By Fr Peter Geremia
I just reached the age of 80, and I wrote a diary titled “Seeking God’s Kingdom of Justice and Peace”. Someone asked me, “When did you start seeking what you call the kingdom of justice and peace? Now that you are 80 years old, have you already reached justice and peace?
I started seeking justice and peace in a confused way when I first felt the call to be become a missionary. I grew up among the ruins of World War II and I imagined that I could hear the cries of all who were killed or wounded and orphaned in all wars all over the world.
As a missionary I landed in the Philippines in 1972. In the 1980’s I joined the movement of the GKK or BCC (Basic Christian Communities). We thought that the BCCs where a way of building God’s kingdom of justice and peace because people united not only for prayers but also to help one another in all their needs. From BCCs we expanded to Tribal and even Muslim communities organizing tri-people organizations where all kinds of people united in seeking justice and peace.
The people most interested in seeking justice and peace where the Poor, Deprived, Oppressed, Marginalized, Exploited and Struggling people (PDOMES). With them we discovered “Liberating Education”, the kind of education that helps the poor to discover that they can become free from the slavery of vices and all forms of oppression. With them we experienced the special joy of solidarity with the poor. We were surprised to see so many overcome the complex of hopelessness and passivity and dare to become involved in seeking justice and peace. Some became activists in rallies shouting their demands for justice and peace. Others were recruited to fight for justice and peace joining different armed groups in endless wars. Still others became activists in the movement of non-violence and many were killed in our BCCs and tri-people organizations, and also a couple of missionaries were killed because they shared the expectations of the poor, Father Tullio Favali and Father Fausto ‘Pops’ Tentorio who wrote in his last will, “Your dreams are my dreams, your struggles are my struggles, you and I are one in building God’s kingdom”
Jesus Christ was the first one who proposed to seek God’s kingdom of justice and peace. He said “Seek God’s kingdom and its justice and everything else will be granted to you” (Mt. 6:33). Jesus’ way of non-violence but of concrete solidarity by feeding the hungry, becoming Good Samaritans and sharing everything… can produce concrete justice and peace starting in families up to larger networks of solidarity.
Many joined this movement of solidarity. One special witness of justice and peace was Nonoy Lory Obal, a young lay person that grew up in our BCCs and became a moving force in our tri-people organizations. Nonoy could make all kinds of people dream of liberation from all forms of oppression or injustices and unpeace, she even challenged the oppressors to join the oppressed and the warmakers to become peacemakers. She was so excited about the All-Out Peace Movement, but suddenly her voice was silenced by cancer… But, we can still hear her song, like the Song of Mary,
“My heart sings of joy because I experience the saving power of the God of Mercy and Compassion… He scatters the proud and their plans, He overthrows the powerful from their thrones, He lifts up the oppressed, He feeds the hungry with plenty, but He sends away the rich with empty hands…”
Mary sings that God’s wave of mercy and compassion continues for all generations, continues to overthrow the powerful from their thrones and to lift up the oppressed, continues to feed the hungry and to send away the rich with empty hands… that’s how God shows His mercy, as He promised to Abraham and to all generations.
Can we pray with Mary that the plans of the proud be put to shame and the powerful be overthrown from their thrones? Can we pray to empower the oppressed and to lift them up from their oppression? Can we pray to provide enough food for the hungry and to send away the rich with empty stomachs? Can these expectations bring about justice and peace, or will the rich and the powerful object that God will never allow such revolutionary changes? Can we join those who are now uniting to implement such expectations or changes?
Are these only impossible dreams? After all Jesus and Mary, Pops and Nonoy and all the martyrs are all dead and we cannot see much justice and peace… Right now in the Philippines we are experiencing a return to Martial Law and Dictatorship with a regime that has no respect for God nor for the poor and their dreams. Killers are hunting poor drug suspects and Human Rights and Peace Advocates. Even some priests were killed and some bishops and foreign missionaries are threatened. This is a time for more Martyrs, while many are paralyzed by fear or indifference… Still there are also some who believe that all who sacrificed their lives seeking justice and peace are still alive, they live on in those who share their passion and determination to continue seeking justice and peace.
As long as there are people who are hungry and thirsty for justice and peace, as long as there are volunteers who sing Mary’s song and carry Jesus’s cross and pursue the dreams of the poor, and as long as there is a God of mercy and compassion who will continue building His Kingdom until injustice and unpeace will be no more, until the weapons of war will be transformed into farm tools, until the hungry will have plenty to eat, until enemies can be reconciled… then the impossible may become possible.
We may not understand how this can happen, but it may be happening without our noticing it. Jesus thought us to pray in the Our Father, “May Your Kingdom come… soon!” (Mt. 6:10).
By: Father Peter Geremia, PIME.