Week 1: Don’t blame God
To feel the pain and terrible evil that government corruption and the greed of rich loggers visit upon the poor of the Philippines, just imagine a million tons of rocks and mud burying you or your family. One minute you are meeting with neighbours then, in an instant, you are plunged into a dark dungeon of death.
Don’t blame God, Nature or Fortune. Blame those who cut the trees. The earth moved, the mountain shook and the rain-soaked soil had nothing to hold it back. The deep rooted trees had long been logged out. Nature had been raped, abused and left lying prone to typhoons.
Landslides kill hundreds of people every year in the Philippines as the direct result of uncontrolled logging and mining activities. Don’t blame an act of nature, a climatic event, or the hand of God. Blame rests with those who attain their greedy goals of abundant wealth and sumptuous living while the poor wallow in the mud slides.
Shay Cullen, written after the Guinsagon disaster in Leyte during February 2006 (Philippines)
Reflect: How important are trees in providing a life-giving environment?
Week 2: God’s heartache
While I was in Fiji it was distressing to see people in poverty. The hearts of parents must break to see children having limited education and few hopes for the future. It seems to me that this is God’s heartache as well. Having created a world that is able to feed all people and has abundant wealth, God must despair that we humans will ever be able to get beyond our greed and insecurity. When will we take the steps to care for our brothers and sisters who are exploited and often abused?
Jesus’ vision of the Kingdom of God on earth ‘as it is in heaven’ must be kept alive in us who follow him. When we see growing gaps between rich and poor in our own countries, let alone on a global scale, we might be tempted to give up. Without a strong faith in our God we will not be able to continue to strive to make the world a better place.
Trevor Trotter (Philippines, USA, Australia)
Reflect: What do the words of the ‘Our Father’ mean to us today?
Week 3: A living faith
On a recent return trip to Lima, I found a people of faith among the Peruvian poor who had moved onto reclaimed land in a Columban parish. This faith enabled many of them to take on ministries in their local community. Many were struggling to feed and raise a family, working in the local market, but they also visited the sick, led liturgies on Sundays, prayed with families who were bereaved, formed groups to support the elderly, took part in workshops to make craft goods to sell and raise funds, and so on. I was in Lima when the Columbans held a mission week. Parishioners travelled in their hundreds across Lima every evening to attend the meetings. There was a commitment and a sense of lived faith that is not just confined to going to Mass.
It is a witness that I am challenged by as I seek to engage with the local church here in England. There are feelings of despair over shortages of priests, and there is apathy in turning up for meetings. People are “too busy”.
Fiona Reader (Peru, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Britain)
Reflect: How far is it the case that Christians in the more affluent countries are often too busy to have a ‘living faith’?
Week 4: Unjust debt
What could be more urgent than the deaths every day of 19,000 children under the age of five because their countries are forced to give priority to paying off debts? I think this is where we have to be people of indignation, not letting politicians get away with their spins about concern for the poor. I sometimes think a new class of crimes against humanity should be drawn up for those people who force the poor of the world to pay their debts and in doing so, kill the people. This is a new form of crime against the human family, and I think that this is the language we need to be using.
When I was in the Philippines recently, I visited the island where I had been based and I saw the face of debt there. Children were dying right before my eyes. The hospital had no money. Why? Because there’s no budget. Why? Because the Philippines pays up to 40 percent of its budget on servicing its debts.
Brian Gore (Philippines, Australia)