Week 1: Guarding a heritage
From the mountainous spine of the Zamboanga Peninsula in the Philippines you can see two coasts where the land rolls down to the sea. The Subanen tribal people say the land was given to them by God and they have a responsibility to guard this heritage for future generations. It is not that they are unwilling to share it; they have accepted various waves of settlers over the centuries and moved into the mountains. Yet now they are threatened by large-scale mining and this will mean displacement, loss of livelihood and the end forever of their way of life. And what would the future hold for them if large-scale mining took place in their mountains? They would be casualties of “progress” and “development”.
Of course, large companies provide a service to the industrial world which demands cheap and plentiful mineral supplies. A part of the challenge must be to our consumer society to recycle minerals already extracted. The Subaanen offer us a sustainable model of living with the natural world that may teach our society valuable lessons.
Frank Nally, Ireland, Philippines, Britain
Reflect: Consider the minerals you make use of daily and reflect on the communities paying social and environmental costs associated with their extraction.
Week 2: International solidarity
I watch volunteers from the parish here in the Philippines being busy preparing “pinuso” (rice wrapped in leaves) to feed the many poor who will be coming from the barrios for the fiesta of San Jose (Saint Joseph). The people are worried because six different mining companies have made applications covering a large area of their land in Midsalip on Mindanao island.
We take heart from the life of San Jose, poor and humble and upright, who in his silent acceptance and wonder at the mystery of the Incarnation gained courage and wisdom to care for the vulnerable sacred life placed in his charge. The people here take heart too from the realisation that they are not alone in their struggle to care for their lands entrusted to them by God. As they face threats, harassment, lies and hardship they are encouraged by international support, concern and prayer.
Sr Kathleen Melia, Philippines
Reflect: How can we show solidarity to poor communities in the Philippines and elsewhere who feel their way of life is under threat?
Week 3: Friendship
Look at the relationship between Jesus and his friends Lazarus, Martha and Mary. It must have been close and intimate because John says four times in Chapter 11 of his gospel that Jesus loved them. This is what relationship is about in a missionary commitment. It finds its roots in the depths of the Trinity itself, the divine community of persons loving each other. The missionary is sent out amongst the scattered to be friend, companion, guide: salt and light and leaven. The missionary is there for the life of the world.
Every time you cross a boundary to reach out to bring life, solidarity, new humanity, warmth and fraternity, be it at home, in the neighbourhood, in the school, at work, in your contacts with people of other faiths and cultures, with refugees, with the homeless, with the abused, you are responding to the Lord’s invitation to go out and make friends (disciples) of all peoples. Mission in this renewed understanding is about reaching out to others, wanting to call them friends.
Frank Regan, Peru, Britain
Reflect: How much effort do you make to establish new contacts and friends as part of your mission?
Week 4: Challenging patenting of life
Many people are sceptical about the motivation of the corporations that are promoting genetic engineering of food. They feel that it is driven not by a desire to help the poor but rather to increase the company’s profits. They worry particularly about the scramble to patent seeds, animals and living organisms. They believe that over a short period of time patenting will remove many life forms from the public commons where they have served humans and other creatures for millennia.
The possibility that a small number of multinational companies will control the seeds of the world’s staple crops, such as wheat, rice, corn and potatoes, is truly frightening. The food security of Third World countries could very easily be compromised if farmers have to buy patented seeds each year from agri-business companies. It would be the death knell for the 1,500 million subsistence farmers around the world if they were forced to buy patented seeds each year.
Sean McDonagh, Philippines, Ireland