Thursday, August 25, 2022

Listen and Discern: The Cry of People in Ukraine, Philippines, and the Catholic Church

By Angie Escarsa
 Columban Lay Missionary in Ireland


hree significant events keep niggling in my head as I reflect about life during these last few months: the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the presidential election in the Philippines and the synodal process in the church. There might be no obvious relation among these three but if we listen and discern, we can see some common denominators. 

When Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, spoke about the horrific invasion of Russia in February 24,2022, people listened with dread as they considered the possibility of World War III. He spoke with conviction and pleaded with urgency for world leaders to help stop Putin’s war against his country. What is so sad about this is that many people in Russia believe that Russian military are trying to de-Nazify Ukraine, to protect people subjected to what, Putin described as, eight years of bullying and genocide by Ukraine’s government.  It is disconcerting to see how people can be brainwashed with the continuous lying and propaganda about Putin’s real intention towards Ukraine. Indeed, he refuses to call it an invasion or war but a special military operation and a “noble” cause. Is it even possible in this context for many Russians to truly grasp what is happening, and why?

Pope Francis on Ash Wednesday asked the world to pray for the people of Ukraine. More than forty days have passed and still no clear sign of an end to this barbaric attack, instead more innocent people are being killed including many children and old people. As of this writing, there are more than 30,000 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland. Currently there is one Ukrainian lady who comes to the Columban Centre in Dublinfor English lessons. For sure there will be more in the coming weeks and months.

How do we reach out to them? It is a question that we as Columbans in Ireland need to deeply consider in order to discern an effective response to this challenge.

The presidential election in the Philippine has taken a lot of my attention over thelast few months as the outcome is of crucial importance for every single Filipino and all who live in the country. It is high time that people listen and discern if they are serious about creating a brighter future for the Filipino people. It is so important for people to listen and discern in the choosing of a president who not only possesses leadership skills, but also a person who is innately kind-hearted and caring which often counts the most. What saddens me is the truth that many  Filipinos continue to vote according to who is popular rather than to who can be a genuine servant of the people.

What really disturbs me is the fact that the candidate who tops the poll is the son of the former dictator, who was not only convicted for tax evasion but who avoids attending every single one of the debates. There are thousands of people, and sadly to say including a member of my own family, who outspokenly declare their support to him. I do not understand why they cannot see the truth and choose to continue to turn a blind eye to the arrogance and ignorance of this candidate. Filipinos have to listen and discern not just for themselves but more importantly for the futureof their children and their children’s children. To listen to the truth is paramount and to discern is crucial.

The synodal process in the church also calls for an intentional listening and discernment. It is  high time for all Catholics to look closely at our experience of the church and be guided by the Holy Spirit in ensuring that we are on the right path. Pope Francis has declared that synodality is what God expects of the Church in the 21st century.

 Synodality from the Greek word synodos; syn which means together and odos which means way. But the question is “Are we taking seriously the call to this synodal process?”  Some people I know have very little faith about the process thinking it might just be one of those ticking the box moments in the church. Some fear the document from this process will just end up on the shelves collecting dust.

March for peace in Dublin

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