“My hope for the future is that the church will be an authentic witness to the gospel despite the cost,” Filipino Bishop Francisco F. Claver, SJ, told Sojourners in 1979, “even if it means being crushed.” In the decades that followed, Sojourners reported the involvement of Filipino Christians in the People Power movements against repressive regimes that were often aligned with U.S. military power. Christians who spoke out were branded as communists. Many were tortured and killed by the military or vigilante groups.
But the Filipino church, though pressed, was never crushed. “I’ve been very encouraged by what I have seen in our people,” Karl Gaspar said in a 1988 issue of Sojourners. Gaspar—a Filipino poet, Redemptorist brother, and longtime friend of Sojourners—spent two years in prison in the early ’80s under the regime of Ferdinand Marcos. Yet he remained hopeful, “convinced that God is present despite all that which would negate God’s presence in this village.”
In this issue, Eric Stoner reports on faith-based opposition to Rodrigo Duterte, the Philippines’ president who positioned himself as a “tough on crime” political outsider and declared himself “happy to slaughter” the nation’s 3 million drug users—and seems to be making good on his promise. In response, a network of faith communities is documenting the widespread killings and advocating more humane (and effective) ways of dealing with the country’s drug problem. Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo warned recently that Duterte “has slowly metamorphosed into a full-time dictator.” Stoner traveled to the Philippines in January for interviews with those struggling on the frontlines with the poor and targeted.
Of course, the Philippines isn’t the only country grappling with right-wing authoritarian leaders. As Stoner notes, the Filipino model—rooted in decades of organizing and peace education—has much to teach the rest of us about the patient work of resistance.
This month, we also welcome Kathy Khang as our newest columnist ("More Than a New Group of Friends," June 2017). We think you’ll enjoy her swift wit, lively faith, and honest wrestling (even if you never get the chance to see her closet full of really excellent T-shirts).
Got something to say about what you're reading? We value your feedback!