Reflection by Fr Shay Cullen: For What Do They Live and Die?

Many people believe in some kind of ‘God’ that which they worship in their own way, which they make the priority of their actions. It can be money, power, wealth, property, prestige, drugs, alcohol, pleasure, possession, domination, violence, abuse, control. These are their ‘gods.’

They are not alone: they are members of a fraternity or a syndicate, a gang, a political clan, a military or police unit. They obey the code never to break the bond of silence. They will seldom spare anyone that stands in their way. Their ‘god’ is first over all others. They have fanatics to help them fulfil their desires.

There are those that desire little, content with their lot in life, indifferent to social evil. They have no serious purpose in life; they have no goal to serve others beyond themselves and family. They are the indifferent ‘godless’ who live in a state of apathy. The ruling elites encourage them in their mediocrity and unbelief.

There are those believing in the ‘God of wealth and prosperity.’ They are highly educated but driven to succeed in business or in a profession. They are driven to pursue success, social status, comfort and yet without commitment to change society and bring about social justice. They strive to be an elite. Their ‘God’ is themselves.

Then there are those like Neptali Morada. He believed in purpose, he desired goodness, he longed for a just society that would be free from oppression and exploitation of the vulnerable and the poor. He believed that change was possible even in a corrupt society ruled by a powerful elite.

He lived in hope and he, and many thousands of Filipinos like him, believe in the values of equality, justice and human dignity. He lived a life dedicated to these values. He was an active committed Christian. He lived out his belief and trust in Jesus of Nazareth and His teachings for he had found his ‘God.’ He believed in the ‘power of one’ united with many more.

I say, was, because Neptali Morada, is now dead. He was assassinated, shot dead by gunmen on 17 June 2019 in Naga city on his way to work.

He was a member of the United Evangelical Church of Christ, a former coordinator of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines and chairman of the Federation of Christian Youth in the Philippines. He was a man of faith.

He loved the truth, social justice, and spoke and worked for them. For this he was killed. The worshipers of other ‘gods’ could not allow him to live. His life and his ‘God’ were a challenge to their wrongdoing. Their ‘gods’ were opposed to his.

Nardy Sabino, general secretary of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, said the killing of Morada was allegedly part of a “state-sponsored campaign to silence dissent.”

Daniel Kenji Muramatsu, spokesman of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, condemned the “senseless killing.” Neptali was not the only human rights worker murdered in June. Ryan Hubilla, 22, and Nelly Bagasala, 69, was shot dead last 15 June in Sorsogon.

They too believed that if you pursue justice and goodness, you must act to help your neighbour to achieve a life of greater equality and peace.

Karapatan secretary-general Cristina Palabay said, “We have every reason to believe that those who killed them are military death squads.”

On 16 June, gunmen on motorbikes also shot Nonoy Palma, 57, a member of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines in Bukidnon province on the southern island of Mindanao.

Dennis Sequena, a community worker and labour organiser, was shot dead in Cavite province on 2 June. He believed in the rights of the citizens to a life of dignity.

He organised exploited workers, taught them their labour rights to get better working conditions and pay. He disturbed the system that rules and controls the poor and uses them to enrich their clan.

The sociologists and researchers say it seems that .0001 percent own 70 percent of the wealth in the Philippines. The rest of the 107 million must scramble for the leftovers. Many of the poorest of the poor eat “pagpag” to survive, the boiled scrapings of the restaurant dinner plates of the rich.

In 2015, statistics shows that 21.6 percent of the population lived below the poverty line. The Asian Development Bank says the causes are “low economic growth, a weak agricultural sector, increased population rates and a high volume of inequality.” This is changing but very slowly.

Statistics shows that around 3.6 million children from ages 5-17 are child laborers in the Philippines. Thousands of street children are jailed and abused, ignored by many local authorities (with some exceptions) that support the sex industry and jail children.

Human rights workers are an endangered species. There are many more killings of innocent people in this resource-rich country.

This is the Philippines- if one threatens the corrupt elite, they will eliminate that person. They know the “power of one” that is committed to the righteous “God,” for even one who believes in justice and equality can turn the world upside-down.

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