Pope Francis: Let Us Dream

BREAKTHROUGH - Elfren S. Cruz - The Philippine Star

This is the column I was supposed to write last week. But when I heard the breaking news that Maria Ressa had won the Nobel Prize in the middle of my column writing, I had to change my topic to write about her award. I wrote because I was proud that a fellow Filipino had won the world’s most prestigious award.

Surprisingly, some Filipinos wrote that they felt she did not deserve the award. This could be the result of jealousy or resentment. However, this is not the first time we have descended into tribalism or even individualism. We seem to be a divisive group that lacks unity.

Pope Francis in his latest book LET US DREAM: The Path to a Better Future explores what this COVID crisis can teach us about how to handle upheavals of any kind, whether in our lives or the world at large.

He has three chapters in his book: A Time to See; A Time To Choose and A Time to Act. At the start of his third chapter, the pope began with a surprising yet very relevant topic.

He asks: “…what does it mean to be a people?” A people is held together by a collective memory treasured in history, custom, rites and other bonds. At the beginning of every story of a people is a quest for dignity and freedom, a history of solidarity and struggle. In times of struggle, a people comes to an awareness of its shared dignity.

Pope Francis warns that when the center “ …lives at the expense of its margins, people divide into competing tribes and the exploited and disrespected might burn with resentment at the injustices. Rather than thinking of ourselves as members of a people we have competition for dominance.”

The powerful will not look for what they can extract from this world and put nothing back. Indifference, egotism, complacency and deep divisions within society turn into violence. The people have lost awareness of itself and cease to believe in itself.

Sometimes great calamities awaken the people to its collective identity. Times of tribulation offer the possibility that what oppresses the people can be overthrown and a new age can begin. However, it is at these times that we also see false prophets who offer a false way to more divisions, more hatred and more corruption.

A desperate people can be prone to those false messages of hope and quick, easy solutions to deep problems. This pandemic has shown that there are people willing to confront the crisis. The concept of the Community Pantry was one such great idea. Slowly it has receded from our consciousness. I wonder how those who struggled to serve the people must feel.

A people is not the same as a country, a nation or a state. Pope Francis says: “The feeling of being a part of a people can only be recovered in the same way it was forged: in shared struggle and hardship. The people is always the fruit of a synthesis, of an encounter, of a fusion of disparate elements that generates a whole which is greater than the parts. A people may have profound disagreements and differences, but they can walk together inspired by shared goals and so create a future.” A people hears the call of a common destiny.

If we are to come out of this pandemic crisis better as a people we need to remember that as a people we have a shared destination. The pope said: “The pandemic has reminded us that no one is saved alone.” But this seems to have been forgotten by our so-called leaders and aspiring leaders. No one has been able to build solidarity among our people.  We have a society of competing interests fostered and encouraged by our leaders whose main interest is to protect themselves and their interests.

Pope Francis says: “We need politicians who burn with the mission to secure for their people the three Ls of Land, Lodging and Labor.

The goods and resources of the earth are meant for all. Fresh air, clean water and a diet are vital for local consumption. The pope says: “More lands need to be opened up to small holders growing food for local consumption. Our farms need to produce not just food but healthy soil and biodiversity.”

To restore dignity to our people is the next important area of concern. When our surroundings are chaotic, fragmented and saturated with noise and ugliness, it is hard to be happy or to speak of human dignity. It is time to look at our urban environment. We need green spaces, family friendly housing, quality public transport networks.

The pope says: “…despite the fact that they create value, workers are treated as the most expendable element of an enterprise, while some shareholders – with their narrow interest in maximizing profits – call the shots. This should be the common message this election – Land, Labor, Lodging. We need to add education and health care for all.

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October writing date: Oct. 23, 2-3 p.m. Young Writers’ Hangout on writing book reviews with Bebang Siy. Contact writethingsph@gmail.com.  0945.2273216

Email: elfrencruz@gmail.com

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