It has been another wonderful week in the Philippines, learning and sharing with the people the love of God. Today marks my 21st birthday and i am glad to be celebrating that with the new community that i am a part of. This day helps remind me that indeed we are all part of the same family.
I remember almost a year ago i was involved in a debate with my colleagues at school about the real purpose of learning and doing all kinds of research. The longer the debate extended, the more people were adding to the group and we only realized it later that we were more than 20 people at 5am. It was a long debate about seeking the truth. The true meaning of life, our faith, science and all issues around us.
There were a lot of issues raised in our debate that still stick to my mind, and one colleague mentioned that his presence at the university was to know the truth about life. We all wondered and couldn’t help provide an answer if the courses he is taking would drive him towards that direction. Indeed he wasn’t alone in his quest for the true meaning of life, defining the purpose of human existence and all questions related to it. Some call them metaphysical questions and there has been a lot of materials written about it but still people keep on asking the same questions.
As i was going through my daily tasks as a missionary in the Philippines working with the urban poor communities, i asked myself, what exactly am i doing here. Am i here just to sympathize with them with their struggle for better living conditions or what does my presence really mean for these people. The questions couldn’t get an immediate answer but gradually i started realizing why i am here and the truth about my faith, mission service and the community that i am a part of. The first thing that i noted was the complexity of circumstances that have conditioned these people to poverty. The people don’t want to be poor but they have been conditioned in such a manner that they can’t easily find an option out of their challenges. The people were meant to believe that their poverty was due to ignorance of the government on their cases but little did these people realize that they were slowly alienating the locals from the institutions that are meant to serve them.
I also learnt that my presence is to help the community realize their circumstances and take actions that will move them out of the poor conditions that they are living in. These people don’t deserve to be poor and what can we do together to assist these people. And i always remind myself to be cautious of my actions so that i don’t lead these people to negative outcomes. At times when we claim to be of help to these people, it may not necessarily appear as such or lead to significant impact.
After deep reflection, i said to myself that there is need to tell people the truth or at least sit with them and reflect on their circumstances to identify the specific problems they have and how it can be addressed. I then thought of my political thought lecturer who kept on mentioning that truth is unavoidable and stubborn, you have to say it out regardless of the threats and challenges because that’s the only way you can move ahead. When i interacted with the people, we discovered that there has been a lot of success on secondary effects and not any significant undertaking to address the primary causes of the poverty and circumstances of these urban poor. For years the communities have thought that housing was their priority, but this was only a secondary concern, the primary concern was finding economic opportunities for these people to be involved in. Some have shelters but can’t live a good life because they have no jobs. It may seem rude to tell such truth but it’s necessary because that’s the only time when you start working on the causes. Never address the secondary effects for it will continue evolving till you lose the ability to handle the situation.
God has given us the ability to uncover the truth, the truth about the challenges that the world is facing, and when you discover the truth, don’t keep it unto yourself, share it and take action. At times we restrain ourselves from sharing our conviction with people we don’t want to hurt them, but God calls us to responsible action, we are challenged to find and amicable way of sharing this love with the people we live with everyday. Only a good friend will tell you the truth, so be a good friend to the world at any cost.
The truth can also be difficult to identify, we may have assumptions that we declare as truth but only prayer and learning will help us make it possible. We may be frustrated but that’s the only way we can move ahead.
Just a few days ago i joined a group of Christians from various denominations who were celebrating the life of a catholic priest who was killed a year ago for his support for the indigenous people in the Mindanao area. He was killed because he proved to be a threat to those in authority. Those are the extremes to which your personal conviction will lead to, but what is more important is to say the truth at any cost. It’s better to say and live the truth than hide it on the pretext of personal safety, that i consider hypocrisy and contribution to the misery of humanity.
My prayer is that God will help you uncover the truth behind all issues affecting us as individuals and communities at large. That is the only way we can truly be Christian and share the immense love of God. Let Peace and Grace be with you!