FORUM-REFLECTION ON TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND PEACE

Lanao churches call for truth, GMA resignation

 

Iligan City

 

April 6, 2008

 

 

 

The dismal situation of society, our churches, our organizations and institutions must create in us a fear that if nothing changes, the succeeding generations will find themselves in worst circumstances.  In my pilgrimage as an activist church person, my conversion was partly propelled by a fear that one day my children would blame me for the quality of life they would experience if I could not place into their hands a Philippines that is much better than I found it.  I feared that I would be caught sleeping on the job.  I feared that all who came behind me might find me unfaithful… when the fire of my devotion could not light their way.  I feared that I would have no foot prints to leave behind.  And if so, what kind of life did I live?

-- From the reflection of Ms. Ruiz-Duremdes, Co-chair of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform

 

Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes

Co-chair of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP)

.  Former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP)

 Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB,
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Photos courtesy of the Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR-Lanao)
           

 

Lanao churches renew call for truth, GMA resignation

 

Iligan City--It was a teary afternoon.

 

Church people shed tears listening to the Biblico-Theologico Reflection shared by Ms. Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes in the Forum-Reflection on Truth, Justice and Peace jointly sponsored by the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP-Lanao), Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR-Lanao) and the Sisters Association of Mindanao (SAMIN-DIOPIM)  held at the Salvatorri Hall of Maria Cristina Hotel in Iligan City on the afternoon of April 6, 2008.

 

Miss Duremdes, a sought after theologian and a speaker for more than thirty international conferences on women and theology, is currently the Co-chair of the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Plattform (PEPP).  She was elected in the past as General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), the biggest aggrupation of protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches in the country.

Entitled “Jun Lozada’s Tears,” her reflection interpreted the NBN-ZTE scandal witness’--Engr. Rodolfo  Lozada--tears as tears of anger, fear and accountability:

 

 “We are all too familiar with Jesus’ wrath against the corruption obtaining in the temple courtyard of his day.  As he overturned the tables of the money changers who were, by the way, agents and conduits of the high priests of the temple, he epitomized the Angry Christ who weeps over the oppression, violence and corruption of the ruling system.

“The dismal situation of society, our churches, our organizations and institutions must create in us a fear that if nothing changes, the succeeding generations will find themselves in worst circumstances.  In my pilgrimage as an activist church person, my conversion was partly propelled by a fear that one day my children would blame me for the quality of life they would experience if I could not place into their hands a Philippines that is much better than I found it.  I feared that I would be caught sleeping on the job.  I feared that all who came behind me might find me unfaithful… when the fire of my devotion could not light their way.  I feared that I would have no foot prints to leave behind.  And if so, what kind of life did I live?

 

“This whole Jun Lozada episode is a study on social accountability.  Testimonies are made because people feel, rightly or wrongly, that truth must out.  In the early stages of the tedious investigation, we heard Jun Lozada say that he decided to tell it all because he loved this country…  it was his way of honoring his father who would never sacrifice the truth.  And he said that mouthful as tears rolled down his cheeks.  There is a marked level of social accountability today.  We are beginning to see the student power come back, a phenomenon we have missed for some time.  And the church rites accompanying Jun Lozada in his sorties are evidences of the re-activation of the church sector.  Except for a few bishops, balance is no longer a sought after value.  Just as well….. because I firmly believe that balance (or worse, neutrality) does not make one socially accountable.”

 

The audience, composed mainly of Roman Catholic nuns and protestant pastors from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), shared their personal manifestations in pursuing the quest for truth. 

In tears, Sr. Minda Obnimaga, RGS, Link Person fro SAMIN-DIOPIM urged the participants to continuously join the people’s protest actions as a way of expressing their outrage against the corruption and lies of Mrs. Arroyo.  “The speaker is precisely correct for saying that ‘God’ is a verb, an action word, not a noun,”   she stressed.

 

Earlier, Atty. Beverly Musni of the Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao (UPLM) was moved by her own piece ,“Anatomy of an Amoral Government,” a discussion on the present socio-economic and political situation of the country with stress on the spate of political killings as “the government’s way to quell  dissent.”  Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB, also shared her reactions as a part of the Mindanao church’s rank-and-file who are beginning to assert their own position as an ecclesia and stakeholders of the national state of affairs.►►►

 

Ms. Duremdes,k Sr. Stella and Atty. Beverly Musni
     

 

Br. Andres Serafin, OFM, of the RMP-Lanao  in his reflection challenged the church to open their convents for the victims of political repression, and to align the church’s ministries to the real needs of the time.

The program ended past five in the afternoon with the forum participants singing to the tune of “Bayan Ko.”  Sr. Virgencita Alegado, RSM, SAMIN Chairperson pledged to continue mobilizing church people to join the people’s quest for truth, justice and peace.  “It is always our prophetic mission to join our suffering people in their journey towards that promised land,” she said.###

 

 

For reference:

Br. Roseal Cabatcha, TOR

Public Information Officer, RMP-Lanao

(0910) 300-1427

 

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FORUM-REFLECTION ON TRUTH, JUSTICE, AND PEACE

Salvatorri Hall, Maria Cristina Hotel

Iligan City

April 6, 2008

Sponsoring organizations:

Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP-Lanao)

Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR-Lanao)

Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN-DIOPIM)

 

JUN LOZADA’S TEARS

 

 

INTRODUCTION

 

He is a man after my own heart because he defies the social convention about machismo.    He has my admiration because, unlike patriarchs in the President’s cabinet, Sergio Apostol, especially, he unashamedly expresses his feelings through his tears…in public.  The man of the hour…responding to the challenge of the time.  The person who opted to rock the boat and make waves which, at this historical juncture, is a high risk endeavour.  Rodolfo Noel I. Lozada, Jr.  Jun Lozada as he is now called with endearment.

 

Much as I appreciate this man, I do not wish to place him on a pedestal and declare him a hero.  That would be idolatry.  But no one can deny that he is a great source of inspiration – even more than the Pambansang Kamao.  Much, much more!

 

TRANSITION

 

At this Forum-Reflection on Truth, Justice and Peace, I am reminded of a public figure centuries ago who also wept….. in public.  The event was the demise of his close friend.  I would like to believe that this public figure so valued his friendship with the departed man that he was moved to tears because not very many people, his disciples included, fully understood what his struggle was.  Few there were who profoundly comprehended his crusade for truth, justice and peace.  I am sure you know this public figure:  I refer to Jesus of Galilee.

 

This afternoon, I wish to lift up Jun Lozada’s tears… not Jun Lozada, the man, but his tears.  As I ask:  What are Jun Lozada’s tears about, I realize that I am venturing into an interpretation of those tears for he may not have a similar perception.  Be that as it may, I want to say that…..

 

            I. Tears of Anger

 

First, Jun Lozada’s tears are tears of Anger.  Watching TV footages of him  whether at a Senate hearing or at a mass or at a public mobilization, one gets the impression that he is such a meek and mild person.  His smiling chinky eyes are what arrests you.  Even when he raises a clenched fist, he still has that cute grin on his face.  Incongruous but cute.  But you and I know that deep inside he seethes with anger.  He is angry about how he was mysteriously whisked away and taken on a “joy ride” upon his return from Hong Kong.  He is angry about the malicious questions and snide remarks regarding his credibility and relationships.  He is angry about the unabated death threats which have become ordinary fare for him and his family.  He is angry about government officials who are undeniably in the know about the scam but refuse to buckle down.  He is angry about the deliberate and intentional attempt to mask the truth and to obstruct transparency.  He is angry about the incorrigible persons in authority.  And he weeps because he is angry.

 

I want to say to you:  This country needs more angry people.  I have always claimed that the Christian Church must become a community of resistance.  We should never allow our anger to cool off.  The divine discontent and anger which is borne of our people’s hope for a better life must push us to resist.  As a community of resistance, we must refuse to continue to suffer the injustice, the inequality, the corruption and degradation that define our present social reality.

 

We are all too familiar with Jesus’ wrath against the corruption obtaining in the temple courtyard of his day.  As he overturned the tables of the money changers who were, by the way, agents and conduits of the high priests of the temple, he epitomized the Angry Christ who weeps over the oppression, violence and corruption of the ruling system.

 

Truth, Justice and Peace can be brought to fruition with our  tears of anger.

 

            II. Tears of Fear

 

Second, Jun Lozada’s tears are tears of Fear.  Many times he expressed how fearful he was of his life, of the safety of his family, of his wife’s capacity to cope with the harrowing episodes that unfold each day.  For sure, the undergirding motherly protection of Sr. Mary John Mananzan, the RGS sisters, and the other church people cannot altogether obliterate the fear.  At the end of the day, when he retires to his room, the nagging uncertainty and the doubts and the anticipation of what tomorrow will bring will haunt him and threaten never to leave.

 

I am aware that the Scripture is replete with admonitions of being unafraid.  Joshua was told to be strong and of good courage on the eve of his appointment as the leader of the Israelites when Moses retired.  The heavenly hosts told the shepherds to fear not.  At the tomb on resurrection morning, the messenger told the frightened women not to be afraid. 

 

But I want to say to you:  Fear is the harbinger of transformative action.  Drawing from my training and experience as a performer, I have always believed that it is only when one harbors a certain level of fear and anxiety that one puts on a good performance.  It is that degree of fear that pushes an actor or a singer to exert more effort toward his/her level best.

 

The dismal situation of society, our churches, our organizations and institutions must create in us a fear that if nothing changes, the succeeding generations will find themselves in worst circumstances.  In my pilgrimage as an activist church person, my conversion was partly propelled by a fear that one day my children would blame me for the quality of life they would experience if I could not place into their hands a Philippines that is much better than I found it.  I feared that I would be caught sleeping on the job.  I feared that all who came behind me might find me unfaithful… when the fire of my devotion could not light their way.  I feared that I would have no foot prints to leave behind.  And if so, what kind of life did I live?

 

I would like to think that this is what the Psalmist meant when he said that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10).  This is not the kind of fear that sends a person cringing and cowering on the ground.  This is not the kind of fear that immobilizes one, causing him/her to freeze.  It is a disconcerting feeling that something is remiss… nay, something is terribly wrong.  And that fear disturbs us… shakes us… jars us.  And wisdom dawns upon us as we begin to search for a profound understanding of the situation:  the three basic problems of the Philippines… the vision of the Filipino people… the forms of struggle to usher in that vision.

◄◄◄

 

It is only after we have reversed our circumstances of exploitation, poverty, corruption that our fears leave us.  But not until then.  Fear is an impetus for social reversal.

 

Truth, Justice and Peace can be brought to fruition with our tears of fear.

 

            III.   Tears of Accountability

 

This whole Jun Lozada episode is a study on social accountability.  Testimonies are made because people feel, rightly or wrongly, that truth must out.  In the early stages of the tedious investigation, we heard Jun Lozada say that he decided to tell it all because he loved this country…  it was his way of honoring his father who would never sacrifice the truth.  And he said that mouthful as tears rolled down his cheeks. 

 

There is a marked level of social accountability today.  We are beginning to see the student power come back, a phenomenon we have missed for some time.  And the church rites accompanying Jun Lozada in his sorties are evidences of the re-activation of the church sector.  Except for a few bishops, balance is no longer a sought after value.  Just as well….. because I firmly believe that balance (or worse, neutrality) does not make one socially accountable.

 

For me, to be socially accountable is to DO theology with and among the people.  It’s about time (and maybe, it is already long overdue) the church (and the academe) stopped believing in the Bible verse found in St. John 1:1 which says:  “In the beginning was the Word…”  That verse is responsible for the church people’s proclivity for words.  Words that turn into pastoral letters and public statements and press releases and books which, in turn gather dust in the libraries and archives.  It’s about time we lifted up John 1:14 more visibly:  “…and the Word became flesh and dwelt among the people.”  To me, it is intriguing that when Jesus was asked if he was indeed the Messiah, his seemingly unresponsive response was:  The lame walk, the blind see, the prisoners are released, and the gospel is being preached to the poor.  His ID revealed committed involvement and participation in the task of building a more just, free and compassionate society.  His credentials defined him as one who was doing things for people… one who was a part of people’s stories… one who believed that God is a verb (an action word), not a noun.

 

Truth, Justice and Peace can be brought to fruition with our tears of social accountability.

 

CONCLUDING STATEMENTS

 

For me, one inestimable lesson to be learned from Jun Lozada’s journey, is that truth cannot be contained.  In the resurrection account, the bureaucracy (a.k.a. high priests and religious leaders) believed they could hide the truth about the risen Lord, he who was the embodiment of truth itself.  They greased the soldiers’ palm with largess to keep the truth under wraps.  But on Easter morning, truth soared to freely embrace the skies.  That is why we are called to uphold the majesty of truth under any regime and in every circumstance.  Today, we are impelled to denounce falsehood because it is this predilection of the ruling elite… it is this propensity of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to maim the truth that decimates our people’s trust in their leaders.  When trust is lost, meaning and hope are diminished, if not eradicated.  When meaning and hope are gone, the people’s vision for tomorrow is dissipated.  Without a vision, the people perish.  And without the people, the church is nothing.  But even more than denouncing falsehood, we should be relentlessly working to remove the one who is the very source of all the lies and untruths.

 

Finally, Jun Lozada’s tears have gifted me with the discernment of possibility.  It is possible, I have realized, for a “probinsyanong Intsik” who just wanted to be secure, comfortable, and gainfully employed to rock the boat, disturb the calm, create waves for the sake of just and enduring peace by accurately naming what is evil in our society.  That, to me, is a conversion which marks the beginning of a journey, a destiny, and a task for our broken nation.  My prayer is that this journey – Jun Lozada’s journey – and the journeys you and I make will ever and always be with the struggling masses for they, and they alone, know what Truth, Justice and Peace are all about.

 

 

The writer, MS. SHARON ROSE JOY RUIZ-DUREMDES, is presently the Co-Chairperson of the National Ecumenical Peace Plattform. 

 

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