Seeing God beyond culture, politics and climate change in the Philippines #gypcla14
By Jesse N. Love
As I write this, it is currently 6:24 a.m. in Tagaytay, Luzon. I am in a meeting hall at the CCT Tagaytay Retreat and Training Center where young people from all over the world are in attendance for the Global Young People’s Convocation and Legislative Assembly. BUT, we are currently not meeting for legislation. Due to the passing of Typhoon Rammasun (Glenda), many of us are trickling into an auditorium, wheeling in belongings as we wait for announcements.
Early morning, presumably around midnight of July 16, heavy rain and winds began to ripple over windows following wind and sounds of broken glass and fallen gutters. Each of our groups is counting their members to see if they are okay.
Convo leaders are passing instructions to others on where to go, salvaging tech, and making sure broken debris is cleared out of walking paths.
Before the GYPC-LA, we had the pleasure of listening to a message by the Rev. Andrew Tiver during morning worship at the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. A day or two before Rammasun hit, Tiver’s message focused on the different factors that created Typhoon Haiyan and the response (or lack of) that followed. Although the following sermon highlights pertain to Haiyan, the challenges faced by the people of the Philippines are ongoing in the aftermath of Typhoon Rammasun.
HOW WE TREAT THE IMAGE OF GOD
- Thoughts on God’s creation: when we take the ground (God’s creation) and grind it into the dirt or when we do that to people – we do that to the image of God.
- The daily bread of our neighbors – the need – is our relationship to God. When we fail to respond to the needs of our neighbors, we are making the same response to God.
A CULTURE OF IMPUNITY
- In 2013, Typhoon Haiyan devastated the Philippines, particularly in Tacloban City. Who is responsible for Typhoon Haiyan? Some would say, if this is an ‘act of God’, they would want nothing to do with a God who puts his finger on an area to cause destruction.
- We live in a culture of impunity. In this culture, we have people shooting and killing other people who are working to support the poor. Impunity: it is when no one is brought to justice.
- So who is to blame for one of the strongest typhoons in history? We are.
A CALL FOR CLIMATE CHANGE (and RESPONSE)
- During a global climate conference in Warsaw, Poland, Yeb Sano, a representative shared his grief and tears expressing how much damage had been endured by his country. To call for global climate change, he began a fast in which others soon followed.
- The government of the Philippines said the Typhoon situation is bad, but claimed to be prepared and under control. But in reality, as events unfolded, support for typhoon victim needs were not met. The President and local officials played politics rather than care for the people.
- Here is a formula for calculating risk during a disaster: How vulnerable are the people + how prepared they are to respond = risk to disaster.
- Compare the response to the earthquake and tsunami in Japan versus the typhoon in Tacloban. Was the difference in response because of a lack of resources? We must ask who is responsible for what has happened. When we look at government response – no money is going into relocation of the residents of Tacloban.
- Nothing has happened for the dignity and the rights of the people. Housing, food, clothing, and education: what we are doing to make people whole isn’t charity, it’s a right.
WHO IS TO BLAME?
- Are these disasters an act of God? It was definitely an act when we provide disaster response. In the case of Typhoon Haiyan, the response was a human failure. In Japan, a basic capacity to respond is a strength. In Philippines, it’s a human failure.
- We have a new context: we must consider our human values as a right that people not must go without. We must carry a message of solidarity.
- Peace and justice (or the lack of it) is what compels the church. Pain and struggle compels us.
- Typhoon Haiyan changed the work and the lives of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. By being immersed in the daily lives of the survivors of Tacloban, we will be able to answer the questions of why disasters happen and how we can put forth change to restore dignity to devastated people. We urge everyone to be the voice of the people.
My thoughts are with our group. I am hoping all of the members that have arrived are accounted for. I am hoping that others who are still on the way are safe.
As we continue to experience a sample of the changing climate of the Philippines, we are also a witness to the response of the young people of our world-wide denomination – here, right now – as we move into action to continue the work of the GLYPC-LA.