Along with the millions of rural peasants and urban poor suffering from the system that oppresses them, I express my lamentations and my anger with the killing of Randall Echanis and Zara Alvarez. These are two of the many justice and peace activists slain in the past few years. I cry justice for them all. As a faith-based peace-and-justice field worker committed to active nonviolence, I will continue to help lead our community to fulfill our calling and to do our tasks in the midst of these challenges.
Activists are not terrorists
Last 10 August 2020, Randall “Randy” Echanis’ lifeless body was found in an apartment in Quezon City at around 0135 PHT. Echanis, 72, chaired the Anakpawis party-list and was a peace consultant for the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). He was found dead with stab wounds along with Louie Tagapia, his apartment mate. The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) reported that he was made to suffer before he was eventually killed by his assailants. He was laid to rest last 17 August 2020.
Last 17 August 2020 at around 1845 PHT, a 39-year old human rights worker, Zara Alvarez, was gunned down in Bacolod City. She was among the 600 persons tagged as “terrorists” by the Department of Justice last February 2018. Zara is a mother of a 13-year old girl. She was laid to rest in her hometown at Cadiz City last 26 August. More than 300 people mourned with her family at the Sto Nino Parish Church who also joined the funeral march to the Cadiz City public cemetery.
I and my team may have differences with Ka Randy and Zara in our approach towards radical change. But we share their compassion for the poor, their love for the people, and their concern for the sustainable stewardship of our land.
Crying out to the God of Justice
My heart resonates with this cry of an ancient prophet before the Creator:
“How long, Lord,
must I call for help,
but you do not listen?
Or cry out to you, ‘Violence!’
but you do not save?
Why do you make me look at injustice?
Why do you tolerate wrongdoing?
Destruction and violence are before me;
there is strife, and conflict abounds.
Therefore the law is paralyzed,
and justice never prevails.
The wicked hem in the righteous,
so that justice is perverted.”
(Prophet Habakkuk, 7th Century BCE)
Praying for this Republic
I don’t give much significant loyalty to a nation-state. Yes, I love this land. Yes, I love the people of this land. Yes, I will serve the people of this land with the limited time, talents, and treasures entrusted to me by the Creator. But I won’t get into conscious or subconscious state-idolatry or worship of a nation-state.I pray for a nonviolent dismantling of a Republic that is based on a foreign, Western concept of a nation-state that had been violently imposed upon us.
I pray that this Republic would be transformed into a system that truly serves the people based on who we are as children of this land—reflecting our worldview, our identity, our indigenous value systems, and our awareness of stewardship of the land.
Carry on with our integrated strategy
All of our responses can be packed as a whole within our integrated framework for peace-building. PBCI and CFP will seek to continue our various roles, characterized by a Christ-like servant leadership, in each PAR Community.
God willing, the PAR Communities in all the provinces of the Philippines would advance as a Peace and Reconciliation Movement with an integrated framework for peace-building, who are organized in partnership with various parts of the People of God, who are mobilized to do ministries of justice and peace in the name of Jesus—The Prince of Peace, and who will lovingly serve all the peoples of our land unconditionally regardless of religion, ethnicity, or political ideology, to the end that our land will experience holistic, radical transformation!
PBCI will serve each PAR Community to be equipped in spiritually-energized social discernment and analysis.
1. We will serve each PAR Community by equipping them with certain spiritual discernment skills and social analytical tools to help them understand the issues causing the crises they are facing in their particular province. By having a clear discernment and analysis of their situation, they can make relevant and effective crisis intervention.
2. We will encourage them to look beyond their current crises and to envision a future when there is genuine peace and reconciliation in their particular province. This vision is characterized by the kind of social structures and relationships they would desire. Such long term vision will help them discern the root causes of the crises they are facing and will also help them look through the taken-for-granted facades of social realities that keep the cycle or recurrence of their crises.
3. We will walk with them, in each ‘level of response’ and through ‘the time frame of activity,’ as they move from their crises to their desired change. We will offer how our understanding of shalom transformation (spiritual, psycho-social, socio-political, and economic-ecological) would guide their journey towards their desired future.
By God’s grace, we will faithfully pursue our long-term path towards genuine peace and reconciliation.
May this vision be counted as one of the many prayers for the transformation of our beloved country. May God bring genuine peace and reconciliation among our people and in our land!