Tag Archive: politics


Breaking the Chain of Hate

AMDG

download1I read a book a few years ago which had a profound effect on me.  ‘Forgiveness – Breaking the Chain of Hate‘ by Michael Henderson looks at the lives of dozens of remarkable people of many nations and faiths who have been able to break the chain of hate through repentance and forgiveness.  They included survivors of the Burma Road, the Siberian Gulag and Nazi atrocities.   This for me is the key to life of Nelson Mandela which is being celebrated today.  One of the most eloquent testimonies has been Archbishop Desmond Tutu, you can watch it below, but for me he identifies this remarkable inner transformation that took place in prison. To my ears it is similar to the transformation that can happen in the silence of the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.   ‘The crucible of prison added a deep understanding of the human condition and a profound ability to emphasize ….. like a most precious diamond honed deep beneath the surface of the Earth – The Madiba who emerged from prison in 1990 was virtually flawless.  When you thing that he went to prison as an angry young man and he emerged as an icon of magnanimity and compassion‘.  The whole interview is below: the first few minutes are dynamite! 

Foodbanks – Hope & Scandal

AMDG

This is a scheduled blog – posted automatically – I’m on a silent retreat at the moment so will only be able to moderate or reply to comments at the end of next week 

 1376142163Here in Manchester – we are about to open the first student-run foodbank in the country.  We have been working with the Trussel Trust (TTT), a Christian charity who currently support the biggest network of foodbanks in the country.  The alarming rate of growth of foodbanks is a direct response to two conflicting trends in British life.  The growth of ‘food poverty’ : as globally food prices rise, energy prices rise, but locally wages stay still or decrease, those with a basic income are finding it harder and harder to put food on the table.  The second trend is the cutting of benefits, and the dismantling of a bloated welfare state.  With pressure on local agencies to withhold benefits for the slightest misdemeanour, those accustomed to relying on this are finding themselves in emergency situations, where they may have to wait a few weeks before any income resumes.   So foodbanks are popping up all over the place, often but not exclusively in churches – to provide short-term emergency assistance. 
Picture1The TT model that we are following,  provides a referral service, where those in crisis can be referred to us for food parcels by a variety of front-line agencies.  People don’t just walk-in off the streets, it is not a drop-in centre they must be referred with vouchers.  These are also limited to three per six months, so it is not creating dependency but rather providing an emergency – short term crisis service.  The vouchers also ensure that a sophisticated monitoring process can go on to find out the causes of these crises, and spot any patterns emerging.  It was interesting to see that TTT was able to identify a spike in demand during the summer holidays as free-school-dinners were not available to struggling families.  Present at yesterdays training day – here at the chaplaincy – were representatives from the council, the huge local hospital, schools, churches, sure-start centres,  job-centers, charities etc.  It was a an impressive kaleidoscope of civil society,  the ill-fated ‘Big-Society’.

download (2)The scandal of food-poverty in such a wealthy society – for me points more towards the breakdown of the extended family rather than free-market politics.  Like many post-industrial societies we are in a much-needed reform of the welfare state, but when the family is not there to pick up the pieces – more strain is put on civil-society as big-government withdraws.  However dirty politics also reared its head yesterday.  It turns out that the job-centres, who are enthusiastic referrers to food banks, at times verging on the irresponsible, using us an excuse to meet quotas, cut corners.  The job centres refuse to use the voucher scheme as sanctioned by TTT.  Why – because much of this food poverty is hidden – but the monitoring system TTT uses allows for the identification of the cause of the crisis and this is an embarrassment for the Dept of Work and Pensions (DWP).  On the voucher it is indicated why someone is in crisis, e.g sickness, benefit delays, domestic violence, debt etc.   It seems that although there was an agreement with TTT and DWP back in 2011, DWP have acted unilaterally and changed it – refusing to use TTT’s vouchers.  It may be that the TTT network is so extensive and successful now, but also they are so good at data gathering that this is embarrassing the government.  They are happy to dump people on the TTT, but not happy for statistics to get out about how the changes are effecting people – now that is Scandalous!

AMDG

Jim Murphy at Manchester Universities Catholic Chaplaincy

In Britain it is the Political Parties conference season.  The Labour party is just finishing its conference here in Manchester.  I was very struck with the Scottish MP Jim Murphy who took an hour out of his busy schedule yesterday to talk to the students here at the Catholic Chaplaincy. Currently the shadow defence minister, and heavily involved in the Labour Party policy review, it was great to have him opening our ‘Faith and Politics’ season.  The stock of politicians at the moment in the UK is quite low, especially after the expenses scandal a few years ago, when widespread corruption and greed was exposed. Having sat in on a Fringe event earlier on in the week, it is very clear that net-working and self-promotion seems to be rife at these conferences.  Sometimes the self promotion seems stronger that the desire to serve for the common good, and this is probably why the public attitude to politicians has become, sadly, so jaded.

When Jim Murphy arrived it was clear he had lost his voice.  It was a real strain to hear him speak.  He had had two breakfasts that morning.  He refused any money for the taxi fare – and spoke gently but with passion about how faith and politics can be complementary.  I was quite struck by him – he didn’t need to come and talk to 35 students in the Catholic Chaplaincy, I’m sure it has done nothing for his political profile, there were probably more prestigious and more high-profile events he could have attended.  But he was faithful to his booking, even though his voice was giving out.  We were able to give him some throat lozenges as a thankyou gift, ‘I’ll have to declare these’ he said grinning.  I was fortunate to be able to tell him afterwards, that he had done a great thing,  as these students – some aspiring politicians , many Catholic, others not, had been really encouraged by him coming, and speaking openly about the tensions of faith and religion.  He is a role model for them.  He looked genuinely taken aback when I said that.  If only we had more politicians like him.

 

AMDG

Now that a fairly hectic Welcome Week ( which I believe is the preferred term to Freshers Week!)  is drawing to a close, I feel that I am beginning to get my feet under the desk here in Manchester.  I have been hugely impressed by the students involved in the chaplaincy – their commitment, their talents, the passion they show when they talk about the community here. I keep on pinching myself about the great potential there is here.  One story that has amused me already was about a talk that my predecessor, Fr Ian Kelly, had organised. American Cardinal Raymond Burke came  to talk about the New Evangelisation.  400 attended, so the chaplaincy had to book the Whitworth Hall at the university to accommodate a big crowd. The caretaker whilst setting out extra chairs for the arriving guests, surprised at the numbers,  said to one of the students ‘Is this guy the Pope?’. It turned out that Alex Ferguson (United Manager), had been awarded an honorary doctorate the week before and they didn’t need the extra chairs. Well its a good sign that Cardinal Burke can draw a bigger crowd than Fergie!

Already the ‘Faith and Politics’ group has an impressive line up of speakers organised, with Shadow Defence Minister Jim Murphy coming in two weeks (Oct 3)  to talk about his Catholic faith.  A week later we will have Andy Burnham and Jeremy Lefroy coming.  Burnham has been a real key player in the Hillsborough campaign, so even though he is an Evertonian he will be made very welcome!  A friend was at wedding with his family recently and said how impressive it was to see them leave early the next morning to drive back across the country so they could get to mass as their local parish.  Later in November we are hoping to have Paul Goggins, Ivan Lewis, Lord Alton, John Battle and Christopher Lamb, all on the same night!  And then Faith and Politics will finish November with none other than the controversial George Galloway on the role of Faith in politics.   And that’s just Semester One!  So well done to Matthew and Eamon for organising that –  now we are trying to get speakers organised for the faith and Science group – any ideas or contacts let me know!

AMDG
There is a Filipino tradition of showing respect by raising the back of anothers hand and placing it on your forehead is called ‘Mano Po’ here. And it is very charming – once you get used to it.  When people find out you are a priest (the Jesuits very rarely wear clerical dress here) – they usually come and do mano po!  I was in a restaurant a month back and halfway through the meal the waitress asked if I was a priest having overheard my friends call me father – when I replied yes, ‘Mano po’ went on – quickly followed by the other waiters and even the chef came out!
Another surprising ‘mano-po’ moment was when I had knee surgery six weeks ago. As I was lying on the (undersized) trolley read to be wheeled into to the theater both surgeons came up to ask me for Mano Po.  Lying awkwardly on the trolley in my surgical gown, with a drip hanging out of my arm, I flapped my arms about giving ‘Mano po’.  Then the lead surgeon also asked me for a  blessing at which stage the machine started beeoing alarmingly – indicating my blood pressure had shot up to 200!!  I think behind my smiles I was quite unsettled that I was being asked to give him a blessing – surely the hospitals chaplain should have been their blessing me!
I think it is a beautiful tradition – and you often see the youngest in the family when they arrive acknowledging their grandparents and parents in such a fashion.  I think they maybe horrified if they saw how so many old people are treated in the West.  When staying with families I have often praised how strong the family is here in the Philippines but quite often although they agree – they also are quick to point that there can be a dark side too.  Too much pressure at times? Too much respect for certain authority? Perhaps…..
It is fascinating to see how high up the Power Distance Index the Philippines lies.  Developed by Dutch social psychologist Geert Hofstede this basically measures how much a country respects authority and values hirearchies. The Philippines has the 4th highest power distance index in the world at 94. Thats suprisingly higher than China (88) and many Arab countries (80)…. the UK (35) is well down.  Now to be fair there are many countries without a score so it is not yet a universal measure, but still quite revealing. (Top of the List = Malaysia, Bottom = Austria)
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 THE POWER DISTANCE INDEX (Source: www.clearlycultural.com)
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So how does that translate into behaviour? according to ClearlyCultural.com in a high power distance cultures the following may be observed:

. Those in authority openly demonstrate their rank.
. Subordinates are not given important work and expect clear guidance from above.
. Subordinates are expected to take the blame for things going wrong.
. The relationship between boss and subordinate is rarely close/personal.
. Politics is prone to totalitarianism.
. Class divisions within society are accepted.

So you can see how this could become dangerous in a strongly Catholic country like the Philippines.  It is precisely when the Church allows a clerical culture to thrive that people are attracted to church for the wrong reasons, for status rather than service.  To be fair among the Jesuits I have seen very little of this. Before I arrived I heard that some of the Bishops have a reputation of being prince-bishops but I have to say that each of the Bishops I have met have been very impressive. Archbishop Tagle – the new Archbishop of Manila, who works closely with the Jesuits here, especially in media work (click link) is talked of by some as a possible candidate to be the first Asian Pope.  I will certainly miss ‘Mano Po’ when I leave but I won’t miss being called ‘Father’ all the time…..

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AMDG

For me this has always been one of the key moments in the  Spiritual Exercises.  Towards the start of the Second Week – we have a meditation presented to us by Ignatius of two armies being assembled on a battlefield.  But this is a spiritual battle – in fact a battle that goes on within our hearts.   We have to choose whose standard to line up behind – Christs or The Enemy of Human Nature….. Each of the leaders gives their speech  : over to Ignatius.

To consider the discourse which the Enemy makes them, and how he tells them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to tempt with a longing for riches — as he is accustomed to do in most cases — that men may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then to vast pride. So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second, that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he draws on to all the other vices.

This is the strategy of the world – the cult of celebrity / conspicuous consumption / greed is good.  But consider how seductive it is, how powerful it is – how many of us are caught in a cycle of unhappiness because we feel entitled, we feel rage because its ‘unfair’ – the bankers making money from money, the rich avoiding tax …..  then there is the counter-cultural strategy of Christ who realised that paradoxically if you want to really life, you have to lose your life first – your attachments, your enslavement…..

Consider the discourse which Christ our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this expedition, recommending them to want to help all, by bringing them first to the highest spiritual poverty, and — if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose them — no less to actual poverty; the second is to be of contumely and contempt; because from these two things humility follows. So that there are to be three steps; the first, poverty against riches; the second, contumely or contempt against worldly honor; the third, humility against pride. And from these three steps let them induce to all the other virtues.

There are many studies now on ‘wellbeing’ that are starting to echo this – maybe not as radically as Ignatius.  Affluenza, by Oliver James talks of a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.  Have you noticed that the most joyful people in life are also the most grateful, generous, openhearted?  This is what lies behind the Logic of Christ the King – Brilliant!  But not easy to put into practice!  You can see why early on the temptation to escape the world – Desert Fathers – and then Monastic Life.  But Jesuits are called to be Contemplatives in Action – in the world but not of the world.

Please leave comments – but don’e expect an instant response – I won’t be on-line till December!  This was scheduled before I entered my month of silence! 

Parishioners and friends of slain missionary Fr. Fausto Tentorio line up to see his remains at the Notre Dame of Arakan, North Cotabato on Sunday, October 23. Fr. Tentorio was the school director. Photo by Ruby Thursday

Fr Fausto PIME (Pontifical Institute for Missions) was killed on Oct 17 by a man who shot him with 10 bullets.  On Oct 25 his remains were laid to rest beside the grave of Fr Favali, PIME  also murdered.  10,000 mourners joined the procession in a four km route.  Present were his brother, relatives and in-laws, Fr General of PIME, Italian Ambassador, 80 priests, three bishops and government officials. This is the Bishops homily at his funeral.

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Father Fausto disliked ceremonies; especially ceremonies that drew attention to himself. He was quite content to labor in relative obscurity as a priest for thirty years in North Cotabato, first in Columbio, and then in Arakan. But the attention Father Fausto managed to escape from in life, he must now endure in death.

In death, he is now called an environmentalist-priest, a human rights defender, the anti-mining activist, the protector of cultural minorities.

But there is a tendency, even by well-meaning souls, to enlarge the life of one who has met a high-profile death.

We do not have to boost to mythical proportions Fr. Fausto’s life in order to make sense of his tragic death. He should be remembered simply as a good and faithful priest, who loved his people, and sought to serve them as best as he could, even in the face of danger to his own life.

How did Fr. Fausto want to be remembered?

In his last will and testament, Fr. Fausto wished that his tombstone to contain the following: “You were told, O Man, what is good and what God requires of you: to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah)

That is what Fr. Fausto did. He showed mercy, especially to the least of God’s children among his parishioners, the lumad. He sought justice for them, when they were dispossessed of their land, when they were harassed by men with arms, when their own government seemed to abandon them. But doing that—even in a quiet and humble manner —can earn you enemies, enemies that go after even the kindest of men, like Jesus of Nazareth, whom Fr. Fausto followed all the way to Arakan.

And Fr. Fausto knew that.

Twenty-six years ago he saw what happened to Fr. Tulio Favali, PIME, who was gunned down by paramilitary assassins. He could have changed course then, packed up his bag, and head for a safer and kinder place on the missionary map. But he did not. He had fallen in love with his people.

In his last will and testament, he wrote this, in Bisayan, to his people:  “Your dream is My dream, Your struggle is my struggle. Therefore, You and I are one; companions in constructing the Kingdom of God.”

When his assailants felled him with bullets, Fr. Fausto was exactly where he chose to be—with his people. When he met death, Fr. Fausto was doing exactly what he had been praying for strength to continue doing: ministering to the people he now called his own. He would not have it any other way.

So it can be plainly said without a doubt, that Fr. Fausto’s death is nothing less than a fulfillment of what St. John says in the gospel: “Greater love than this no man has than he lay down his life for his friends (John 15:13).” Stripped of all editorializing, social commentary, and propaganda literature, Fr. Fausto’s death is simply an emulation, a following and imitation of Jesus’ own death on the cross.

And we gather here in this liturgy because we do not want to lose the essential meaning of Fr. Fausto’s death. More accurately, we are here to be caught up and enlivened by his death, now united with, and suffused by, the saving power of Jesus’ own crucifixion and death. And because Fr. Fausto faithfully began the pattern of the paschal mystery, some form of the resurrection for us will not be far behind. What will it be? We do not know.

But this we know. After Fr. Favali was killed 26 years ago, something like a resurrection followed and is now reflected in the number of priests of the Diocese. Fully one half of their number comes from the Tulunan-Mlang area where Fr. Favali met his martyrdom. So, even as we shed tears today for the loss of a well-loved priest in Fr. Fausto, we are not without hope for the kind of resurrection heaven has in store to surprise us.

Today, then, as we bring Fr. Fausto to his final resting place, we should say “thank you,” first, to his family for allowing him to come and stay with us, for giving him to us. His brother and his sister-in-law and nephews are here with us, all the way from Italy.

Second, we should thank the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions and all Fr. Fausto’s confreres. Their General Superior from Rome, the Very Reverend Father Gian Battista Zanchi, PIME and local superior, Reverend Father Gianni Re, PIME, are here with us.

It is said that the Colliseum of Rome, though outside Vatican City, is still considered as belonging to the Catholic Church for the earth on which it stands has been soaked by the blood of countless Christian martyrs who died there in the olden days. In a similar fashion, the local church of the Diocese of Kidapawan is like that. Long after the PIME Institute shall have deemed the Diocese no longer a mission area for its members to be sent to, we shall forever remain yours, for we are marked by the blood of Favali and Fausto, two of the finest missionaries the Institute has ever produced.

Our last word of thanks goes to Fr. Fausto who, though he lies there in silence, must be fidgeting in spirit, unable to wait for all this to end. So, I shall be brief.

“Fr. Fausto, rest in peace. Your labors have ended. With your prayers, we will take up and continue your work.”

+  Romulo de la Cruz, D.D.

Kidapawan City, Cotabato, Philippines

October 24, 2011, Feast of Anthony Mary Claret

AMDG

A supporter of murdered Italian missionary Fausto Tentorio becomes emotional as he lights a candle as other activists hold a banner demanding justice for the priest at the start of a nine-day candlelight protest in front of the Davao City Hall. (photo by Romy Elusfa, InterAksyon.com)

The strategy of the enemy according to St Ignatius  “He goes around to lay snares for people to seek to chain them. First to tempt them to covet riches that they more easily obtain the empty honors of this world and then come to overweening pride. The first step then, will be riches, the second; honor, the third; pride, these three steps lead to all other vices”  Spiritual Exercises Week 2, Fourth Day

There were 0ver 400 views of the previous post No Greater Love  about two recent ‘martyrs’  in the Phillipines, The Jesuit scholastic Richie Fernando and this weeks murdered missionary Fr Tentorio( (FT). So I suppose it would be good to update you on the situation with FT.  It is important to stress that there is an investigation underway and there has been no formal allegations made. However following it in the Phillipino press from Manila, everyone in Mindanao, where the killing took place, seems to be making the same connections. It has also shown me how impressive the media is over here, free and forthright at times – but at a cost.  Anyway below in the form of bulletpoints are what I have gleaned so far.

  • Agreement seems to be that FT was killed by a professional hitman, implying powerful enemies
  • Extrajudicial Killings‘ is a major problem in the Phillipines, which led to Freedom House changing the countries status from ‘Free’ to ‘partially Free’ in  2008, a relegation that still applies
  • The Committee to Protect Journalists claim that the Phillipines is the third most dangerous country to be a journalist after Iraq and Somalia
  • FT was campaigning against the open-pit mining (Tampakan Project) proposed by a company called Sagittarius Mines (SMI)
  • The project claims that it will exploit the worlds largest untapped gold/copper seam
  • The Dioceses of Marbel, Digos and Kidapawan  are currently coordinating efforts to stop SMI from getting its Environmental  Compliance Certificate to operate its Tampakan Project
  • In their annual report they claimed to have contributed P2.5 billion to the Philippine economy last year, and paid P399 million in taxes and fees.
  • Workers from the mining company are regularly attacked and sometimes killed by the communist ‘New People’s Army’
  • In this climate, companies create politically sanctioned  agreements with the military to have ‘private armies’ protect their interests,
  •  According to Clemente Bautista of NGO Kalikasan, FT was already threatened by elements of the Bagani paramilitary group under the 73rd Infantry Brigade
  • Xstrata Copper owns 62.5 percent of the controlling equity at Sagittarius Mines and are based in Switzerland

Fr Tentorio had pointed to a particular mahogany tree among the hundreds he had planted at the back of the convent in the 1980s, as the one that would be used for his coffin when he dies

Fr Tentorio will be buried on Wednesday.  What is clear is that there is a culture of impunity in the Phillipines that allows the politically well connected to literally get away with murder.  As another Jesuit pointed out to me over dinner – Extra-Judicial Killings is a term usually used for the assasination of ‘criminals’ – It is not clear what Fr Tentorios Crime was. From what I can gather, he opposed irresponsible mining practices,  especially the plans of Sagittarius Mines Inc. to open-pit mine the minerals on the lands of the indigenous people of the Dioceses.

The second part of St Ignatius meditation of the Spiritual Exercises is as follows – Christ our Lord, the Lord of all the world, chooses so many persons, apostles, disciples and sends them throughout the whole world …….  there are three steps. The first poverty, opposed to riches, the second scorn or contempt, opposed to worldly honor, the third humility, opposed to pride. From these three steps Christ leads them to all virtues
LDS

No greater love…..

Advocate for the rights of indigenous people

AMDG      The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church… (Tertullian)

Father Fausto Tentorio was killed yesterday morning, just minutes after celebrating Mass in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, as he was leaving to meet with the other priests of the diocese, at the bishop’s house. According to eyewitnesses, his murderer, with the sense of security that belongs to those who have powerful patrons, approached him and shot him twice in the head. Then he calmly left on his motorcycle, his face covered by a helmet. An autopsy report said he was shot eight times.

According to Asia News – he was a priest commited and loved by his parishoners.  Long pastoral visits by motorbike, by car or on horseback to visit the most isolated tribal groups, sleeping on a mat on the floor, eating the poor things of the natives to build a church where being foreign or local does not create unfair exclusion or differences; also a commitment to the education of children and adults.

Mindanao has long been an active area of both radical Muslim groups and the rump of the Communist groups that fought Marcos.  Kidnappings are common here.  However in this case there is no evidence that Fausto was killed by either groups, in fact the The Moro Islamic Liberation Front condemned the killing, calling it a sign of degeneration of morality and spirituality in the country. News agency UCA News reported town councilor Leonardo Reovoca  said Father Tentorio had been an active law and order campaigner in Arakan and recently was appointed as head of a civilian anti-crime task force in the town. “I am a witness to Father Tentorio’s strong stance against mining and other projects which are not sustainable and would harm and affect the indigenous peoples, in particular,” he said.

I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan

Yesterday we also remembered the 15th anniversary of the death of Richie Fernando.  A young Filipino Jesuit working in Cambodia as a teacher in a technical school for the handicapped, often landmine victims. Among Richie’s students was Sarom, a sixteen-year-old boy who was a victim of a landmine.  He wanted to finish his studies there but he was asked to leave by the school authorities for his disruptive attitude. According to Richie, Sarom was tricky but he still had a place for him in his heart. On October 17, 1996, Sarom came to the school for a meeting. Angered, he suddenly reached into a bag he was carrying, pulled out a grenade, and began to move towards a classroom full of students. Richie came up behind Sarom and grabbed him, he accidentally dropped the grenade and in a flash, Richie was dead.

Four days before he died, Richie wrote to a friend in the Philippines, “I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan …I am confident that God never forgets his people: our disabled brothers and sisters. And I am glad that God has been using me to make sure that our brothers and sisters know this fact. I am convinced that this is my vocation.” Shocked by what he had caused, Sarom sat in his jail cell and mourned too. In March 1997, Mr. and Mrs. Fernando wrote to Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, asking for pardon for Sarom; somehow, someone had to stop the violence. Sarom had not wanted to kill Richie. “Richie ate rice with me,” he said. “He was my friend.”

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