The misery of the poor
THE bishops’ pastoral exhortation issued after their 117 plenary assembly held this July is replete with biblical references. In its 73 years of existence, this maybe the pastoral statement of the CBCP that has the most biblical quotations. And that maybe for a good reason because, as the statement says, “We do not fight our battles with guns and bullets. We do not seek protection from those who might wish to hard us by wearing bullet-proof vests, because the battles that we fight are spiritual.”
The backdrop of the pastoral statement is the present socio-political crisis the country in undergoing. Interestingly, the bishops’ statement subtly presents the country’s ills in a series of queries:
“Do we not hear the cry of poor slum-dwellers being jailed for “loitering”? Have they forgotten that for the homeless urban poor—the little alleys between their flimsy homes also serve as kitchens, bathrooms, recreation spaces, and playgrounds for their children? Have they forgotten that they live in tiny dwellings that are razed quickly to the ground when fire strikes, because they do not have proper roads? Do we not feel the sufferings of drug addicts who are labelled as “non-humans”, and are stigmatized as criminals when their names end up in the dreaded “drug watch lists”? Yes, we are aware of the sufferings of those who have been victimized by substance abusers, but can we not see them also as sick people who are struggling with a disease? Should we not rather look at them also as victims who are crying out for help? Are we to remain as bystanders when we hear of people being killed in cold blood by ruthless murderers who dispose of human lives like trash? Do we not realize that for every drug suspect killed, there is a widowed wife and there are orphaned children left behind—who could hardly even afford a decent burial for their loved ones? Do we not care when poor people’s homes are searched without warrants, or when drug suspects are arrested without warrants, or detained without charges?
“Do we not care about the misery of people charged of drug-related offenses and packed like sardines in extremely congested jails? Can we even bear the thought of seeing most of them languishing in jail, knowing that rehabilitation is what many of them need? Do we not hear of the sufferings of indigenous peoples who are displaced from their ancestral lands in order to give way to mining companies and dams? And how do we feel about communities that are forced to leave their homes for fear of being caught in the crossfire of conflicts between government troops and insurgents? How are we affected when our own troops die because of unceasing hostilities that have not been adequately addressed through peaceful dialogue?”
The bishops consider the persecution levelled against Church leaders by the President of the Republic as nothing compared to the worsening misery of the poor. This should be the real issue. It’s a “blasphemy” against the helpless children of God.