The First Week of Advent: there must be another way
Image: Pope Francis with a recovering drug addict, Rio de Janeiro, 24 July 2013 [Wikipedia]
“May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all.” -1 Thessalonians 3: 12
On a Sunday afternoon in October 2016, after Columban Fr. John Kennan had finished celebrating mass in a shantytown in Manila, a couple invited him to bless their house. “Filipinos will not sleep in a house where a murder has been committed until it has been blessed.” Fr. John heard from the couple that a police officer killed their brother as part of the Philippine government’s “war on drugs.”
At another house blessing, a widow told Fr. John about how her husband had been shot in front of their children. He had pleaded to be allowed to kiss his children goodbye, but his killers refused this request.
Both men were suspected of either being drug users or drug pushers. Most of the extrajudicial killings that were part of this war, including of these two men, took place in impoverished communities.
“Even when people surrender they are shot,” said Fr. John. But the “root cause of drug addiction is poverty. Many children cannot go to school, remain illiterate, can find no employment, and so become involved in the drug trade in order to survive. … They sniff glue and ‘shabu’ [a slang term for methamphetamine] to assuage the pangs of hunger because there are no concrete programs to address the problems of unemployment, inadequate housing, lack of subsidized food, and education for the poor.”
“There must be another way to deal with the drug menace.”
You can read Fr. John’s full story here.
Learn: Fr. John’s story is one illustration of how military might is promoted as a fix for social or humanitarian problems. Columban experience and history shows, however, that military might does not bring peace, but instead creates division, oppression, and a culture of violence. As a consequence, it is often people living in poverty who lose the most. As Fr. John pointed out, the Philippine government’s “war on drugs” did nothing to actually solve the root cause of drug addiction, which is poverty. Instead, it snuffed out life.
Learn more about the Columban perspective on militarism by reading our “Peace and Demilitarization” statement here.
To understand how the "war on drugs" fits into the larger picture in the Philippines, read this piece of reporting here.
Pray: The Bible, and especially the teachings and example of Jesus Christ, are deeply concerned with a nonviolent way of being: it provides us with a rich treasure-trove of prayerful wisdom and guidance on the issue. Using this resource, incorporate passages from scripture into your daily prayer life. We recommend using the reading technique known as lectio divina, a Benedictine way of meditating in which you read a particular verse multiple times, each time drawing deeper and deeper meaning from the passage.
Act: Working towards demilitarization requires active nonviolence from peacemakers and people of faith. “Want peace? Prepare for it!” Watch this webinar featuring a retired US diplomat on the kinds of actions you can take to encourage nonviolence.
This story was one of four in a series for Advent 2018, "Celebrating Advent with the Holy Innocents."
Links to the other Stories
- The Second Week of Advent: he was an innocent man
- The Third Week of Advent: desecrated for war
- The Fourth Week of Advent: glimmers of light