Staff members of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. and Coffee For Peace in Davao City pose for yearend photo shoot after our annual evaluation and planning last 22 December 2017. We missed June Rojo who was in Bukidnon Province; we also missed Twinkle Tala Bautista and Aiza Wanay Baluyan who were in Kalinga Province. Photo by Sihaya Ansibod, PBCI-ICT.

How do we celebrate Christmas in the midst of human sufferings around us?

We’re just recovering from Marawi War where more than a thousand died and more than a million people were displaced. Then Tropical Storm Vinta devastated us in the past few days with floods and landslides leaving 200+ dead. The humble home of one of the families in our community, Toto & Dak Balono, was almost wiped out totally by the flood brought by Vinta. Now, we’re watching the tail-end of a major fire — a known mall in the city — two blocks away from our home. 37 persons were missing and presumed dead by our city’s fire department.

While we are all safe at PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) and Coffee For Peace (CFP) family network, we grieve for the people in our land.

We are also saddened by the fact that the already extended Martial Law in Mindanao is further extended for one more year. Majority of us, Filipinos, do not approve of this. For those of us working in the field, there is serious concern that justice-and-peace advocates among the poor may be tagged as communists or terrorists in the midst of an on-going war between the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the communist New People’s Army (NPA). Last 04 December, 72 year-old Fr Marcelino Paez, a respected activist-priest, was shot dead “hours after he helped facilitate the release of a political prisoner” in their province.

Then there are the cries and deep lamentations of the many mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, and other loved-ones of those who were killed in the present War On Drugs wherein at least 12,000 people—including those allegedly killed by vigilantes—will be forever be in our nation’s psycho-spiritual conscience. Almost all of those thousands of people killed in this so-called war belong to the poorest of the poor.

As we watch the world around us during this Christmas Season, we have chosen to look through the lens of compassion—God’s compassion: “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.” (Lamentations 3:22)

A Bible dictionary defines compassion as “a form of love, aroused within us when we are confronted with those who suffer or are vulnerable. Compassion often produces action to alleviate the suffering, but sometimes geographical distances or lack of means prevent people from acting upon their compassionate feelings. Compassion is not a uniquely Christian response to suffering, even though Christians have unique reasons for nurturing their compassionate dispositions.”

The life and work of Jesus Christ is our unique reason to be compassionate: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

This biblical compassion, energized by the Holy Spirit, becomes our sustaining and regenerating strength to be patient, to persevere, to hope, and to continually work for justice-based peace in the midst of injustice and unpeace: “As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy.” (James 5:11)

As a community, we pray with Pope Francis as he concludes his 2017 Christmas Eve Homily“Moved by the joy of the gift, little Child of Bethlehem, we ask that your crying may shake us from our indifference and open our eyes to those who are suffering. May your tenderness awaken our sensitivity and recognize our call to see you in all those who arrive in our cities, in our histories, in our lives. May your revolutionary tenderness persuade us to feel our call to be agents of the hope and tenderness of our people.”

In the midst of our own woundedness while sharing with the people’s struggles around us, we greet you all with joyful and compassionate Christmas!

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