Earlier today, we chatted with our children and grandchildren online. I am very, very happy and overwhelmingly grateful for the provision of the Creator for my family. For this, I praise God and shout MERRY CHRISTMAS from my heart.
Along with many of my fellow workers, I’m praying and passionately contributing, even in our small ways, in the mega-work of advancing just-peace so that the same provision we’re enjoying will be experienced by the poorest of the poor among the people of this land, and of the world. It is during the Christmas Season when the gap between the rich and the poor become so visible. It is during these days of celebration that I’m prompted to pray to the Creator-Provider of all human beings that food, shelter, education, and all the basic needs and rights of all people would be enjoyed not only by some, but by all.
Why can’t I just forget about these issues and just enjoy Christmas 2014 like every body else?
:: Because I still see thousands of families in Mindanao who have been displaced by war and they have been forgotten by many of us. This is not just true in Mindanao. This is a global phenomenon and many of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ live life as if everything is normal! Rich Stearns reports that —
For the first time since World War II, the number of people forced to flee their homes has exceeded 50 million. In the Middle East, the situation is especially acute, with 12 million people displaced by conflict in Iraq and Syria, and 3.3 million refugees from Syria. Half of these people are children, the most vulnerable. They are often scarred for life because of the violence they have experienced and the trauma of being uprooted from their homes.
:: Because I cannot close my eyes and cover my ears as street dwellers, living in extreme poverty, approach me for coins every day. And there are millions of them in the Philippines and perhaps billions of them in this planet! We’re involved in inclusive growth initiatives. We’re involved in the advancement of social entrepreneurship. But at the end of the day, we bow our heads down in humility and bend our knees in prayer — submitting all our acts of love and mercy before God’s throne of grace. Every evening, our community are prompted to pray the Lord’s Prayer as we are reminded of our limitations.
So, please join me in praying for the people living on the streets as we remember a First Century Family in Palestine who experienced the hardships of being an intercontinental refugee in the context of the unjust socio-political dynamics between the Roman Empire and its colonies. That, according to one of my favorite theologians, was the family of Baby Jesus:
As our cities swell with immigrants, I’m reminded that Jesus was born in a borrowed barn in Asia and became an African refugee in Egypt, so the Christmas story is about an international migrant. Furthermore, a whole village full of baby boys died for Jesus before he had the opportunity to die for them on the cross. Surely this Jesus understands the pain of children who die for the sins of adults in our cities.
Ray Bakke, A Theology as Big as the City
:: Because thousands of families who have survived Haiyan and Hagupit are going to have Christmas without food, without shelter, and without livelihood. And the world seems to not care anymore. Whatever the explanation is, there are very few, to almost no response, to our call for help!
:: Finally, because I just turned 58 and became more aware that I have very limited time to worship God while living here on Planet Earth — by serving the People of God, by enjoying the creation, and by being a good steward of everything that have been entrusted to me. I’m getting old and I have not yet climbed the North Face of Mount Everest. I’m getting old and I haven’t visited all the Indigenous Peoples in their own ancestral domains. I’m getting old and the larger segment of the Church of Jesus Christ in this country is still being co-opted by Western cultural imperialism. I’m getting old and the Philippines is not yet liberated from American imperialism, bureaucrat capitalism, and all the evils of our society. I’m getting old and the voters are still voting for corrupt politicians. I’m getting old and there are still no viable alternative political party or group that authentically embodies good governance. I’m getting old and the poverty of our people is getting worse. I’m getting old and the richer are getting richer, while the poor are getting poorer.
Just before Christmas, I spent three days alone in my bedroom. Praying. Wrestling with God–so to speak. Crying. Expressing my anger and rebellion — disagreeing why the Divine allows the wicked ones to prosper and the righteous ones to suffer. In those most sacred moments, I was reminded of something that is so simple and such basic knowledge to our community — that more than just being helped, the poor needs to liberate themselves through radical, non-violent transformation.
Then I read a prayer by Hart Wiens, a fellow just-peace advocate:
“God, we thank you for becoming a person to be with us. We thank you for coming to become bound up with our liberation. May we continue to work for liberation not by helping, but by binding our lives with the oppressed. Amen.”
MAY OUR CHRISTMAS AND OUR NEW YEAR BE BOUND WITH THE LIBERATION OF OUR PEOPLE!