Thursday, September 28, 2006

Strengthening and Innovating Philippine Institutions

STRENGTHENING and innovating our Philippine institutions is a matter of renewing and transforming our Filipino communities and society. All institutions, governments as well as churches suffer from problems, crises and decline of some sorts. The scientist, Albert Einstein said: “The significant problems we face today cannot be solved at the same level of thinking we were at when we created them.” We will not solve our problems by insisting on doing the things we have been doing before, just because “that is the way we have been doing the things here.” We cannot change systems of government without first undergoing change in ourselves. As it has been well said: “If you are part of the problem, you are part of the solution.”
We do not wait for the future to come upon us. Rather we create the future and bring it to our present. We should not be satisfied with “cosmetic changes” or superficial changes, even if they appear good and make us popular. They are temporary. We need to do some “paradigm shift” or “value shift.” If we want dramatic or revolutionary transformation in the institution or organization, we need to start with our persons, we need to change our perspective, our mindset, our frame of reference, and operate with a new set of values.
In the CBCP’s January 29 Pastoral Statement, the Bishops said: the root of our debilitating situation (in the political, economic, social order) is the erosion of moral values. Its external manifestations are deceit and dishonesty, corruption, manipulation and a deadening preoccupation with narrow interests.” But the Bishops “also recognize that our situation is not one of utter darkness. We are encouraged and inspired to see so many good and decent Filipinos, of different faith traditions, working selflessly and sincerely to build up our nation. We see public servants struggling for integrity and the authentic reform of the corruption institutions they are part of…These people united by a vision of heroic citizenship, are reasons for hope, even in the midst of the political crisis we find ourselves in” (CBCP Renewing our Public Life through Moral Values, n. 7,8)
The Church in the Philippine has declared 2006 as a Year of Social Concern as our response to Pope Benedict XVI’s first Encyclical “Deus Caritas Est.” We pay special attention this year to the teaching, appropriation, and implementation of the social doctrine of the Church as contained in the Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church.
In our CBCP Pastoral Exhortation on Building a Civilization of Love, we invite ourselves and the Filipino people to a threefold program of action. First, we must commit ourselves in continuing to build character. “To build the future,” we said, “we need to deepen our sense of honesty and integrity, service and responsibility, stewardship and solidarity…Transforming persons from self-centeredness to the life of virtue and social responsibility remains our primary task and contribution to nation building.” Second, we must build capacity. Poverty is all over the land. Poverty is right our very noses. “Poverty is not only about not having but also of not being able. Poverty is also a question of capability. We have to empower those who are needy to construct a better future…We therefore commend our institutions that are at the service of the most vulnerable of our society. We commend programs such as Pondo Ng Pinoy, Gawad Kalinga, and Tabang Mindanaw for empowering people to participate in their own development and in continuing work of creation. Third, we must build community. We must not simply focus our interest on the good of the small groups, such as, my family, my town-mates, my province-mates, my party-mates, etc. Let us widen the horizon of our interest. “The spirituality of citizenship fosters a sense of patriotism and of being responsible for our country.” We must be active and constructive participants in social and political life. To build community in a country battered by various kinds of conflict is to promote solidarity, dialogue among different and even opposing sectors, towards peace.
To strengthen and renew our Philippine institutions, we must lead an advocacy for principle-centered social relationship. Let me just enumerate some ten principles through which we can bring about personal, social and political transformation in our country.

1. The Principal of Human Dignity. Whatever is the status of a person, rich or poor, educated or ignorant, saint or sinner, he must be respected as a human being and subject of human rights,
2. The Pro-Life Principle. While we promote the culture of life, we condemn the culture of death that encourages homicide, abortion and euthanasia, and presently the unresolved extra-judicial killings of journalists, militants and activists.
3. The Principle of Association. Through meaningful and value-based association, we foster social institutions as well as family stability. We need to be vigilant against the attacks on family morality and stability.
4. The Principle of Participation. Everyone has a right and duty to participate in the life of society. Through work we participate in God’s continuing creation. Let us be honest and just in whatever work we engage in.
5. The Principle for the Preferential Protection for the Poor. “The common good dictates that more attention must be given to the less fortunate members of society. Preferentially, we opt for the poor and marginalized of society” (PCP-II 312).
6. The Principle of Solidarity. We belong to one human family. Solidarity means reaching out beyond one’s family and social group to caring for those “outside,” because we belong to each other as the “Body of Christ.”
7. The Principle of Stewardship. We are caretakers not creators, managers not owners. The earth’s resources are leased or loaned to us. We have a moral responsibility to care for this earth in the name of the Owner-Creator.
8. The Principle of Subsidiarity. The people must be allowed to do what they can legitimately do at their level, especially so, if they are closest to the reality of the situation or the problem.
9. The Principle of Human Equality. We must treat out neighbor according to his or her rightful due in accordance with his or her innate and essential dignity, avoiding social and cultural discrimination in fundamental rights.
10. The Principle of the Common Good. We must support or create structures that can promote the just development of the human community through the cultivation of awareness, concern and sensitivity to the needs of others.

Only a principle-centered life, inspired by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, can bring about societal transformation, strengthen and renew our Philippine institutions. Essentially, according to Benedict XVI in “Deus Caritas Est,” it is conversion to God and our fellowmen in the “Community of Love.” Living according to these ten principles will characterize our relationships with one another. What will change the course of our country, worsened by massive poverty, political turmoil, moral corruption, scandalous inequality, is not wealth, power, prestige, politics, but conversion therefrom and a renewal of our public life through moral values.
In conclusion, let us take some guidance from prophetic theologians. Karla Rahner, one of the prophetic theologians in his time, more than 40 years ago, envisioning the Church of the future, facing the crisis of the Church in Europe, insisted that the members of the Church would have to be “mystics.” What did he mean? In a world of widespread secularism, consumer materialism, globalization and religious indifferentism, only those could survive in their faith who had a deep personal experience of God and who in their lives could make this experience accessible to a totally secularized world.
Another prophetic theologian, Segundo Galilea, 20 years ago, made a similar observation regarding the future of the Church in Latin America. “The ‘contemplative’ women or man today is the one who has an experience of God, who is capable of meeting God in history, in politics, in his brothers and sisters, and most fully in prayer. In the future you will no longer be a Christian without being a contemplative and you cannot be a contemplative without having an experience of Christ and his kingdom in history. In this sense, Christian contemplation will guarantee the survival of faith in a secularized or politicized world of the future” (Galilea, Following Jesus, 1981).
What do they want to say? In the task of strengthening and innovating Philippine institutions, we must open ourselves to God who lives in our passion. Opening ourselves to God, we do not turn our back on the suffering Filipinos. The closer we are to God, the closer we are to the voiceless multitude of wounded in our country. If we are not their voice, who are?

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