By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“The time will come when those who kill you will think that by doing this they are serving God.” — John 16:2
International Peace Day
September 21 is declared as International Peace Day. It is a day when people of various races or nationalities would call into remembrance our collective yearning for genuine and lasting peace. It is a day when people worldwide have to reflect and discern how we could ever realize that elusive peace which the world cannot give. Ironically, for us Filipinos September 21 rings another bell: it is for us a day of infamy when we were robbed of our national freedom and our country was placed under authoritarian rule for almost two decades.
Extrajudicial killing has been the order of the day since then even as the status quo tried to rid itself of any opposition to its abuse of power and authority. I thanked God that my Church – the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – at least its leadership, stood on the side of the victims of dictatorship, called for the lifting of Martial Law, and to put a stop to human rights violations and extra-judicial killings. Siding with the victims is not without a price to pay. Seeking for that genuine and lasting peace has been very costly, indeed. Many of our church workers and leaders have to pay even with their own life. The last of them is Rabenio Sungit.
Rabenio’s brutal death
The facts on Rabenio’s brutal death were e-mailed to me from our UCCP National Office. Details of the incident reveal that on September 5, 2011 at around 1:30pm, Rabenio Sungit was shot dead by an unidentified motorcycle riding man wearing bonnet using a .45 caliber pistol in the public market along Pagayona Street, Municipality of Quezon, Palawan Province. Rabinio was with his wife, Trinidad and son Rocky when the incident happened.
According to Trinidad, earlier that day, her family together with Rabenio and the children of Avenio “Abe” Sungit, (Rabenio’s brother) gathered at the UCCP local church in Quezon to receive the support from the UCCP National Office for the children of the Sungits. After the said meeting, they went to the market to buy some goods for the family. Trinidad, who was not far from Rabenio heard two gunshots and, in an instant, saw her husband fall to the ground. Trinidad saw the long-haired triggerman hurriedly leave the scene, using a motorcycle driven by another person. According to Rocky, he saw the perpetrators flee toward North.
Prior to the incident, Rabenio attended a Basic Human Rights Orientation Seminar in Puerto Princesa, Palawan organized by the UCCP South Luzon Jurisdiction. Trinidad and Winio (Rabenio’s brother) said that when Rabenio was still alive, they were frequently visited by elements from the Philippine Marines. Likewise, Rolbing, a nephew of Rabenio and chieftain of the Pelaw’an tribe, believed to be an informer of the military, was noticed to be always inquiring about the latter’s whereabouts.
Members of the family and the whole bereaved Pelaw’an indigenous tribal communities are seriously asking about the perpetrators of Rabenio’s killing and their motives in ending his life. According to them, the victim was known to be a simple and gentle person. He didn’t engage in vices like liquor drinking and gambling, but instead focused his energies on working daily to make ends meet for his family. He was a kind, just and respected figure—he was a leader of their community who stood up in defense of people’s rights. He championed the indigenous rights for ancestral lands against the encroachments of large-scale mining companies and other environmentally destructive projects.
Families and friends are further disturbed and angered by the incident, as this was not the first to happen in their family and tribal community. Rabenio’s elder brother, Abe Sungit, one of the Pelaw’an leaders, a known staunch opposition and organizer against destructive mining operations and human rights violations, was also a victim of extrajudicial killing. Their steadfast and active involvement in just social causes for their rights as indigenous peoples solicited ill-will from the military who tagged them as “leftists” or “communists.” Abe Sungit was shot dead also by unidentified motorcycle-riding men in 2005. The Sungits are still waiting for justice to be served if not in this world, surely by faith and hope in the world beyond.
In God’s Service
The Writer of the Gospel of John warned the Christians of his day. “The time will come,” he said, “when those who kill you will think that by doing this they are serving God” (John 16:2). “I have told you this so that you will not give up your faith” (v.1). The perpetrators of Rabenio’s untimely and brutal death or even that of his own elder brother Abe might be thinking that they are doing a “good job” in the service of God, or in the service of “peace,” or in the service of the powers-that-be. Indeed, this is the kind of peace that the world gives. It is neither genuine nor lasting. It is the kind of peace with the scepter and pangs of death. It is the peace of the cemetery.
On the other hand, genuine and lasting peace is a kind of peace based on justice and righteousness. This is the kind of peace that the Lord gives. This is the kind of peace that Jesus Christ our Lord lived and died for. This is the kind of peace that Rabenio and his brother Abe have also paid dearly with their own life, and which the world desperately needs. # nordis.net