Weekly Reflections: Listening to people’s cry


“Listen to the cry of the people, and they will respect you as a leader.” — I Kings 12:7 (Paraphrased)

Marawi Crisis

The Marawi Crisis is still going on. Actually, armed conflict in Mindanao is not something new; it has been there through all these years, although sometimes it’s lying low. Perhaps, the cure applied to resolve it has been ineffective or no serious attempt to really put a stop to it. Now, we see once again human faces of fears and uncertainties, even as thousands of civilians flee from their homes in order not to be caught in the crossfire. But even then, being displaced from their own communities, not able to work for survival, and children cannot go to school, are forms of sufferings that poor people have to bear.

Indeed, the people themselves are used as collateral damage in this senseless war of Filipinos against their fellow Filipinos! The Marawi Crisis seems to be just the tip of an iceberg or mere indicator of a deeper problem not taken seriously by the powers-that-be.

Roots of conflict

Any effective cure of an ailment, physical or social, is largely dependent upon the correct analysis or diagnosis. What are the roots of this conflict? Some say it is religious, but then Muslims, Christians or Lumads are all victims of this war. Others say it is banditry and terrorism, but then why do these so-called “bandits” and “terrorists” have to distribute the spoils of ransom to the people in the community?

The many years of economic neglect, injustice, corruption, and warlord-ism in Mindanao are structural problems that cannot be resolved through military action. Militarization may even worsen the situation rather than resolving the conflict. If we are to believe what some are saying that certain areas in Mindanao have to be cleared with Muslim rebels because of the rich oil and mineral deposits in these areas; then, we have a more serious problem than it may seem. This boils down to the issue of injustice against our Muslim brothers and sisters. And unless this issue is addressed adequately, no amount of military action could ever resolve the conflict.

Division of a kingdom

The bloody conflict in Mindanao is no different from the experience of Israel as a nation shortly after the death of King Solomon as recorded in the Bible (I Kings 12). His son Rehoboam succeeded him to the throne. Then, the people from the North, who were victims of King Solomon’s oppressive policies, came to him with two important requests: to lower taxes and to stop the implementation of the forced labor policy.

Rehoboam told the people to return after three days. He asked the advice of his older advisers, and they told him, “Listen to the cry of the people and they will respect you as a leader” (I King 12:7). The truth of this piece of wisdom had been proven by previous leadership in Israel. But the King listened more to the advice of his younger advisers who told him to raise taxes and to implement the forced labor policy even more.

Consequently, people from the North withdrew their support to the Davidic Dynasty, and the Kingdom was divided. Indeed, if people are suffering and you add more burdens for them to carry, this becomes the root of unrest and rebellion that would lead to community disintegration. Countless revolutions throughout history would bear testimony to this fact. This is an important lesson in history that today’s leaders should not ignore.

Listening to people’s cry

Listening to people’s cry is the very character of God. It is interesting to note that God identifies with people’s cry. God said to Moses, “I have heard the people’s cry and I have come down to deliver them” (Ex. 3:7-8). A leader who listens to people’s cry is acting in accordance to God’s will and purpose, but a leader who ignores people’s cry is acting contrary to God even if he invokes God’s name.

The bloody conflict in Muslim Mindanao is a collective cry of people, Muslims and non-Muslims alike, to put a stop to the various forms of injustice that led to the bloody conflict. History tells us that militarization is never a solution to the problem of injustice. Military action would rather aggravate the problem and would lead to a cycle of violence that knows no end.

The problem of injustice can only be addressed by genuine political, economic, and social reforms that would effectively correct the social inequities and provide equal opportunities for people to develop themselves. It is by taking the people seriously, not just for propaganda or political purposes, and by helping develop themselves, that Mindanao will truly become the “Land of Promise”, for it promises life rather than death. # nordis.net


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