POSTSCRIPT / January 31, 2019 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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We sow violence, we'll all pay for it

VIOLENCE has been taking too many innocent lives. The explosions in places of worship in Jolo and Zamboanga this week are the latest manifestations of the culture of violence that misguided policies have been cultivating ironically in the name of peace and order.

We sow violence, we reap it. Who’ll pay for it? We all will.

The rash of violence with religious undertones shows that the imposition of martial law in the entire Mindanao has not been able to push back the widespread lawlessness in the very bailiwick of President Duterte.

With the failure of the political leadership to close the cultural divide where violence continues to fester, it may be time for religious elders in the various sects to come together and assert themselves in leading their common flock back to the road of brotherhood and peace.

We do not subscribe to the principle being peddled by the biggest power broker in town that religious leaders (especially Catholic prelates) should not meddle in temporal matters that should be the exclusive domain of politicians.

Our secular and spiritual elders have the responsibility to attend to the proper care and upbringing of the citizen — the total person. Total, because it is impossible, it is futile, to separate the needs of the body and his soul that are bound together till death.

The duality of the human person must be recognized by political leaders. This can help them craft policies and programs with holistic approaches to such social problems as the narcotics scourge, juvenile delinquency and the abuse of the environment.

Malacañang mouthpieces echoing the anti-church rhetoric of President Duterte have been indoctrinating the people – by twisting the concept of separation of Church and State – that religious leaders have no business speaking and acting outside the confines of the house of worship.

There is nothing as stupid, if we may borrow the term from President Duterte’s discourse on God, as believing and urging others to believe that religion or religiosity starts at the altar and ends at the church doors, and that prelates may preach only on faith and not on morals.

This is the same immoral split-view that big-time thieves in government use when pretending to look after the welfare of their constituents while plundering taxpayers’ money. More than a mandate under the Constitution, accountability comes from a higher moral code.

With violence and the smell of gunpowder thick in the air, it is time to remind ourselves of the basic fact that the human person is both body and soul, which should be nourished together. Take away the soul, the principle of life, and the person dies.

It seems that President Duterte wants the Church to keep out of people’s lives and thoughts, because he sees it as a serious threat. Like he does to other sectors seen as potential problems, he demonizes and intimidates the Church in the hope that it will retreat to a quiet corner.

The Church (a term used here to encompass all religious sects) will not retreat, if only because it has a higher moral obligation to look after the flock entrusted to it.

 CBCP to follow letter with action?

WE DO not know what to make of Catholic bishops suddenly asking for forgiveness for taking time to react to mounting attacks against the Church, much of it coming from the direction of Malacañang.

A clearer picture of what the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines meant in its pastoral letter released Monday will probably emerge when (if) their words are translated to action, possibly with mandated lay groups and other motivated sectors.

On the menacing culture of violence creeping over the land, will the bishops link up with religious leaders of other sects for common action?

Breaking their collective silence after a three-day assembly, the bishops said in their letter to the faithful titled “Conquering Evil with Good”:

“Forgive us for the length of time that it took us to find our collective voice… We too needed to be guided properly in prayer and discernment before we could guide you.”

The bishops said they have observed how the “culture of violence” has gradually swept the country, noting the explosions on Sunday at the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Jolo, Sulu, where dozens were killed and several others wounded.

Without mentioning the President, the bishops noted that they have been the object of “cruel words” piercing through the soul of the Church like “sharp daggers.” Some bishops have answered Duterte’s tirades, but this was the first time the CBCP spoke up as a group.

The CBCP said in its letter: “We have silently noted these painful instances with deep sorrow and prayed over them. We have taken our cue from Pope Francis who tells us that in some instances, ‘the best response is silence and prayer’.”

Duterte has not relented in his attacks on the Church and its prelates, hurling accusations of corruption and sexual misconduct. This is a common tactic he uses against his foes, who are put on the defensive because of their vulnerabilities.

This recalls “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone” in a near-stoning scene related in the Bible of a woman denounced by a crowd. Sometimes it works in modern-day Philippines where critics or potential enemies in politics, business and the media are terrorized into keeping quiet.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 31, 2019)

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