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Commentary

Grace beyond fear

Many nights ago, my wife and I visited the wake of a friend and fellow church worker. We arrived at the place alongside friends, relatives, neighbors and government officials. It was a horrible feeling lining up to two coffins: husband and wife felled by an assassin’s bullets. The village chapel was not enough for the flowers, prayers and mourners’ tears. It was a sad thing to see two good souls become victims of a cowardly act.

My friend was a lawyer, while her husband was an engineer. They were in a car when ambushed: The husband was shot in the head and instantly killed, the wife in the chest and pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. The assassins walked casually to their motorcycle parked nearby after the shooting, unafraid, their faces caught on CCTV. Killed around 6:30-7 p.m., the couple were on their way home from work. Their three children were left horrified, helpless and orphaned. Neighbors talked about their generosity; many regarded them as a model family. Authorities said the cause of death was still unknown but others said it was work-related.

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I texted my daughter when I arrived home but she didn’t reply. It was already 10:30 p.m. and she had not arrived from work yet. I told my wife, who was praying in our room, to call her after an hour. I switched on the TV to watch the late evening news. Fighting in Marawi between government troops and the Maute-IS group was at its height, with many casualties on both sides including civilians, Christians and Muslims. In other news, a family in Bulacan was massacred while the father was away working in the metropolis. The wife and her old mother were raped and killed, while the three young children were stabbed. There was also a report on a young female student who was murdered and raped in a taxi after midnight and another on three suspected drug addicts killed by men riding tandem at 2 a.m. on the streets of Mandaluyong.

In global news, in Qatar there was a political and diplomatic crisis happening. My son works at Qatar Airways and I was worried he would be affected by the situation. I wanted to talk to him through Skype but his line was busy. Then I remembered the speeding car in New York that hit pedestrians in March, killing three and wounding many. And it was only recently when many people died in a London concert because of a terrorist attack.

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The phone rang. It was my daughter who works as a nurse in Singapore. Her voice was full of life, she had good news. Her application as immigrant to the United States will be approved soon. She will be working there, known before as the land of milk and honey, but now as a place where terrorists dwell.

Suddenly I was afraid — for myself, for my family, for others. Danger is real; it’s in our midst. Martial law, the Islamic State, terrorism and drugs — they are signs of the times. Life is cheap, for a few thousand pesos or even less, for survival, maybe for fun. Life is precious, for an ideology, fanaticism and religion. I thought of soldiers in the war, their families, the criminals and civilians on the streets, the children, and the innocent. No one knows his or her fate and what lies ahead. Peace is elusive, safety is nowhere. I was really scared!

Then I remembered my father. “In times of trouble, never fear the unknown, trust the Divine,” he would tell me. “The only thing you can’t handle is the one yet to come. God knows everything.” Those words comforted me, but I felt guilty. I was too fearful, paranoid over all things. I should be brave instead, live simply, pursue justice, be generous, and pray unceasingly. Reflecting, I knew I have done these things, albeit not perfectly, but according to God’s will.

The doorbell rang; it was my daughter coming home from work. It was almost midnight. My wife came out of our room, having finished praying for our family. I knew she also prayed for the poor, for those who sow fear, and for those who lead. I went to bed peacefully, thanking God for His graces, ready for a new day.

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Mario D. Dalangin, 62, is a past grand knight of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Special Minister of the Eucharist and of Adoracion Nocturna Filipina at Fatima Parish, Las Piñas City.

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