In the June/July, 1983 issue of Sojourners, Jim Wallis' "Marginal Notes" told the story of Karl Gaspar, a lay churchworker and well-known human rights advocate in the Philippines who in March, 1983, was arrested by the military and held in a detention camp in Quezon City. In May, Gaspar, still in custody, was transferred to the Davao Metropolitan District Command detention center. There, with 39 other political detainees, he participated in a hunger strike that ended six weeks later after authorities agreed to the prisoners' demands for exercise, visitation, and other rights (see "For the Record," October, 1983).
Near the end of the strike, Gaspar was transferred to the Davao City Jail, where he remains. Throughout his months in prison, Gaspar maintained a steady stream of correspondence with friends and supporters. Excerpts from his letters to Jim Wallis are printed below.
May 22, 1983
There is no doubt that the spirit of Christian community exists here, even if it is not consciously labeled as such by the occupants of the cells. There is an acknowledgment of the presence of God. Almost every cell has the sign, "God Bless Our Cell," made by the detainees themselves.
The image of Christ is pasted on the wall, and a few find time to read the Bible. But it is not the images and signs that solely manifest the sense of this community. It is in the concrete expressions of forgiveness, compassion, concern for one another, friendships that eloquently reveal the community spirit. It is the courage to face the uncertain future while holding on to common beliefs and visions of life. It is the warm embrace for each other's problems and concerns as they collectively hope that one day God in his goodness will release them from their captivity. It is in the firm belief that no matter how long is the night, dawn will surely come ...