FOOD AND JUSTICE CONFERENCE A Biblico-theological Reflection by Fr. Peter Geremia


Food and justice BTR May 30, 2016



A Biblico-theological Reflection

Solidarity Action Group For Indigenous Peoples And Peasants


APRIL 01, 2016  Pope Francis’ Call To Prayer For Small Farmers:

“I thank you, small farmer. What you do is essential for the life of all. As a person, as a child of God, you deserve a decent life.

But I wonder: how is your work compensated?

This earth is a gift from God. It is not right to exploit it for the benefit of just a few, depriving the great majority of their rights and benefits.

Please consider adding your voice to mine in this prayer: that small farmers may receive just compensation for their invaluable work.”

APRIL 01, 2016  KIDAPAWAN RALLY: a cry from small farmers (indigenous peoples and peasants or IP-P). Expectations for just compensation, a matter of justice not only charity.

I saw them in Arakan streaming down from the hills, the poorest tribals and farmers. The organizers did not explain their plans… I was not invited. Then the news of barikada, an initial dialogue but no conclusion.

I was called to witness the dialogue between the governor and leaders of the rally… I crossed the barikada (barricade), I was welcomed both by the PNP (Philippine National Police) and the rallyists. Suddenly dialogue was aborted, they were given 5 minutes to disperse, then the commotion began: big policemen pushing small farmers… water cannons, some shouted “maligo ta, maligo ta! (let’s take a shower!)” then the stone throwing contest… warning shots, then volume fire…

The farmers running for their life in panic… at the gate of the Methodist compound I met Colonel Alex Tagum… the wounded were brought in, then we asked for ambulance, medics and media people came, I was shaking… Also some of our staff arrived, we collected the caldero (cooking pot) and bugas (rice) that was scattered around, also many bags. The farmers were afraid of being arrested, in the compound they are surrounded by PNP and AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines), one of the organizers sent a text “kung patyon ako, ibalik ang lawas ko sa pamilya ko… (if they kill me, please send my body back to my family.

Col. Tagum said, “I will not arrest you if you go home immediately…”

Eighty-two farmers and bystanders were arrested: those who could not run away, the wounded and the elderly and buntis (pregnant mothers), also 2 of our health workers who rushed from Arakan bringing medicines. The wounded were victims of illegal shooting, shouldn’t they have arrested those who shot them? No mercy, I felt their pain and the anguish of their families.

April 04, 2016 Prayer Rally: I prayed that while many were possessed by the spirit of violence during the violent dispersal, can we gradually become possessed by the spirit of reconciliation and of healing? Can this incident expose the plight of the farmers and touch the heart of many to pray with Pope Francis for just compensation?

I remember in 1992: I was arrested together with 21 farmers charged with robbery of 10,000 sacks of palay (unmilled rice), we were imprisoned in Isulan for 28 days. A very unsanitary smelly jail, most of the farmers got sick. We were released on bail and the case was dismissed after 1 year. The decision stated that what happened was “a matter of dire social need rather than a criminal act of robbery”. The decision was based on the old principle “Salus Populi Suprema Lex,” (Let the good of the people be the supreme law).

While in detention, I wrote a kind of poem which captures the picture of the farmers which is true even today:

“Farmers belong to the category of invisible people.
70 % of the Filipino people are farmers.
Now that I am detained with a group of farmers
I can see their faces more clearly.

Lean, hungry faces, burned by the sun…
Lean, wiry bodies, bent over by their burdens…
Hands and feet that look like farm tools,
not manicured decoration pieces.

Sad eyes reflecting season after season of toil…
Sighs of pain as their bodies are prey to all sorts of sickness,
worn out by malnutrition, tb, malaria, ulcers, rheumatism…
We can see their hungry faces and emaciated bodies,
thousands, millions of them:
Their families in huts, their wives like fading flowers,
their children like dying seedlings-
only some will survive

They feed the nation,
but are condemned to slow starvation
They perform the heaviest kind of work,
but they are called lazy
They know how to make mother earth productive,
they know the secrets of nature-
but they are called ignorant.
They love the elements of nature
and feel the presence of the spirits,
but they are considered less than human

They are a rainbow of natives of many different tribes,
proud Muslims and colonized Christians,
in them the treasures of the Filipino culture
and the deepest roots of the Filipino soul are buried.

Why are they considered only basura or fertilizer,
useful as long as they are exploited, then  discarded?
Their voices whisper many questions to us:
Why is it that the present price system robs them
of what is due to them?

Is this God’s will, or the will of evil gods?
The only true God of love is like a tender father or mother,
how can he allow the weakest children to be
Deprived of the necessities,
while the strongest waste so much?

At the end of my reflection I recalled the Song of Mary (Luke 1:46-56) “Ang puso ko’y nagpupuri sa Panginoon” (My soul magnifies the Lord) …

In the first part of the song, Mary experienced the mercy of God as Savior.

In the second part, she proclaims: The wave of mercy and compassion continues for all generations, continues to expose and oppose the plans of the proud, continues to overthrow the powerful from their thrones and to lift up the oppressed, continues to feed the hungry, ipabusog ang mga gutom, and to send the rich away with empty hands and empty stomachs… that’s how God shows His mercy, as He promised to Abraham and to all generations.

The song of Mary announces what to pray for together with Pope Francis: for just compensation, for justice and not only charity, for the kind of changes expected by the IP-P.

Can we pray with Mary that the plans of the proud be put to shame and the powerful be overthrown from their thrones and to lift up the oppressed? Aron ang mga gutom mabusog ug ang mga datu ipahawa nga walay dala? (So that the hungry be full and the rich sent away with nothing?) Sobra ba ang mga expectations of Mary? (Did Mary expect too much?) Can we join those who are now uniting to implement these expectation or changes?

Let us listen to Pope Francis’ sharing in Bolivia: TO THE POPULAR MOVEMENTS

He said, “Listen to the cry of those who are excluded and denied what is due to them, they are calling for “Tierra, Techo, Trabajo” (Land, Lodging, Labor).

Realize that we need change, we need to change the system that excludes the poor and destroys nature. This system is not sustainable, farmers cannot live with it, nor can workers or communities. The Earth, our sister Mother Earth, cannot stand this anymore. Replace the globalization of exclusion and indifference with the globalization of hope which is born in many countries and grows among the poor…

What can the most oppressed and exploited do? You can do so much, I dare say that the future humankind is mostly in your hands and your capacity to organize and launch creative alternatives in the daily search for the 3T, and also in provoking global changes. Don’t underestimate yourselves!”

Pope Francis concluded his long speech with this call to action:

The future of humanity does not lie solely in the hands of the great leaders, or the elite. It is fundamentally in the hands of the common people, in their ability to organize and also in the hands of those who can guide with humility and conviction this process of change.

I am with you. Let us together say from the heart:

No family without a house,
(Walay pamilya nga walay puluy-anan)
No farmer without land,
(Walay mag-uuma nga walay yuta)
No worker without rights,
(Walay mamumuo nga walay katungod)
No people without sovereignty,
(Walay katawhan nga walay soberenya)
No person without dignity,
(Walay tawo nga walay dignidad)
No child without childhood,
(Walay bata nga walay pagkabata)
No young people without a future,
(Walay kabatan-onan nga walay kaugmaon)
No old people without a venerable old age.
(Walay tigulang nga walay talahuron nga katigulangon)

Continue your struggle and please take good care of Mother Earth.

Believe me, I say this sincerely with all my heart: I pray for you, I pray with you, and I wish to request God our Father to accompany and bless you, to fill you with His love and to protect you on your way, granting to you in abundance that strength that empower you to stand up, and that strength is our hope, a hope that will not disappoint us. And please, I ask you to pray for me. And if someone among you cannot pray, with full respect I ask him to think well of me and to wish me well.

Sincere thanks,

Pope Francis

The call that Pope Francis repeats is to pray for the small farmers and to go to the poor, go to the PDOMES (Poor, Deprived, Oppressed, Marginalized, Exploited, and Struggling)!

He tells us to trust the poor, “The Pueblo Santo de Dios

To discover their values: the joy of their simple life, the joy in their solidarity and in their struggles, the joy in all initiatives of STP (Serve The People)…

That’s the dream of Jesus, the Kingdom of God on Earth, which is happening  in new liberated communities where sharing and respect, kaangayan (harmony) and justice and peace, mercy and compassion can be experienced. Start in the families that can be free from evil influences…An endless renewal…if we look all over the world, are there more simple people with basic values of caring for one another and for Mother Earth, or more abusador (abusive) or antisocial elements destroying the harmony of human relations and of nature???

Fr. Peter Geremia, PIME

May 30, 2016


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