“Universal Declaration of Human Rights” | Photo by United Nations via Flickr/Creative Commons
He died for justice, truth, and the dignity of the poor, and today thousands around the world and the Philippines sacrifice themselves for human rights, as did Jesus of Nazareth.
His death was at the hands of the cruel executioners, the death squads; his resurrection was by God’s hand. That is the inspiration that goodness and truth and justice will eventually triumph and overcome evil. This is what Faith is; acting for all that is good and right. Faith without action is dead, said Saint James.
As I have written previously, I repeat here that his life commitment to goodness and self-sacrifice as a champion of the poor and the oppressed led to his arrest, torture, and execution at the hands of the unjust and cruel authorities. He and his mission did not die and did not disappear, and end nailed to the cross of the Roman execution squad. It is alive today.
His mission will continue in people of faith. He rose from the dead, and the life-giving values he gave the world, unselfish love, compassion, justice, mercy, human rights, and dignity, have changed the lives of millions. His teaching, storytelling, and wisdom inspired generations to be his followers by his example. He called everyone to repent, change their lives and become people of God, not people of the selfish, greedy world. But the powers that ruled were hard of heart. They opposed him, and they spied on him; they sought ways to accuse him of heresy or an act of subversion so they could stop his transforming and liberating work.
“When asked by those seeking his favor and wanting to be named the most important, he shocked them all when he selected a child from the crowd’s fringes. Children were without status or position, and he selected a child and said: A child is the most important of all.”
He had no riches, exercised no power, only that of love and friendship. He challenged the rich and the powerful; he called them to repent, have compassion for the poor, the sick, hungry, dispossessed, and downtrodden people. He challenged them to share their wealth, help those striving to reform society, and make it into a “Kingdom of love, where we help each other, not a world of selfish pleasure-seeking people, but a society where love and goodness justice reign for the poor. He called for a complete change of mind and heart and equality for all.
When asked by those seeking his favor and wanting to be named the most important, he shocked them all when he selected a child from the crowd’s fringes. Children were without status or position, and he selected a child and said: A child is the most important of all. “Truly, I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.
Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me” (Matthew 18:1-6). The most forgotten and most vulnerable of all were the children, and he established their inalienable rights and dignity above all else.
This great truth revealed by Jesus of Nazareth has been downplayed and forgotten throughout history. The rights of the child have been established only in our generation but daily violated. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and many national and international laws are now protecting them. But not being well implemented. They are much too late for millions of abused and neglected, starving children throughout history and even today. Not all people or societies respect and implement child protection laws and give them due respect and care.
Pope Francis has made strong statements and actions to apologize on behalf of the church as an institution for the abuse of children and youth by clergy and bishops. He took responsibility for the child abuse crimes of the past and asked the victims and survivors’ forgiveness. Asking forgiveness is an admission of guilt but a heavy burden, undeserved, for Pope Francis.
“I am not advocating the death penalty but the end of impunity for many child abusers, especially clergy and those who protect them. Good non-corrupt investigators, prosecutors, and judges can do justice for the children.”
But most victims want justice and strong action against all abusers, whether they are clergy, parents or members of any profession, human traffickers, or pedophiles. Hundreds of priests have been fired, others jailed in recent years. Guidelines are in place to stop the abuse. Church authorities must act quickly to secure the evidence against any alleged abuser and bring him to justice as the evidence so warrants. They must never cover up a crime.
Jesus was clear about this while preaching forgiveness and compassion for the repentant sinner. Repentance is the key. Believe the truth about wrongdoing and abuse, admit, report, accept the penance, a jail sentence and then ask for forgiveness. That applies to all abusers, clergy included. He also said that the guilty should be given punishment. The Gospel of Matthew 18:6 refers to the words of Jesus saying that a millstone is tied around the neck of the child abuser proven guilty and thrown into the deepest ocean. I am not advocating the death penalty but the end of impunity for many child abusers, especially clergy and those who protect them. Good non-corrupt investigators, prosecutors, and judges can do justice for the children.
The corrupt authorities are bribe-takers and let them go free to abuse more children. It will be bad for them who cause such injustice against children and the innocent, Jesus said. Dozens of child victims of sexual abuse are recovering in our therapeutic homes and fight for justice. They win an average of 18 convictions every year. Jesus of Nazareth died so that there would be a just society where protection, dignity, and justice for all, especially the rights of victims of abuse and oppression, would be respected and upheld.
“This is what Easter is about, not so much about having ceremonies, rites, and rituals but defending the vulnerable and supporting the victims of abuse to a new happier life. We must think of these realities of life today when we look at a crucifix, see it for what it was and were not.”
The authorities of his time and many today could not accept the truth he spoke against their poor and vulnerable people’s oppression. In retaliation for his challenging them, they had Jesus falsely accused, arrested, and executed. It was murder arranged by false allegations. Throughout history, the corrupt rich are doing the same. Hundreds of human rights advocates and defenders, pastors, priests, social workers have been assassinated for following the example of Jesus of Nazareth. In the catholic Philippines, hundreds, including priests, have been shot dead for taking a stand for social justice and human rights.
This is what Easter is about, not so much about having ceremonies, rites, and rituals but defending the vulnerable and supporting the victims of abuse to a new happier life. We must think of these realities of life today when we look at a crucifix, see it for what it was and were not. It is not a piece of jewelry or an ornament but was a cruel instrument of death and is now symbolic of the murder of good people working for justice. Yet just as he overcame death, his message lives on, so too the death of his followers today will not be forgotten but will inspire many more to step into the gap and continue working for equality, freedom, justice, and human rights for all. That is the meaning of Easter and the resurrection.