SHOUTING INTO THE SILENCE
by Fr. Shay Cullen
One of most important things for a happy meaningful life is to have a goal, a positive purpose that does good for others and for ourselves. It can be helping in the community, volunteering in a Fair Trade shop, supporting in a shelter for the homeless, or raising funds for a worthy cause.
Some people feel called to be involved with a campaign for peace and human rights and to make this a happier, more peaceful and forgiving world. Some set out to save the environment from destruction and degradation and to protect the planet and the people. Others are dedicated to protecting human rights and ending violence by non-violent means. That means doing all we can to bring about justice in the community.
That’s no easy task; there is so much injustice, inequality and unfairness that a situation can overwhelm us. That’s when we trust in the spirit of truth. When the powerful dominate the poor, it can be heartbreaking and depressing. In the Philippines, just a mere 40 families account for 76 percent of the growth of the gross domestic product (GDP). Just two families had a combined wealth of $13.6 billion, or equivalent to 6 percent of the Philippine economy. One percent of the population own or control 70% of the national wealth.
When we look at government figures, it shows that 25 million people struggle to survive in dire poverty and barely survive on about one US dollar ($1) a day. That is 6 percent of the Philippine population. Those in the next bracket are not much better off. This huge disparity in wealth is at the core of Philippine poverty and hardship. The ruling elite have arranged it all in their favour. So economic growth figures do not reflect any improvement in the lives of most Filipinos.
But with a strong belief that good can overcome evil, truth can vanquish lies and deceit, right can overcome wrong and life can overcome death, then many things are possible. That is the spirit of Pentecost, the power of the inner spirit of hope, compassion and integrity to change the world. This is the spirit that gives us the power to be prophetic. That means to have courage to speak out and denounce evil, wrongdoing, sexual exploitation of children and corruption. That spirit also gives hope and a belief that positive action can eventually bring about a more just society where people have enough for a life of dignity.
A modern prophetic voice that has inspired me over the years is that of Danny Smith who founded the Jubilee Campaign, a registered charity in the UK. Danny has been tirelessly working for human rights around the world since 1981 and almost single-handily campaigned with powerful effective results against many injustices.
His most successful campaigns saved children from the cruel abuse of sexual exploitation in the Philippines, he exposed and saved children that were left to die in cruel orphanages in China, he worked to release hundreds of children in prison in Brazil and Manila. In a powerful campaign in the UK, he exposed child sacrifices in Africa and in the UK and got strong political action to stop it. He inspired and supported many more great causes. These great stories and many more are told in a inspiring new book “Shouting into the Silence”, published by Lion.
We need to read about people like Danny Smith and his wonderful wife Joan and their family and their life’s work. They are committed to uplifting the dignity of all people. The book also has an intriguing life history of Danny that is truly fascinating, a family journey spanning continents. He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
Of the many prophetic and spiritual figures that I have worked with over the years, Danny has been one of the most dedicated and consistently effective in bringing about more justice and social change by political lobbying, media advocacy and public speaking and financially supporting the poor and needy people in the developing world. We need many more like Danny in this world; his book and story is inspiring.
However, the prophetic mission is fraught with difficulties and challenges. Enemies rise up filled with envy and jealousy and crush the good and the just. The book’s title “Shouting into the Silence”, refers to the closed hearts and minds and ears of many people in power who do not want to listen to the message, or hear the cry of the people for justice. They are closed to the suffering of the oppressed who are being driven off their land by the rich land grabbers.
There is a great silence that the prophetic voice tries to penetrate. Then there is the harsh opposition, the death threats, physical assaults and the assassination of the modern prophets. In the Philippines, the most recent has been Romeo Capalla, an advocate of justice for the farmers of Panay Island and a promoter of Fair Trade. Father Pops Tentorio, Italian PIME missionary, was also gunned down for taking a stand for the rights of the indigenous people in Mindanao. Father Rufus Halley, my classmate, an Irish missionary of the Columbans, brutally murdered for standing with the oppressed Muslim people in Mindanao and many many more social workers and human rights advocates.
The mission for justice is the greatest challenge, the most prophetic and the most dangerous. We all need the spirit of truth to dwell within us to enable us to endure to the end and break through the great silence that ignores injustice and abuse and keeps the poor in bondage. This is what we can overcome with the spirit of hope and power to love others more than ourselves. [email@example.com, http://www.preda.org]
(Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)