23 Deccember 2013. While many of our fellow Filipinos in the Haiyan devastated areas are suffering, we decided to keep our Christmas celebration simple.
Frani Catua and Cres Eclevia prepared a modest but delicious food for the whole PeaceBuilders-Coffee for Peace community. Tyron Ortiz, Nenia Galanza, and Sherel Quider led in community singing of Christmas carols. David Quico and John Mel Sumatra led in a Christmas reflection and liturgy. Bennette Tenecio and Kriz Cruzado shared their insights as two of the most experienced consultants. Dann and Joji Pantoja expressed their appreciation to each member of the PBCI-CFP staff.
Dann greeted all staff, volunteers, board members, partners, and network of PBCI and CFP by sharing his Christmas message online:
We celebrate the birth of Jesus with much excitement, perhaps even more enthusiastic, as we think of the current journey of our people in the Philippines.
The first major message of the Christmas story was “Peace on Earth!” Why? Because the socio-historical context of the Christmas story was unpeace:
:: Roman Imperialism dictates that people should register in their home towns for the purpose of taxation and military statistics. That Jesus was born in a manger was a result of human injustice, redeemed in the Christmas story by the higher purposes of God.
:: The socio-political context of Jesus’ birth includes the oppressive Roman Empire manipulating the puppet kingdom of the corrupt Herodian Dynastry in collaboration with the religious institution and other power holders using patronage politics. The Wise Men used their wisdom to avoid the tricky and deadly diplomatic requirement of King Herod to track down the location of Joseph, Mary and the Baby Jesus.
How do we use wisdom to prevent the perpetuation of unjust and unpeaceful systems in our society? How do we use wisdom to advocate justice and peace in our own context?
The people who have been victims of unjust actions of patronage politicians and oligarchs in the Philippines would find a voice in the original Christmas story.
:: The story of Jesus’ birth includes the mass murder of babies as Herod’s death squads hunted the Baby Jesus.
Let’s pause in silence to remember those children.
Let’s also quiet our hearts to think about the many children in the most vulnerable parts of the world dying of easily-preventable diseases.
How do we teach our children to have the heart of Jesus for their fellow children during the Christmas Season?
:: The Baby Jesus and his parents were actually Palestinian refugees, running for their lives from Palestine to Egypt.
How many families in the world right now are fleeing for their lives?
How many families right now have been pushed out of their homes because of war in various remote villages in the Philippines?
How many families are pushed out of their homes in Western Mindanao because of post-war real estate development projects?
Inherent in the story of Christmas is the celebration of the fact that God is with us — Emmanu-El. This brings hope and peace to the people oppressed by a system of unpeace.
If this is the kind of celebration we’re celebrating, then we can really say that our Christmas celebration is In-God (en Theos) — thus, enthusiastic!
May we experience the Peace that Jesus brings. May your Christmas celebration be really enthusiastic!