reign of the Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's administration. None of the assassins have been brought to Justice. The dark masters who ordered the killings have never been named. Many of those victims were pastors, preachers, ministers and members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) and other denominations including Catholics.

It was the practice at the time to mark pastors and catholic priests and lay people working to implement the social teaching of the Church as "communists" or terrorists.

Several catholic priests and lay workers were shot and killed for their support for their people protesting the destruction of the environment by loggers and mining companies backed by powerful politicians and protected by military units.

By branding the people and their pastors as communist subversives the politicians cum businessmen could then call in the military to silence the protestors and the voice of the people.

In Midsalip, Mindanao today the courageous priest Sean Martin and Sister Patty Dinare are on trial with their brave people for holding back the rampaging mining equipment that would bulldoze their forests and fields.

Bishop Marigza has joined his name to a law suite brought by the families of the slain UCCP pastors against former President Gloria Arroyo, (who is presently a congress woman) holding her responsible for the killings when she was president and the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. Not all in the UCCP agrees with the bishop supporting the legal action.

Bishop Marino Inong head of the UCCP council of bishops said the council voted to take "a stand with the people", and supported Bishop Marigza and the law suite.

Far from being infiltrated by communist ideology the true Christians are most faithfully following the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth as found in the "sermon on the mount". (Lk.6:17) Here we see Jesus, Son of God, Son of Man announcing a social and spiritual transformation of society. He announced the Kingdom of God, a world where there would be justice and equality, freedom for those in unjust captivity, where the poor would no longer be hungry, where they would be blessed and inherit the land. The rich, Jesus said, would never be able to survive in such a society. "How terrible it will be for you who are rich now, you had your easy life, you are full now but will go hungry." (Lk.6:24).

None of these went down well with the rich ruling elite, chief priests and the landowning elders who were politically powerful. It was rebel talk, subversive, and threatened the status quo. It was a direct challenge to their religious domination of the Palestinian people. They decided that Jesus had to be eliminated. In the end he was arrested, tortured put on trial and was given the death penalty. The pastors, priests and lay Christians who followed him faithfully and preached and lived as he did and still do all over the world face similar fates.

His spiritual revolution goes on today and the strength we get from it, his friendship and presence helps us work to continue his mission working for non-violent social change. These are values that Jesus brought into the world. And so we too must take our stand with those who are risking their lives making the gospel a reality in the world today.

By Father Shay Cullen




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