Wednesday, January 13, 2010
Jeepney Press January-February 2010 PAGE 18
Ni Yellowbelle Duaqui
Jesus Christ: The Refugee
Fresh from attending a conference on migration, I became interested as to how the religious point of view, particularly Christianity, can illumine this issue beyond the economic, sociological, political and demographic reasons provided to explain it. I’m sure Filipinos, especially the Christians and the migrants among us, would be intellectually interested to know more about migration and to understand it from a spiritual standpoint – particularly the Christian perspective.
I had a chance to chat with a Jesuit priest who presented a paper on refugees during the dinner hosted by the conference organizers. I asked him this question: Was Jesus Christ a refugee? Before I share what we have discussed, let us clarify first what we mean by “refugee.”
According to Article 1 of The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the key legal document defining who is a refugee, their rights and the legal obligation of states, a refugee is a person who "owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…" (www.unhcr.org)
In Search of Refuge
The latest data on refugees from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) is very alarming. It reveals that there are about 42 million forcibly displaced people all over the world at the end of 2008. In this 42 million individuals, 15.2 million are refugees based on UNHCR definition, 827,000 asylum-seekers (pending cases), and 26 million internally displaced persons (IDPs).
In 2008, UNHCR identified around 6.6 million stateless persons in 58 countries. But the UNHCR noted that the total number of stateless persons worldwide might be far higher, about 12 million people. It is important to note that women are girls represent, on the average, 47 percent of the refugees and asylum-seekers. Forty-four percent of the refugees and asylum-seekers are children (meaning they are below 18 years old).
Four fifths of the world’s refugees reside in developing countries. Pakistan is host to the largest number of refugees worldwide (1.8 million) in relation to its economic capacity, followed by the Syrian Arab Republic (1.1 million) and the Islamic Republic of Iran (980,000).
Almost half of all refugees identified by the UNHCR are Afghans and Iraqis. One out of four refugees in the world is from Afghanistan (2.8 million). Afghans have spread out in 69 different asylum countries. Iraqis are the second largest refugee group, with 1.9 million having sought refuge mainly in neighbouring countries.
Was Jesus a Refugee?
Refugees are strangers to the land where they are dislocated. The people in the societies where they settle look at them as a “foreigner.” The Catholic Church had always contemplated the image of Christ among people who move, including and especially the refugees (as Christ himself moved due to political persecution). “I was a stranger and you made me welcome,” says Mt 25:35.
If the experience of persecution leading to displacement will be used as a key indicator to identify a refugee, then Jesus Christ was one. Ever since his infanthood, Jesus Christ was a target of persecution. The first mortal to launch a massively organized persecution of the infant Jesus was King Herod, wary of a threat to his power posed by the birth of Jesus Christ, who was hailed to be the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One. This led to the flight to Egypt, where he was a foreigner.
The life history of Jesus Christ until his Crucifixion spoke of a series of moves from one community to another, preaching the Word of God to the local people. Jesus Christ was a man constantly on the move, going from one town or village to another, a man “who has nowhere to lay his head.” (Mt 8:20; Lk 9:58)
Mary, the mother of Jesus, can be also contemplated as a ‘living symbol of the women emigrant.” She gave birth to Jesus away from her native home and had to flee to Egypt to protect the infant Jesus from persecution. (Lk 2:1-7)
Christians, throughout the history of the establishment of Christianity, have suffered persecution like Jesus Christ. St. Stephen, who was the first Christian martyr who got stoned to death outside Jerusalem one year after the Crucifixion of Christ, preceded the long list of persecuted Christians in the early history of the Christian Church.
But despite the persecution, Christianity went on in history and continued to grow, beyond the rationalities of the Roman authorities and others who persecuted those who decided to embrace this faith.
When You Are Persecuted
Throughout history, people have been persecuted for their beliefs. In the perpetual struggle for power, it has been common practice for those who wield power to use force and cruelty to subdue opposition.
The best example given in the Bible as a response to persecution that will be “pleasing to God” was the one exemplified by David. He prayed to God for relief, strength and protection from his enemies, admitting his own weaknesses, but never responding in anger or seeking revenge. He placed his absolute trust on God for the outcome of his undertaking. He trusted God for the results. This is the true meaning of faith as a response to persecution.
When we are persecuted, and we question why God permits it to happen, it is best to keep in mind that it is always for our greater good.
It is instructive to hold on to God in times when we are tested, and it is during this time that we grow as Christians in leaps and bounds.
by Edward Labuguen
Nakalipas na naman ang isang taon sa buhay natin, at panibagong taon ang inuumpisahan nating tahakin. Salamat 2009, Welcome 2010! Marami sa atin ang nagiisip kung paano gawing mas maganda ang buhay sa taon na ito, at marami din siguro sa atin ang gumawa ng tinatawag na "new year's resolution." Alisin na ang mga hindi magandang kaugalian, mas makabuluhang pakikisama sa pamilya, ipon ng mas maraming pera, ayaw ng manigarilyo, magpapayat, mas maraming kaibigan, at marami pang iba. Yan ang karaniwan na sinasabi natin sa ating mga "resolutions", na kalimitan din ay nakakalimutan o hindi naman sinusunod.
Ang Bagong Taon ay napakagandang panahon na irepaso ang nakaraan, at pagplanuhan ang hinaharap. Para magawa natin ito ng mahusay ay kailangan ang tamang dedikasion. Hindi ko naman sinasabi na hindi maganda ang gumawa ng mga "new year's resolution" ngunit ang mahalaga, ay kung paano natin ito masusunod o maisasagawa. Ang buhay ay hindi lamang sa pangako, kailangang kumilos at gawin ang nararapat para masunod ang ating mga mithiin.
"If you are truly committed to achieving your new year's resolution you will forget about calling it a new year's resolution! It needs to be a constant living resolution that you are committed to achieving. This living resolution does not fade after January finishes, because it is alive and takes much more than a yearly review to survive."
Kailangan ng dedikasion sa bawat galaw, sa bawat pagpupunyagi para makamit ang mga bagay na minimithi natin, para sa ikakasaya at ikakaunlad ng buhay ng bawat isa sa atin. At sa pagtahak ng buhay na ito, hindi lingid sa atin na kadalasan, ay maraming sagabal na kailangan nating pagdaanan. Ang daloy ng tubig sa ilog, ay hindi palaging maalumanay, paminsan-minsan ay may mga alon na marahas, minsan naman ang tubig ay naihahampas sa mga batuhan, ngunit patuloy pa rin itong dumadaloy. "Life is full of pains, frustration, sadness, but it means that we continue to live, but life is finished when you quit!" At isama palagi sa ating buhay ang buhay na pananalig sa Maykapal na siyang kaagapay natin. Palakasin ang paniniwala sa Diyos, at dagdagan ang dasal. Huwag din nating kalimutan, na tayo ay patuloy na nabubuhay hindi lamang para sa sarili, para sa pamilya, kundi para sa lahat ng tao na ating nakakasalamuha. "An act of goodness that you do to your fellowmen can come back to you, or to someone that you love when you are not expecting it. If you do not see or feel this act of goodness returned, at least you have made a difference in this world, and in the end, isn't that what life is all about? Start gathering all the love there is on earth, or even in heaven, and start fitting them all into your heart."
Be unusual this 2010, and make your new year's resolution a living resolution that remains a part of your life! Mabuhay ang mga Pinoy sa Japan!