By REV. LUNA DINGAYAN
“I have seen the afflictions of my people. I have heard their cries… and therefore I have come down to deliver them from their slave drivers.” — Exodus 3:7-8
Second of five parts
(Excerpts from the public lecture I delivered at that National Deacons’ Conferences held at United Theological College in Sydney on 5 July 2012).
Struggle as praxis
Now, let us look at the praxis of this emerging people’s theology. The praxis of the theology of struggle is obviously the praxis of struggle. Struggle as a praxis has several important key elements to consider. First of all, it is concrete and historical. It defines the concrete historical experiences of the Filipino people in their continuous quest for a truly free, just and peaceful nation. Struggle in this case, therefore, is not just any kind of struggle. It must be understood as a collective struggle, ever conscious of its goal of giving birth to a new structure of human relationships that would embody the genuine aspirations of our people. A person in the struggle must be able to transcend his/her own individual and family interests for a greater national cause. The success of the struggle for genuine national freedom would largely depend on the willingness of people to sacrifice their individual and family interests for the sake of the common good. The failures of the Philippine Revolution of 1896 against Spanish Colonization and the EDSA Revolution of 1986 against the Martial Law regime testify to this fact. The leaders of these two great moments in Philippine struggles betrayed the people by departing from the common cause for which the struggle emerged.
At the heart of the struggle is a strong sense of self-denial. In short, the struggle is not simply political, economic, cultural or social. It is also spiritual and personal. It necessarily includes the freeing of the human spirit from selfishness and greed.
Struggle also involves a continuous conversion. The struggle for a genuine national freedom and sovereignty is definitely a human struggle. While struggle affirms the fact that human beings are bestowed by God with the ability to make their own history and to shape their own destiny as a people, it is not however blind to the fact that human beings have their own limitations. The struggle has a human face, so to speak. Definitely mistakes will be committed in the struggle. Some may depart from the people’s cause. Others may become traitors and collaborators, and like the Israelites in the wilderness, they may want to return to slavery. But nevertheless, participants in the process should always be open to the possibilities of conversion, of renewal and change.
Moreover, struggle also requires a great amount of hope, of faith and of love (cf. 1 Cor.13) without which the struggle would not last long. Hope gives people an assurance that the victory will surely come. Faith provides them with the courage to endure suffering. Love reminds them of the human community and the common cause for which they are struggling. Faith, hope, and love are abstract terminologies which may find meaning and significance when understood and practiced in the context of struggle. Indeed, faith that is not in the struggle is dead.
Finally, struggle also involves unwavering commitment to the people’s cause. As a matter of fact, in any movement for change or transformation, commitment is necessary. Endurance in the face of extreme difficulties and hardship in the struggle surely requires a strong commitment. Betrayal in the most trying situations is what happens when commitment is not deep. Without commitment in the struggle one will not be able to understand or appreciate the theology arising out of the struggle, for it is this deep commitment and involvement in the struggle that serves as a starting point for theological reflection.
Doing theology of struggle
To discover a more relevant and meaningful approach to theology in the context of the Philippines, we have to look into the composition of those actively involved in the struggle. As it is now experienced in my country, the struggle for a truly sovereign and democratic nation has become multi-sectoral and inter disciplinary. It involves not only the vast masses of peasant laborers and unskilled workers but also skilled and professional people. The conscientization programs conducted over the years have swelled the ranks of people whose consciousness is liberated and oriented towards a national cause.
An awareness of this composition means that the approach to a theology of struggle should also be interdisciplinary and multi-sectoral. This would mean that aside from church people, particularly theologians, other sectors of Philippine society such as farmers, workers, students, fisher folks, urban poor, indigenous peoples, professionals and others should also participate in the task of reflecting and practicing the faith that sustains and empowers people in the struggle. Also, aside from theologians, people from different disciplines—philosophers, teachers, sociologists, social scientists, anthropologists, historians, economists, political scientists, natural scientists, and other professionals—should also share their own perspectives on various theological realities. The Forum for Inter-disciplinary Endeavors and Studies (FIDES) referred to earlier was founded on these two basic theological principles.
A meaningful and relevant theology in the Philippines is done not by people who have nothing to do with the struggle. It is done by those who bear the marks of suffering in the struggle, by those who are conscious of the widespread poverty and injustice in our land and their root causes, and are militantly struggling not only to solve these predicaments, but also more importantly, trying to establish a just and humane social order. These are the doers of the theology of struggle. # nordis.net
Continued next week