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A Biblical Challenge to Empire: A Recap of “Biag, Buhay Kinabuhi: Valuing Life, Denouncing Killing”

On Oct 29th Manila groups gathered to show unity and affirm the value of every human life. The Philippines war on drugs had created a local culture of violence. It has devalued the lives of people with addictions. We believe the church, and all people, need to act and show this culture of violence is evil.

Above Fread, one of the Peace Church organizers, shares a poem. Click the photo for more pictures from the event.

Peace Church affirms the infinite value and dignity of every human being. It  doesn’t matter if a person is a drug user or a suspected criminal, that person is valuable because God created them and Jesus Christ give himself for their healing.

Participants in the event “Biag, Buhay Kinabuhi: valuing life, denouncing killing” stand to tell a different story than the approval of violence. We stand with, not against our brother and sister Filipinos in their healing and hope.

What happened?

It was a big celebration of 50+ people feasting together, dancing, singing and sharing poetry in our ethnic and cultural diversity. Many different faiths, spoke from their perspectives. We approach the dignity of our Kapwa (brother and sister Filipino’s) from a different perspective, but we affirmed it together as a core value.

What did we share?

I shared the creation story as the biblical counter-narrative to Empire. I reminded everyone that the Creator called, and still calls, his people away from dominating one another. The biblical narrative is a story contrasting nationalism, and oppression, “the Religion of Empire” against God’s intention for creation which is shalom. Shalom, or biblical peace is harmony with God, harmony with others, harmony within ourselves and harmony with creation. I’s modeled by Jesus on the cross and is the example Peace Church follows as we embody Jesus in our lives.

The Creators order for creation sets him alone as the sole Lord of all parts of life. Jesus life on earth shows us exactly what that looks like. The early church show this in their first confession, “Jesus is Lord.”

But God’s people, Israel, rejected the Creator and wanted their own kings.

The Creators order for creation is that we live with hospitality and love for one another, even our enemies. Jesus taught and embodied this.

But, Empires force us to use violence against our brothers and sisters, rather than seek their healing.

The Creators order for creation invites loyal allegiance to the Creator alone. To love and praise the Creator for his generosity and express it through love for our neighbour.

The state also commands our allegiance and loyalty. Loyalty to the state over our Creator and against our neighbour if they stand in the way of state goals.

Our our calling as Christians is to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. We live a life of service for others because we are grateful for the Creators generosity towards us.

It reminded me of a central message of one of the bible writers and Jesus’s friend. John wrote,

“We love because God loved us first. If we say we love God and don’t love each other, we are liars. We can’t see God. So how can we love God, if we don’t love the people we can see? The commandment God has given us is: ‘Love God and love each other!” (1 John 4:19-21)

These couple verses are a beautiful summary of the daily life of a follower of Jesus. This perspective is the unique flavor of Peace Church Philippine’s contribution to the event. We are thankful to work with this diverse network. We all learn from one another in our common journey with diverse perspectives.

Event Recap

A friend from the Local Autonomous Network, Randy Nobleza, summarized it in English/Tagalog below:

“On October 29, autonomous individuals, cause-oriented groups and local networks shared their thoughts about the on-going war on drugs and affirmed the life force through poetry, music, performances and talks. Friends from peace church and volunteers from different info shops initiated an event at project 20 Maginhawa to launch Manlaban zine, a do-it-yourself publication which features critical content and writings on drug-related and extra-judicial killings. It was an expression of sentiments, info sharing, narration, perspective and idea of resistance. Such is the core of Manlaban, amidst the hate, stigma and violence, the freedom to express, to think for one’s self, and criticality to resist all forms of violence, authority and hierarchy. Fread from Theo sa Kanto and Chung of the Etniko Bandido Infoshop traced the series of meetings which lead to the Biag, Buhay, Ikabuhi event. Taong Grasa Orchestra opened the night with communal music.

Jestoni of Notra Block, a network of autonomous groups in Caloocan and the rest of Northern part of Metro Manila provided a context and rationale of Manlaban zine. Greg Bituin Jr. a self-published poet commemorated the 149th death year anniversary of the slain Filipino general, Antonio Luna through an spontaneous poetry. While Darnell, a Canadian anabaptist and also part of Peace Church shared a counter-narrative about people of the bible.

Meanwhile, a volunteer from Marindukanon Infoshop also offered a solidarity message on the newly-launched zine, Manlaban. Members of Linangan ng Imahen Retorika at Arte (LIRA) took turns in reciting poems about the current state of killings and violence in the archipelago. While iDefend, a human rights and dignity coalition gave the current score on the war on drugs of the present administration. Musical performances from folk punk Bata, Kaibuturan and Kontemporaryong Gamelang Filiipino (Kontra Gapi) followed.

In addition, there were simultaneous happenings in support of the cause like free t-shirt printing, pot luck, film screening, really really free market. The said creative resistance and direct action was a manifestation of the long tradition of sharing culture based on horizontal organising, anti-authoritarian alternative and non-hierarchical politics.”

What actions have you taken to embody God’s love during this time of violence? What actions have you been afraid to take, even though they seem right?

cropped-Transparent-Header-e1443889729872.pngI’m a Mennonite Church Canada missionary and pastor in Metro Manila, Philippines. Our Church, Peace Church Philippines meets on Tuesday nights to play outside, eat dinner, worship with music, study scripture, pray together and go into all creation and live like Jesus. If you’re in Metro Manila and you want to join us, contact us here and hit the send message button at the top or contact me here. We’d love to get to know you better and have you join our community.