Carvajal: Breaking our chains

Orlando P. Carvajal
·2 min read

“It is difficult to free fools from the chains they revere.”—Voltaire

It appears that Vice-Mayor Mike Rama’s “innovative” and “unconventional” moves for the secular portion of the Sinulog are not innovative and unconventional at all as claimed. He is merely cutting down on activities and confining them to one venue as a compromise with health protocols.

The same is true in the religious sector. The Catholic Church of Cebu is not innovating at all but simply minimizing traditional religious rituals the easier to comply with health protocols.

What this implies, and sadly, is that it will be business as usual in both sectors once the pandemic is behind us. Both will go back to their traditional ways of celebrating the Sinulog and Sto. Niño’s feast after the pandemic.

This is unfortunate. The pandemic has amplified the vulnerabilities of the poor who are the most badly hit by it. In so doing it has presented us with the opportunity to discern how we got there and how to change our ways so we do not go back to the scandalous place of poverty, powerlessness and ignorance on the part of a huge slice of a predominantly Christian (or is it merely Christianist?) population.

There’s a lot about our faith we should be thankful for. But we cannot be blind to that part of it that enchains us. It is the part that makes us accept incompetent and corrupt leaders as God’s representatives and the problems of inequality they cause as God’s will and, consequently, something that requires divine intervention to solve.

Spanish friars converted us to Christianity and gave us a most convenient mechanism for coping with the harshness of life under Spanish rule. Unfortunately, today it is still the poor Filipino’s coping mechanism as it is preached, taught, and practiced almost exactly as the friars preached, taught and practiced it.

By the devotional way we still practice our Catholic religion, we continue to accept our dire situation as God’s will. We act as if it is God’s choice, not ours, to change this ungodly situation.

I don’t see Catholics worshipping at religious rituals on the feast of Sto. Nino. I see a desperately poor people asking the child Jesus for divine intervention on financial and related problems that their leaders, including religious ones, are neglecting to provide with substantive solutions.

Covid-19 is giving us a rare opportunity to get on track towards justice, human development, and peace such as should be the hallmarks of a Christian society. Sadly, we seem to be passing on that opportunity. Instead of breaking our chains of poverty and powerlessness with a “faith that can move mountains,” we are content with a faith that meekly accepts and devoutly reveres those chains.