One of most important things for a happy, meaningful life is to have a goal, a positive purpose that is good for both others and ourselves. It can be helping in the community, volunteering in a Fair Trade shop, supporting a shelter for the homeless, or raising funds for a worthy cause.
But it is 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 per cent of the growth of the gross domestic product. Just two families have a combined wealth of US$13.6 billion ($105.74 billion), or equivalent to six per cent of the Philippine economy. One per cent of the population owns or controls 70 per cent of the national wealth.
When we look at government figures, they show that 25 million people struggle to survive in dire poverty and barely survive on about one US$1 ($7.70) a day. That is six per cent 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 the hope and 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 United Kingdom (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 sexual exploitation in The Philippines, he exposed and saved children that were left to die in orphanages in China. He worked to release hundreds of children in prison in Brazil and Manila.
In a powerful campaign, 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 stories are told in an inspiring new book, Shouting into the Silence, published by Lion.
We need to read about people like Smith and his family. They are committed to uplifting the dignity of all people.
Of the many prophetic and spiritual figures that I have worked with over the years, Smith has been one of the most dedicated and consistently effective people in bringing about more justice and social change through political lobbying.
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. Shouting into the Silencerefers to the closed hearts and ears of many people in power, who do not want to listen to the cry of the people for justice.
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 was also gunned down for taking a stand for the rights of the indigenous people in Mindanao.
Father Rufus Halley, my classmate, an Irish Columban, was murdered for standing with the poorest Muslim people in Mindanao.
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.
Father Shay Cullen