The promotion of Church People’s Response expresses deep sadness and concern over the death of hundreds of our brothers and sisters and over the harsh devastation wrought by Typhoon “Pablo” on communities and the environment. Many of those affected are poor families who had been struggling every day to survive under substandard living conditions that have been made worse by natural and man-made calamities. We continue to offer our prayers and commitment in bringing much-needed support and immediate relief to lessen their agony and sufferings.
We also appeal to all the faithful to bring the message of solidarity by sharing their time and resources to alleviate the ill-effects of the calamities on the people of Mindanao. Through the efforts of concerned individuals and groups, rays of hope shine through the thick sheets of pain and sorrow that have dimmed the future of the disaster victims, even as they regain their strength to face the hardships and begin to rebuild.
Rebuilding, however, should not be limited to relief and rehabilitation. A thorough study and analysis must be done to explain the underlying reason of massive displacement and, worse, countless deaths caused by natural calamaties such as strong typhoons that hit the country hard almost every year. Many analysts blame climate change and the “hardheadedness” of the people at the grassroots level for their unfortunate fate.
Media reports and stories of people from Mindanao have long attested that poverty makes many people, especially the marginalized, more vulnerable to situations that lead to victimization. Economic injustice has been exacerbated by foreign-dominated and profit-oriented mining, land-use conversion, legal logging and the monocropping of vast tracts of land, all of which have caused ecological imbalance and plunder, resulting in unforgivable environmental destruction never before seen in our communities. In more than two years, the people have come to realize that the Aquino administration is set to continue the neoliberal economic policy that has made the few ruling elite amass profit at the expense of the people and environment.
It is for this urgent reality that people, the indigenous peoples of Mindanao, in particular, marched to Manila to share their stories and demand an immediate end to the history of injustice. The Aquino administration cannot simply dismiss the claims and demands of the Mindanao Manilakbayan. Even before Pablo wrought havoc on our nation, Mindanaoans have been appealing to the government to put a stop to large-scale mining and the killing of indigenous peoples and environmentalists.
As we mourn, pray for and share with Pablo’s victims, let us also listen to the cry of God’s creation as a whole.
Let us discern and stand to protect and defend the lives and dignity of our people and defend our environment, our patrimony.—NARDY SABINO, general secretary, Promotion of Church People’s Response, [email protected]