23 December 2016. The staff of PeaceBuilders Community, the CoffeeForPeace Shop, and the CoffeeForPeace Bistro celebrated Christmas 2016 together. The planning committee designed it to be the simpliest Christmas party since the founding of PBCI ten years ago. Unlike the previous years, there is no budget appropriation for this year’s Christmas event. All our Christmas party expenses were cheerfully donated by all community members and leaders from their own pockets.
This decision is based on our communal sensitivity to our current social context, economic adjustments, and spiritual reflection.
Social Context. Our nation is grieving. We grieve for the 6187 people killed in the ‘War On Drugs’ since 01 July 2016. 2138 of those were suspected drug personalities killed in police operations as of 23 December. And 4049 were victims of extrajudicial or vigilante-style killings as of 15 December. Majority of those who were killed are in the same economic status of the majority of our members at PBCI and partners at CFP.
We’re praying that our people would be able to go through a process of conversation about this War On Drugs that is not characterized by personality-based bashing. We’re praying that debates on this — ethically, morally, politically, legally — would be done with respect and listening attitude. For the supporters of President Rodrigo Duterte, we say: “Listen to the facts and be open to the redemptive criticism of our fellow Filipinos to make our governance more just and peaceful.” For the Duterte critics, we say: “Be careful not to be used by oppressive and exploitative global powers to misuse and coopt the cause of Human Rights to initiate ‘regime change’ against our government.”
We cannot celebrate the birth of Jesus and sing “Joy to the World” and declare “Peace on Earth” without thinking the unpeace and injustices in our society. We will dedicate some funds from our scarce resources to start a modest ministry focusing on the churches’ strategic and immediate response to this War On Drugs. We are now integrating this ministry into our Peace and Reconciliation training package.
Economic Adjustments. We are grateful to God for our international partners, especially Mennonite Church Canada. They have been very faithful in their financial, prayer, and communal support for the past 10 years. But the organizational and financial dynamics of most Canadian churches, including Mennonite Church Canada, is swiftly changing. Their financial support is decreasing and we feel this change especially in the context of our increasing work of nation-wide peace and reconciliation ministries. So, we are shifting gears financially. Coffee For Peace, Inc. have already absorbed the salaries of most of our staff at PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. These changes mean budget cuts and ‘tightening of our belts’ in many of our administrative expenses. The staff at the center affirmed that field expenses are priorities over home office expenses.
This development brings us face-to-face with the realities of accelerating our sustainability programs. By God’s grace, we will stand on our two feet — in the hands of God. We will continue to welcome resource-sharing with our international partners as a demonstration of our global solidarity with them. But we’ll make sure that our national operations will not depend on them. Instead, we will be inter-dependent with our global partners.
Spiritual Reflection. Our founders, Ama and Ina, have challenged us to think globally while acting locally. They shared with us what it means to be enthusiastic in the midst of life’s challenges. Here’s the Christmas message of our Ina and Ama:
WITH MUCH ENTHUSIASM, WE CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS 2016 WITH YOU
Dann & Joji Pantoja
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 is “Peace on Earth!” Why? Because the socio-historical context of the Christmas story was unpeace:
- Roman Imperialism dictated 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 Dynasty in collaboration with the religious institutions and other power holders using patronage politics. The Wise Men used their wisdom to avoid the tricky and deadly diplomatic requirement of King Herod against the Baby Jesus. 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 preventable diseases, and the many children who are suffering, and many who died because of the terrorism of US-led Western Powers using technologically-sophisticated warplanes, smart bombs, and state-financed mercenary troops in Iraq, Libya, Syria for the purpose of regime change. Let’s also think of the 6000+ who were killed in this ‘War On Drugs’ in the Philippines since 01 July 2016. How do we teach our children and family members to have the heart of Jesus for those families whose loved-ones were unjustly killed? How do we, Christian leaders, teach those who come to church this Christmas to pray for justice as we pray for joy and peace in this world?
- The Baby Jesus and his parents were actually Jewish-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 Palestinian families right now are being unjustly pushed out of their homes by the modern State of Israel? How many families right now have been pushed out of their homes because of war in various remote villages in Mindanao? How many families are pushed out of their homes in Mindanao because of exploitative and oppressive mining operations?
The celebration of Christmas must be a 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, en-Theos-siastic, or enthusiastic!
May we experience the just and liberating Peace that Jesus brings. May your Christmas celebration be really enthusiastic!
“Do not be dismayed
by the brokenness of the world.
All things break.
All things can be mended.
Not with time,
as they say,
but with intention.
The broken world awaits in darkness
for the light
that is you.”
~ L. R. Knost
So, let us share with you, in this two and a half minute video, our simple and hilarious Christmas Party 2016.
Merry Christmas to you all!