Sunday, May 24, 2009

Praying for killers, praying for ourselves

591 words. That's all it took the archbishop of Davao, Fernando Capalla, to open a new front in the ongoing controversy over the Davao Death Squad. Since February of this year, the church season of Lent, we Catholics in Davao City have been praying for our death squad, the - "hooded killers on motorbikes" - as it says in the prescribed prayer, called an Oratio Imperata. But not just for them, but for our part in it all, we pray,

"Most of all, Heavenly Father, our souls are wounded by our stark ignorance that we too are responsible for the existence and perpetuation of the systems that promote, condone and abet these social wounds in the soul and spirit of our people. For all these, Lord, we are deeply sorry and beg your mercy and forgiveness."

I go back and forth wondering as to whether this is more than just a cost-less church gimmick or a real effort at changing a terrible situation. Where is the action? Where are base communities organizin? Why are not my fellow Catholics and other Christians outraged?

But maybe prayer is the first step in bringing it into the conscience of the larger community of faithful. The church tends to work on a longer time frame, often much to the chagrin of impatient activists. But whether it works slow or fast, this prayer seems to be a necessary step. It is necessary in order to muster the spriritual energy and focus to confront systemic and pervasive injustice. Whatever actions or practical next steps occur, they will be stymied and discouraged unless we first take these steps in our soul to confront this reality. As the prayer states, "Make us overcome the evil in the system by the power of goodness in us all who are within the system, the goodness that is rooted in you alone." The reality of massive injustice must be matched by overwhelming goodness. Now I ask myself, what will I do about it?

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