“Martial Law. We are under Martial Law”
I was having my family visit when the Philippines Marawi crisis broke out. It was mandatory for all men from any public or private transportation vehicles to have themselves checked by the soldiers at the checkpoint area. My 10-year–old cousin understood why the men had to go down because of the so-called Marshall Law, even without understanding what it was all about. All that he knew was that there was a war and that the soldiers must be strict and seriously oversee the movements of every individual. He knew this event without fully comprehending the situation of how much this weighed on the lives of people.
When our vehicle was stopped recently by the on-duty soldier, I asked my cousin, “Why you did go down?” “I don’t have an Identification Card. They might say I am bad”, he replied. It was an innocent reply but full of a story to tell. What then lies ahead? Will this situation really end? It is all in the mind and knowledge of God yet the answer is in the hearts of men who know about love.
It is not an unusual episode in the lives of our many brothers and sisters in Mindanao, when some clearing operations must be done by the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) between some rebel groups. Red alerts in so many places and the advancement of checkpoints in some areas of the locality are not uncommon. The conflict of this second largest island of the country is deeply rooted between the minority group of Muslims amongst the indigenous community. Peace talks are ongoing from the government to some other existing factions namely MNLF (Moro National Liberation Front), MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), NPA (New People’s Army) and terrorist groups whose idealism is far beyond what we can think of, with all their principles of leadership like the Abu-Sayyaf and now the Maute group. The explosions of bombs, kidnappings and outbreak of war seems to have become part of the lives of the Mindanaoan. It has become an unending tale of war and many have shed their blood – and most of them are innocents.
Many religious men and women have suffered from this gibberish, this madness of selfishness and power to rule since then. Where is peace? Where is justice? How is our Faith? How then to console the Heart of Jesus in this unending drama of war where innocent children are the victims, as well as their future? This is the centuries–old misery of men. Where are the Holy labourers?
Saint Annibale once wrote:
“I will consider that the Church of Jesus Christ is the great field covered with crops: all the peoples of the world and the countless multitudes of souls of all social classes and conditions. I will consider that the most of these perish for lack of workers.”
The response to this can only be obedience to the command of Jesus from His Heart, that is, to PRAY for Holy labourers to work in His vineyard. The clash and strife in Marawi City calls each and every one of us to beg the Lord for a Holy worker because this is the most efficient, potent, unmatched and peerless antidote. They are in a plight where the children and poor are greatly affected and challenged in terms of their physical and material condition. They are spiritually purified as their faith is tested at this time by their distressing situation. How can they start and recover from the trauma of this violence if no one gives unselfish dedication of one’s service – a holy one, whether or not it be a leader.
Consider the soldiers who have fought fearlessly to protect the community and continuously in the battle to get Marawi back into the control of the government. They have left their own family and have placed their fate in the Hands of God. Come to think of a family without a Father. Their children are the harvest and the future labourers in the Church, who then will serve as their Father?
The Sacred Heart of Jesus cries out for unity. From His Heart flows mercy and He welcomes all back into His Heart. The crisis of the country which is currently being experienced in the Philippines is not new to anyone there. However, it affects not only a minority of people but all of us because we are living in one common home. We might not feel the heavy pain and suffering of this hostility that our Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters are experiencing. If we turn our back and say “it always has been a problem and there is no way out. It’s part of life” and do nothing – not even lift a single prayer – then Jesus’ command to “Love God and your neighbour” (Mark 12:30-31) is apparently worthless and the passage of the Gospel “…the harvest is great but the labourers are few. Pray therefore…” (Luke 10:2; Matthew 9:37) are merely words. This is not an invitation but a command to act. To work out these issues there is a medicament which comes from His Heart: PRAY for Holy labourers. This has been so from the beginning of time. Distance, race and culture matters not but our connection plays a vital role to console the Heart of Jesus. To act now is the best approach before it is too late. Together we beg the Lord of the Harvest:
“Send, O Lord,Holy Apostles into your Church …and send me!”