Pope Francis’ recent visit to the Philippines served as an inspiration and a re-awakening of faith! His presence, his composure, his smiles, his waving to the crowd, his kissing of babies, his words even in broken English — touched and energized the lives of millions of Filipino’s who braved heavy rains and even a typhoon to see and hear him.
Central to his message was the caring for the poor. The highlight was his trip to Tacloban City, which underscored his desire to be in solidarity with the survivors of Super Typhoon “Yolanda”, and who continue to experience social injustice and lack of basic assistance. They have lost their loved ones and their homes, not to mention how they were traumatized by such a climate catastrophe! Now climate change has become another social problem that affects everyone but especially the poor and marginalized. This is the crucial reason why the Pope is calling it a “moral imperative” to ensure social and also climate justice for the present and future generations.
During his visit, the Pope commended Filipinos for their strength, faith and resilience in the face of natural disasters. He was right to say that we are courageous and resourceful survivors, not mere victims.
What can we as Chiro Movement do to show our solidarity with our deprived brothers and sisters? We know that the perpetrators of these problems are the big polluters, the transnational companies, the capitalist industries coddled by politicians, financial Institutions…..but even if we can do little to change this situation, we cannot remain passive onlookers or spectators of this cruel reality unfolding before our very eyes. That would be very un-Chiro and unworthy of the values and principles we stand for.
Although we seldom encounter extreme cases of poverty or indigence in our parishes or schools, we see or meet them on the streets, on our way to school or when we commute or travel. Even when we view images about this miserable situation, we don’t give much thought about them because anyway, we are not in their situation. But if we just pause for a while, we cannot imagine how they can manage and go through life and survive.
Poverty is very destructive! It steals away a person’s self-worth or self-esteem and can drive him to curse himself and even God. The feeling of shame, worthlessness and humiliation overrules especially when one is unable to pay his bills or begs for a living. To be rejected in many ways or denied because of poverty can be very painful. This condition leaves deep wounds which greatly and intensely affect the dignity of the person.
Chiro would like to give back that hope to our deprived young people! We may not be able to solve this gigantic social problem, but we believe that through our simple Chiro ways and methods we can at least reduce the degree of their agony. It is our common concern and commitment in Chiro not to exclude anybody, neither the poorest nor the weakest. We nurture the development of a caring attitude for children and young people coming from impoverished and depressed areas. Exclusion and discrimination are practices we dispel from young people so they can grow in loving concern for others. This motivation is guided and inspired by our Chiro roots – the Chiro started during the Industrial Revolution of the last Century when the growing cities of Europe were filled with poor laborers seeking work and employment. To help the children of these poor workers from the hinterlands, the Church organized in their parishes Sunday schools for them…..from these social beginnings grew Chiro and we would like to continue this great undertaking through your commitment, to the youth of this beautiful country.
Happy Easter in advance!
Fr. Gerry Bouckaert, CICM