A Caged Bird Sings

Sojourners editor Jim Wallis and Karl Gaspar found each other in Geneva in the spring of 1983. They were attending an international ecumenical dialogue between Third World and First World theologians. "I meet a lot of people," says Wallis, "but sometimes something just connects with another human being. I remember taking long walks with Karl around the city, earnestly talking about our similar histories. We both grew up in the protest movements of the '60s. A real bond was formed between us which intensified when, a month later, Karl was disappeared by the Marcos regime."

Karl Gaspar spent 22 months in a Philippine prison, charged with political subversion. He was tortured and starved. Fellow political detainee Gus Miclat remembers when Karl disappeared. "Most of us felt numb and paralyzed by the fact that if they could do this to Karl, they could do it to anybody," Miclat said. But their fear turned to rage and then courage. For the first time, the People Power movement organized raids on the military "safehouses," rather than only enduring the military raids on their own houses. "In an ironic twist of roles," said Miclat, "in one safehouse we raided, a military thug demanded to see a search warrant."

Jim Wallis was one of thousands who tried to find Gaspar. Karl did eventually come to light—on Easter Sunday in Manila. "After I was surfaced by the military, I was told that the American consulate in Davao City was surprised about this one persistent caller from Washington, D.C.—a pastor who called every day to ask about me. Hearing that story from my family—they were the only ones who could see me in prison—made me very grateful for people like Jim, who showed tremendous interest regarding the life and death situations we faced during the time of Marcos."

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2001
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