Weekly Reflections: God of compassion


“God saw what they did: he saw that they had given up their wicked behaviour. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would.” — Jonah 3:10

Bombing Lumad schools

One of the most disturbing parts of the State of the Nation Address of President Duterte was his threat to bomb Lumad schools. This was due to the information presumably coming from the military establishment that these schools are communist schools. His threatening statement generated varied reactions from various sectors of our society. But the most heart-moving came from the Lumad themselves.

They wrote an open letter addressed to President Duterte, appealing to put an end to Martial Law in Mindanao, stop the militarization of Lumad schools, and remain faithful to his promises at the start of his presidency to be in solidarity with the Lumad people.

I would like to quote the Lumad people’s Open Letter as a whole. It is well-documented, but for brevity I omitted the notes and references.

An Open Letter to President Duterte

President Duterte,

We refuse to engage in a war of baseless accusations and fake news. As an institution of learning, we embody the value of truth as a foundation of our actions. Because of this, we choose to answer all your tirades with well-documented facts complete with the necessary references below.

1. Your camp told us “…Not to take your bomb threat literally, that it was only an exaggeration.” We have been attacked for the longest time by the state-funded Magahat-Bagani paramilitary group and the Armed Forces of the Philippines. On September 2015, our executive director, Emerito Samarca, and two tribal leaders, Dionel Campos and Datu Juvello Sinzo, were massacred right in front of our children. Immediately after that incident, the TRIFPSS tribal community school in Han-ayan was set on fire and our cooperative store was burned to the ground. Two months after, we lost our Agusan campus when it was intentionally set on fire at a time when AFP troops were on military operations.

Just recently, on July 6, 2017, a bomber plane circled above our communities for an hour in the middle of the night. This forced us to evacuate from our schools and communities in fear that we would be bombed.

Under your Martial Law, militarization has intensified in our communities.

Lumad history is inundated with brutal human rights abuses from state forces. To say that your threat was only “an exaggeration” is a blatant display of ignorance of our true conditions and the brutality of your soldiers.

2. Due to the heavy criticisms you received on your remarks about bombing Lumad schools, you clarified that you will only “bomb empty schools “. This is just because “we are operating without a license”.

We already released the documents that prove the legality of our existence.

Even more so, aside from being legally recognized as a fully operational institution of learning in the Philippines, we received several awards throughout the years for the kind of education we deliver to our students from the Department of Education itself.

In addition, it is clearly stated in Section 1, Article 14 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) that “Indigenous peoples have the right to establish and control their educational systems and institutions providing education in their own languages, in a manner appropriate to their cultural methods of teaching and learning”. ALCADEV is the initiative of the Lumad to provide education to their youth; hence, our operation is also validated by the consolidated body of 193 member countries including the Philippines.

Most importantly, no one has the right to bomb schools built through the blood and sweat of the Lumad people. They have been demanding for basic social services of which the government constantly failed to provide. Now that they have taken the initiative to provide education to their children, you threaten to destroy our schools.

3. During our dialogue on July 18, 2017, you showed us an intelligence report stating that “… We are teaching subversion, communism and to rebel against the government.” You and Malacañang reiterated this on Monday and yesterday.

These are all lies Mr. President. The curriculum we have adopted is based on the needs of our Lumad communities and how to best respond to these needs. What we aim to produce are well-rounded students that give back and serve their community and the country.

Our schools don’t need to teach the students how to hate the government. The unrelenting brutal attacks launched against the Lumad people by the government and its military, are doing a great job of teaching children to stand firm and fight back. For as long as this government spearheads, sponsors, and condones violence and oppression towards the most marginalized sector including the Lumad, society itself will push the people to rebel.

As far as our institutions are concerned, ALCADEV and TRIPFSS only aim to provide a well-rounded education to the Lumad people, to give them opportunities so they can contribute to their community and our country’s development. You used to know and understand all these. On September 15, 2015, you joined the Lumad people’s struggle to end militarization and called to stop Lumad killings.

Your recent pronouncements are a complete turnabout from the Duterte that met with Lumad leaders two years ago. It is disheartening how you easily turned your back on the very people you promised to be always in solidarity with. As the President of the Philippines you now have all the power, influence, and machinery at your disposal to improve our conditions.

We urge you, Mr. President, to re-evaluate your current stand and withdraw your statement about bombing our schools. We ask you to keep your men in check and stop the militarization of Lumad schools. Most of all, we call on you to end Martial Law because far from ensuring peace and order, it only intensifies the military attacks and harassments in our community. Instead of attacking us, we enjoin you to recognize, support, and protect our schools. Stay true to the promises you made and stand with the people whom you swore to serve at the start of your Presidency.

Story of Prophet Jonah

This reminds us of the story of Prophet Jonah in the Old Testament. God called Jonah and commissioned him to go and minister to the people of Nineveh, the capital city of the Assyrian Empire. But Jonah refused to go because for him God should completely destroy Nineveh because the people there were evil doers. Jonah wanted the people of Nineveh to be completely annihilated. Jonah’s sentiment to exact revenge against the Assyrians was understandable because they were the ones that destroyed the Kingdom of Israel and made the Kingdom of Judah their vassal kingdom.

But the writer of the Book of Jonah believed that God is a compassionate God, and that God’s compassion is not only for the Israelites but even for those whom the Israelites regarded as their enemies. Indeed, God is compassionate even for those whom the Israelites regarded as evil doers.

And so, God made a way for Jonah to go to Nineveh even if he refused to go. Jonah was forced to minister to the people of Nineveh, and they were saved from death and destruction, including the animals! “God saw what they did: he saw that they had given up their wicked behaviour. So he changed his mind and did not punish them as he had said he would” (Jonah 3:10).

Hence, we join the Lumad people in earnestly praying that God will make a way, like in the case of Prophet Jonah, to change the President’s heart of hatred into a heart of compassion for the Lumad people and other marginalized sectors of our society so that they may be saved from possible death and destruction in the hands of the President’s army. # nordis.net


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