Einstein on the life of service

It is high time the ideal of success

should be replaced with the ideal of

service … Only a life lived for others

is a life worthwhile.

— Albert Einstein

Published in: on October 23, 2011 at 10:27 am  Leave a Comment  

Reflecting with Ninoy

I have spent almost eight long and lonely years in military confinement. The problem of Martial Rule and its injustices have nagged me all these years.

During those eight years, I learned the true meaning of humiliation of courage, of hunger and endless anxiety. Rather than be bitter I have learned to accept my suffering as a cleansing process and a rare opportunity to really grapple with the problems of the Filipino.

I have asked myself many times: Is the Filipino worth suffering, or even dying, for? Is he not a coward who would readily yield to any colonizer, be he foreign or home-grown? Is a Filipino more comfortable under an authoritarian leader because he does not want to be burdened with the freedom of choice? Is he unprepared or, worse, ill-suited for presidential or parliamentary democracy?

I have carefully weighed the virtues and the faults of the Filipino and I have come to the conclusion that he is worth dying for because he is the nation’s greatest untapped resource.

*****

Ninoy Aquino, 4 August 1980

Published in: on October 22, 2011 at 3:22 pm  Leave a Comment  

“Change” in Fuser’s Diary

“As we left Chiquicamata (Chile) we could feel the world changing … or was it us?”

– Ernesto Guevara (with Alberto Granado on their way to Cuzco, Peru) in Diarios de Motocicleta [59:05 – 59:10]

Published in: on December 8, 2010 at 7:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Gandhi on social sins

Published in: on December 7, 2010 at 8:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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I and You

Transmissions flow from your heart to Mine,
trading, twining my pain with yours.
Am I not–you? Are you not–I?

My nerves are clustered with Yours.
Your dreams have met with mine.
Are we not one in the bodies of millions?

Often I glimpse Myself in everyone’s form,
hear My own speech–a distant, quiet voice–in people’s
weeping,
as if under millions of masks My face would lie hidden.

I live in Me and in you.
Through your lips goes a word from Me to Me,
from your eyes drips a tear–its source in Me.

When a need pains You, alarm me!
When you miss a human being
tear open my door!
You live in Yourself, You live in me.

–Abraham Joshua Heschel

Published in: on October 22, 2010 at 5:08 pm  Leave a Comment  

COMMON CALL, EDINBURGH 2010

As we gather for the centenary of the World Missionary Conference of Edinburgh 1910, we believe the church, as a sign and symbol of the reign of God, is called to witness to Christ today by sharing in God’s mission of love through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.

1. Trusting in the Triune God and with a renewed sense of urgency, we are called to incarnate and proclaim the good news of salvation, of forgiveness of sin, of life in abundance, and of liberation for all poor and oppressed. We are challenged to witness and evangelism in such a way that we are a living demonstration of the love, righteousness and justice that God intends for the
whole world.

2. Remembering Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross and his resurrection for the world’s salvation, and empowered by the Holy Spirit, we are called to authentic dialogue, respectful engagement and humble witness among people of other faiths – and no faith – to the uniqueness of Christ. Our approach is marked with bold confidence in the gospel message; it builds friendship, seeks reconciliation and practises hospitality.

3. Knowing the Holy Spirit who blows over the world at will, reconnecting creation and bringing authentic life, we are called to become communities of compassion and healing, where young people are actively participating in mission, and women and men share power and responsibilities fairly, where there is a new zeal for justice, peace and the protection of the environment,
and renewed liturgy reflecting the beauties of the Creator and creation.

4. Disturbed by the asymmetries and imbalances of power that divide and trouble us in church and world, we are called to repentance, to critical reflection on systems of power, and to accountable use of power structures. We are called to find practical ways to live as members of One Body in full awareness that God resists the proud, Christ welcomes and empowers the poor and afflicted, and the power of the Holy Spirit is manifested in our vulnerability.

5. Affirming the importance of the biblical foundations of our missional engagement and valuing the witness of the Apostles and martyrs, we are called to rejoice in the expressions of the gospel in many nations all over the world. We celebrate the renewal experienced through movements of migration and mission in all directions, the way all are equipped for mission by the gifts
of the Holy Spirit, and God’s continual calling of children and young people to further the gospel.

6. Recognising the need to shape a new generation of leaders with authenticity for mission in a world of diversities in the twenty-first century, we are called to work together in new forms of theological education. Because we are all made in the image of God, these will draw on one another’s unique charisms, challenge each other to grow in faith and understanding, share resources equitably worldwide, involve the entire human being and the whole family of God, and respect the wisdom of our elders while also fostering the
participation of children.

7. Hearing the call of Jesus to make disciples of all people – poor, wealthy, marginalised, ignored, powerful, living with disability, young, and old – we are called as communities of faith to mission from everywhere to everywhere. In joy we hear the call to receive from one another in our witness by word and action, in streets, fields, offices, homes, and schools, offering reconciliation,
showing love, demonstrating grace and speaking out truth.

8. Recalling Christ, the host at the banquet, and committed to that unity for which he lived and prayed, we are called to ongoing co-operation, to deal with controversial issues and to work towards a common vision. We are challenged to welcome one another in our diversity, affirm our membership through baptism in the One Body of Christ, and recognise our need for mutuality, partnership, collaboration and networking in mission, so that the world might believe.

9. Remembering Jesus’ way of witness and service, we believe we are called by God to follow this way joyfully, inspired, anointed, sent and empowered by the Holy Spirit, and nurtured by Christian disciplines in community. As we look to Christ’s coming in glory and judgment, we experience his presence with us in the Holy Spirit, and we invite all to join with us as we participate in God’s
transforming and reconciling mission of love to the whole creation.

Edinburgh, 6 June 2010

The Presidentiables, ‘Puso sa Puso’

It was a unique Presidential Forum, that evening on Monday at the Araneta Coliseum: the emphasis was ‘up close and personal,’ none of the tired issues and abstract talk of platform, but simply glimpses of the presidential candidates as people.

Billed as ‘Puso sa Puso,’ the event was mounted by a large coalition of  churches and faith-based organizations identifying themselves as ‘evangelical.’ The strictures from the organizers were generally obeyed: no banners, no wearing of candidates’ colors, no hakot crowd. The 16,000 people who thronged the rafters of the Coliseum, the biggest crowd ever in this campaign season, paid to get there to take a close look at the candidates and pray together for the future of the nation.

The candidates were given 20 minutes each to answer questions that on the surface seemed merely personal but proved to be revealing, — like what were their most formative influences, their most painful, trying or perplexing times, their sources of guidance when faced with uncertainty, what they consider to be the country’s most important problems that need solving and what they propose to do about them, and what they wish to be remembered for at the end of their days. The questions were disarmingly innocuous, and the answers were, on the whole, refreshingly unscripted, though some echo themes that keep getting reprised.

Seven out of the nine presidentiables showed up – the two major contenders, Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino and Manuel ‘Manny’ Villar, as well as the five at the tail end of the polls – Richard ‘Dick’ Gordon, Eddie Villanueva, Ma. Ana Consuelo ‘Jamby’ Madrigal, Nicanor Jesus ‘Nicky’ Perlas, and John Carlos ‘JC’ de los Reyes. The other two candidates, Gilberto ‘Gibo’ Teodoro Jr. and Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada, were on out-of-town sorties.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the latter five had more texture, richer shadings in their self-portraits, while the two leading ones stuck to the themes that have defined their candidacy.

Dick Gordon was unusually subdued and reflective; he seems to have grown from the man known to have a ‘motor mouth’ to a much quieter man who has learned much from 25 years of executive experience. The audience seems to have recognized this and gave him the evening’s warmest applause. Jamby, in contrast to the impression that she is, at bottom, only a loose cannon with the patina of old wealth, was at her gender’s best: transparently forthright and emotionally powerful. Nicky Perlas, for once, seems able to warmly connect to an earthbound audience, and not to a free-floating global community high up in a stratosphere of climatic and ethereal concerns. JC was unaccountably appealing, an authentic ingenue whose missionary zeal was heartwarming. Brother Eddie was a little less preachy, his scripted lines less dreary, although still weighted with the ideological furniture of his activist days.

The two leading contenders registered some changes in their public persona, but pretty much remained within their campaign spiels. Noynoy looked unusually dapper in a black suit with a yellow tie, Manny was casually cool in a white shirt, both in keeping with the prescribed colors for the event. One was dressing up, looking more presidential, the other was dressing down, perhaps to better identify with the people he has sought to represent. Noynoy now seems to be less wooden, emerging from the crucible of the campaign with a bit more self-assurance, but still talked too fast and at times stumbled on his words. Manny displayed glimpses of the old likable fellow that he was, but his remarks were laced at times with an irascible tone of bitterness, and there seemed a certain disconnect, a kind of dissociation between the outer and inner man that made him look opaque.

Both men’s personal narratives they subsumed within the larger myth-making of their campaigns. Noynoy sourced his most formative influences round the experience of martial law: as a boy of 12 he witnessed the incarceration and eventual assassination of his father, the turbulence that led to the fall of the Marcos regime, his mother’s rise to the presidency and the upheavals that ensued. Manny was early formed, he said, by the world of the palengke, and later by his student days at UP. Beyond this, there was not much that was previously unknown in these men’s stories.

Likewise, both men reprised their usual campaign themes. How to solve corruption occupied much of Noynoy’s question time. Echoing Roosevelt, he promised to wield a stick against grafters and a carrot for those who truly serve in government. In his allotted time, Manny reiterated that putting an end to the complex forces of poverty is possible. “Naawa ako sa ating bayan. Hanggang ngayon nag-uusap pa tayo kung kayang tapusin ang kahirapan. On the contrary sabi ko. Tayo na lang ang naiiwan sa Asia. Ang Japan, China, Korea, lahat halos either tapos na or matatapos na or malayo na ang marating.  malapit ng matapos. Pero tayo nagtatalo pa kung kaya bang tapusin ang kahirapan. Hindi pwede na tayo na lang ang naiiwan.”

Defining his issues, he took digs at his opponent: ‘May nagawa ka na ba?’ ought to be asked, he said. It is not enough to be clean in oneself, “dapat kaya rin kontrolin ang nakapaligid sa kanya.” We need a leader, he said, with the ability to make things grow, “yung nakapag-ahon sa kahirapan.”  From day one, he said, we need someone who hits the ground running; the problems of the country are such that “we can not afford a probationary period.”

It is interesting, however, that it was not Villar who was voted upon as the one who has the most ‘kakayahang mamuno.’ An electronic response system was set up among a random sampling of the audience. The 300 selected were asked, after each interview with a presidentiable, which from a list of traits were most characteristic of the candidate. It was Gordon who was singled out by the overwhelming majority as the one fittest to lead (82%). Strangely enough, majority of the participants ( 51 % ) relegated Villar to the category of ‘iba pa,’ which means people had ideas about him that were other than those listed, like ‘tapat, may integridad,’ or ‘may paninindigan’ . Noynoy predictably registered as ‘may integridad’ ( 45% ).

The candidates’ responses to their most formative influences centered round the kind of socialization they got from their parents. Nicky’s parents taught him integrity, he said. JC learned fatherhood.  Jamby tells the story of how she was taken to task by her father in refusing to eat an uncooked egg which ruffled the feelings of the waiter who served it. This taught her to be considerate, a rare trait among the vastly careless upper classes to which she belongs.

In at least four candidates, the shaping forces in their lives were conflated with their most painful experiences. This was true with Noynoy, with Nicky whose  father served the government faithfully for 40 years and yet was charged with corruption, with Brother Eddie who remembers his family being turned out of their home by usurers and a land-grabbing syndicate, and Dick who left his job at Procter and Gamble and went to law school when his father was assassinated. The sense of continuing a ‘legacy’ was a strong motivational force among the candidates. Jamby, for instance, accounted her refusal to compromise to the memory of her grandfather, Jose Abad Santos.

Quite expectedly, all the candidates wore their religion in their sleeves,  conscious perhaps that this is one event where it is acceptable, even de riguer, to do so. All pray, and at least three account their running to ‘guidance from the Lord.’ Nicky, for instance, was particularly put out by the ‘Garci tapes’ scandal and prayed for clarity as to whether he should run and challenge the present political system.  “I don’t know how I got here,” JC said, with some perplexity.

It seems that “it is the Lord egging me.”  His campaign has meant the sacrifice of his business and precious time away from his family. Brother Eddie felt compelled by a call to political life, even if he already had influence as a church leader: “There in my home in Bulacan, officials already come to me. Why fight the Goliaths of this nation?”

JC described his running for president as a kind of ‘cross.’  He spoke of his candidacy as a ‘mission,’ an obedience to the need to introduce ‘prophetic politics.’ With great feeling, he spoke at length of Kapatiran’s advocacy against political dynasties that have privatized local governance, the patronage system that feeds on pork barrel funds, and the lawlessness that thrives on guns and moral decline. He envisions a politics where parties are disciplined by principles and the society behaves by “the standards set by the Lord.”

Similarly spiritual reasons undergird Nicky’s passion to change the system. He found particularly painful the abuses of martial law, and like many of his generation, he had to run for his life and for a while starved in the US as an emigre. These experiences formed in him a ‘spiritual core,’ he said. Alone of all the candidates, he decried the decline of Filipino spirituality, which used to rank high in surveys of world values, and named the increasing materialism and ‘decadence of Filipino culture’ as one of the top three problems, along with poverty and the environment.

Running as a sub-text to the proceedings was the theme of corruption and disgust with the present government, which surfaced now and then in the crowd’s reaction to remarks made on this by the candidates. Jamby found her six years in the Senate to be most trying, seeing how bills that were anti-poor got passed and billions of pesos put in the wrong hands. “Very painful for me was to vote for a 6 million relief package for Ondoy when I know that it will not got to the victims. But I said better to vote for it to see maybe a percentage go to the victims. I went all over the country and unfortunately the 6 billion that was voted by Congress didn’t reach the people.” Asked what she will do about corruption, she replied with her usual forthright audacity: “Let’s put the big fish in jail.” The crowd roared. “And the big fish na pinakawalan lang, put him back in jail.” Another round of applause.

A similarly enthusiastic outburst greeted Dick’s remark that “I will not pardon anybody.” Likewise, Nicky said, “The President has power to appoint 10,000 people;” he proposes to replace all the appointees of the Arroyo government within his first 100 days in office. Again, the audience erupted into a burst of gleeful applause.

In sum, two things struck me about this quasi-political, quasi-religious event:

One, we are witnessing once again the historic fusion of the religious and the political in our responses to the crisis of our time. As with Hermano Pule and the religious communities centered round Mount Banahaw, or as with our People Power revolution which was similarly suffused by the icons of our faith, our people, — both leader and led — derive their inspiration and source of resistance, not primarily from borrowed ideologies, but from a transcendent spiritual center inside them.

In a context where our institutions have been increasingly eroded and defrauded of integrity, it is perhaps the churches, those quiescent communities that are normally despised or relegated to the margins, that have the kind of grassroots constituencies that could stand up to abuses of power when sufficiently roused;

Two, it is a great encouragement that the personal narratives of the major players in this election share the sufferings of our recent history. This ‘fellowship of suffering’ makes for solidarity, an element that has always been lacking in most of our elite, the absence of which has barred us from becoming a genuinely national community. While some of these candidates may be said to be continuous with a long line of political and economic dynasties, the experience of victimization is a break from that tradition, and may lead to real sympathy for the plight of people.

Three, it is evident that among these candidates are some who, in another context and another time, may have been the right people to lead this country. But this election has been defined by two issues that dominate our current social landscape: corruption in our governance and massive poverty. It is an index of the depth of our people’s feeling for these issues that the two leading candidates are defined by their promise to provide a strong solution to these problems.

By Melba Padilla Maggay, Ph.D.

Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture ( ISACC )

Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 6:15 pm  Leave a Comment  
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A FILIPINO OF FAITH

BY THE WAY
By Max V. Soliven
The Philippine Star 12/19/2005

We keep on paying lip service to the catchword, “Faith in the Filipino.” In this Christmas season of hope – and also sadness – this faith and confidence in ourselves too often falls short of being justified.

However, here’s one story which I must tell.

This incident took place last Thursday in the late afternoon. I was rushing home in my car, an X-5, from my last meeting in Makati – already far behind schedule, since my next appointment, after a change of clothes, was in Malacañang. My vehicle broke down in the mounting rush-hour traffic on the Paseo de Roxas, not far from the corner of Buendia. There I was, frantically trying to hail a cab in vain while the avenue was crawled alongside, almost gridlocked. My desperation must have been all over my face. I had fruitlessly attempted calling my Stargate office on Ayala Avenue, then my associates and friends nearby. I needed a car badly to rescue me from the corner where I had been stranded. But nobody could be contacted.

Then a white Chevrolet Venture pulled up to the curb. The young man at the wheel leaned over, his window rolled down, and asked: “Can I help you, sir?”

I blurted out, “Yes – my car over there broke down. I must get home in a hurry! Can you bring me somewhere where I can find a taxicab?”

The fellow smiled and said: “Hop in, Sir I will drive you home.”

I scrambled aboard, thankful to the kind stranger, and God – and for my good fortune. In retrospect, I wonder why it had never occurred to me he might be an armed hold-up man. I guess it was the disarming nature of his smile, his earnest approach. Yet now could anyone be so generous as to stop in the middle of traffic, then offer a total stranger a ride all the way to his home? He hadn’t even asked how far away I lived; he’d made the offer without hesitation.

When we were underway, I asked to shake his hand and asked for his name, “My name is Alex,” he simply said. ‘I’m Max,” I replied, then fished in my pocket and offered him my card. He peered at it, then exclaimed: “Wow. It’s an honor! I read you every day!”

“Now. Alex, you owe me your card in return.” I said.

Stopped at a light, he took out his wallet, got one and politely handed it to me. It read: Alexander L. Lacson, above which was his firm’s title: “Malcolm Law”, underneath that, “A Professional Partnership. ” By golly, I had been rescued by a lawyer.

There you are. Somehow, when faith in the Filipino wavers, a Filipino comes along to restore your faith. Restore it? So surprise you with his kindness and generosity. This is an experience – and a shining gesture – I’ll never forget.

* * * I finally told Alex I was headed for Greenhills. He grinned. “By coincidence, since I’m taking you there, my destination happens to lie not far away – I’m headed for Wack-Wack subdivision to give a talk at a Christmas party.”

“Why?” I exclaimed. “In addition to being a lawyer, are you also a preacher?”

He smiled even more merrily and explained that he had written a little book. It was on the car seat beside him, and I picked it up. It was entitled: “12 Little Things Every Filipino Can Do to Help Our Country.”

Alex had his little volume (108 pages) published earlier this year by the Alay Pinoy Publishing House in Quezon City, and it had sold out in its first printing within three weeks. The second and third printings were about to sell out, too.

No, he wasn’t selling it through any bookshop, the biggest book shop (unnamed here) wanted too big a portion of its possible earnings, but I told them I wanted the proceeds to go to a scholarship foundation for the needy.”

So, Lacson has been selling his book out of his office and out of his home.

The dedication of the slim tome reveals his sincerity.  It says: “To my Creator, who has blessed me with so much, and to my Country, which yearns for love from its people.”

As we drove up EDSA, Alex said: “I read your mother’s book, ‘A Woman So Valiant,’ too – and I loved it!”

Can you beat that?

My mama had written that book of hers in longhand, on yellow pad paper not long before she died at the age of 81 on October 16, 1990 – and belatedly, we had published it last year. Astoundingly, it had been a runaway bestseller, without publicity, and had sold out in the National Bookstores.

My sister, Mrs. Mercy S. David messaged me when she arrived from New York that the Japanese were now planning to transcribe the autobiography into Japanese and publish it in Tokyo, as a chronicle of what happened to a Filipino family in the war years (and during Japanese military occupation). The proposed Japanese title, “A Valiant Mother and Her Nine Children.”

But that’s another story, far removed from today’s inspiring tale about Alex Lacson’s Christian spirit and generosity. One thing Alex said demonstrated he had really read Mom’s book. He remarked that the thing he vividly remembered in Mama’s memoirs was that, in spite of our poverty, she had determined: “I don’t want my children to feel poor.” Thus, one of us or two of us in turn had been taken by her, on her meager earnings as a seamstress, to eat at a good restaurant. The “classy” restaurant of the time, Alex recalled from its mention in mama’s book, was The Aristocrat. How lives intersect in this spinning world.

To get to the end of the “rescue” saga, Alex Lacson drove me to my home in Greenhills, and I noticed he never broke a traffic rule. I was tempted, in my selfish agitation to get home and get my tuxedo for the State dinner in the Palace, then dash over to Malacañang, to cut corners, such as push into the opposite lane when stuck not far from the Buchanan Gate, in order to sneak into the Gate. But Lacson calmly awaited his turn in traffic . Obey the law and obey the rules were obviously the bedrock of his “12 Things” credo.

In any event, getting to Malacañang in the end was only the bonus. Meeting someone like Alex Lacson was the real miracle .

* * * Alexander Ledesma Lacson, it turned out, modest as he was in bearing, was a graduate of the University of the Philippines College of Law, 1996, and took up graduate studies at the Harvard Law School in Cambridge, Mass. (Good old Harvard Yard, by gosh). His wife, Pia Peña – it turned out even more amazingly – is the daughter of an old friend, Teddy Peña from Palawan! She, too, is a lawyer – U.P. 1993 – a legal counsel for Citibank. They established a foundation together to help underprivileged children through school, and are now subsidizing 27 young scholars in different public schools in Alex’s native Negros Occidental.

The reason Alex had been headed for Wack-Wack was the fact that the officers and employees of a company named Resins Inc., after buying 1,000 copies of his book had invited him to give the “homily” at their Christmas party. This was not a small group – the company had 600 employees, waiting for his “word” that night.

Alex, it struck me from our conversation, is an eloquent and devout Catholic. He believes God must have destined our people for some great role – why, in all history, he reasoned, were we Filipinos the “only Christian nation in Asia?” One thing is certain: He and his wife Pia practice their Christianity – and live it.

Four years ago, he and his wife had a serious discussion about migrating to the US or Canada because the Philippines, as a country appeared hopeless since things only got worse year after year. They wanted to know if their children (they have three, one boy and two girls) would be better off staying in our country or abroad in the next 20 years.

Pia and Alex had asked themselves the question: “Is there hope for the Philippines to progress in the next 20 years?”

They reasoned: If the answer is Yes, then they would stay. If it was No, they would leave and relocate abroad while they were still young and energetic. There were long discussions. One day, the realization, Alex recalls, struck them: the answer to that question was in themselves. The country would improve, Pia and Alex finally understood, if they and every other Filipino did something about it. Leaving the Philippines was not the solution. As Lacson put it in his book: “The answer is in us as a people; that hope is in us as a people.”

* * * When I read the book afterwards, I discovered that many important people had endorsed it.

But these encomiums are not needed. Alex laughed when I quipped that he must be one of the wealthy Lacsons from Negros Occidental, like my classmates and schoolmates in the Ateneo. He cheerfully, and proudly, said that he was “a poor Lacson.” His mother, he pointed out, had been a public school teacher in Cabangcalan.

No, he’s not poor – his richness are in his friends, and in the heart.

Here are, in outline, his 12 commandments:

1) Follow traffic rules. Follow the law.

2) Whenever you buy or pay for anything, always ask for an official receipt.

3) Don’t buy smuggled goods. Buy local. Buy Filipino.  (Or, if you read the book, he suggests: 50-50).

4) When you talk to others, especially foreigners speak positively about us and our country.

5) Respect your traffic officer, policeman and soldier.

6) Do not litter. Dispose your garbage properly. Segregate. Recycle. Conserve.

7) Support your church.

8) During elections, do your solemn duty.

9) Pay your employees well.

10) Pay your taxes.

11) Adopt a scholar or a poor child.

12) Be a good parent. Teach your kids to follow the law and love our country.

These are the 12 things every Filipino can do to help our country. At first blush, they seem simple. When you study them more closely, they are difficult to do. But all of us, together can do them.

Published in: on May 7, 2010 at 11:22 am  Comments (3)  

A Thought on Compassion and Poverty

This thought comes from someone commonly regarded as an Evangelical Christian . . .

Compassion is the quest to be human as God intended.  It is not a means to an end.  We are not compassionate in order to make converts or as an end to poverty itself.  Neither is compassion motivated only out of a sense of common humanity.  The purpose and motivation of compassion are one and the same–to be like God. (p.11)

We are now faced with permanent and absolute poverty in a vast number of countries across the globe.  Over one billion people live in poverty, while tens of millions die of it–twelve million preschool children among them–each year.  Poverty doesn’t affect pocket books but people.  It stunts development, blunts intellect and causes poor health in those it doesn’t kill.  Poverty is more than starvation.  It is inadequate shelter, unhealthy environments and lack of access to basic health and education services.  It is the balance of power, wealth and resources weighted unequally and unfairly.  Poverty saps the body and the soul of individuals, families, communities and entire countries.

. . . God’s compassion (suffering with) reveals itself in a constant, consuming commitment particularly to those who are poor and oppressed.  Poverty is not a political issue to be left in the hands of special agencies.  It is a personal, communal and spiritual issue, reflective of God.  We cannot honour God’s worth and dignity while denying it in those who bear his image.

. . . We are never closer to God, never closer to keeping his commands, never closer to pure worship, never closer to our true humanity than when we are meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. (p.14)

Excerpted from Renita Boyle and Kate Smith, Understanding Compassion: A biblical exploration seen through the eyes of child poverty (Oxford: The Bible Reading Fellowship, 2004), 11, 14.

Evangelicals in the Philippines: some issues

As a Christian (i.e. evangelical Christian) who grew up in the Philippines, I have noticed some stubborn questions that still require serious investigation.  Here are some of them:  What is the primary preoccupation of evangelicals in the Philippines? What factors have hindered evangelicals from actively promoting the well-being of society in general?  Are there theological, social, and cultural factors that need to be re-examined?  Can evangelicals remain faithful to the gospel by opting to remain silent and uninvolved in the midst of massive poverty and socio-ecological imbalance?  How can evangelicals (and by extension, all Christians) reach a level of faith that deeply upholds the biblical tradition on the one hand, and actively promote the welfare of the weaker sections of society? How can evangelicals move from a cognitive understanding of the social teachings of the gospel to an actual and regular engagement against the dehumanizing factors of life?