The branding and marking of church workers, religious sisters, and priests today as “communists and Marxists” is a propaganda tactic that stems from the repressive Marcos era of martial law. Marcos and his cronies that ruled with fear and death had their own fears. They were frightened of that power that is greater than their militia and military.
It is the power of the love of neighbor and respect and service for the poor. It is the powerful commitment and dedication of Christians and moderate good Muslims that work for justice and freedom from oppression. That is a force for good that cannot be defeated, wiped out, extinguished or subdued. It is not materialistic, it is a spiritual power that can transform the world.
When someone speaks to power and demands that the rulers stop their evil and cruel oppression, to turn from greed and selfish ambition and transform their rule or step down, they do it out of love of justice and neighbor. These are people of integrity risking their lives as they seek a peaceful path to social justice and true economic freedom for the poor.
They courageously speak out for human dignity and teach the rights of all to be free from domination to the person in power, then the powerful strike back. They attack the person, the messenger of the Gospel values with vilification and false charges.
The most absurd slander is that the true Christian working for peace and justice is an enemy of the state and is a communist or Marxist. Today, those who speak against oppression and work for rights are dubbed as “terrorists.”
This brings an odious and unjust slander on the good people working for justice. This is a contradiction in terms. The true Christian is seeking and working for a life of dignity for the poor and the oppressed through peaceful non-violent dialogue and reconciliation. Anyone criticizing or opposing the unjust regime is marked and branded.
The murder of nine poor sugar workers in Negros recently, most likely by the goons and guns of the rich landowner, shows this insidious propaganda at work. The impoverished farm workers were demanding that the land under the government land reform program be distributed to them so they can feed their families. They were only asking that the law is implemented. They set up a small canvas shelter in a sugar field near Sagay City in Negros Occidental and they were murdered by ten armed men. Four others escaped.
To cover up the atrocity, they too are branded as communists. What do they know of communist ideology or Marxism? They know only hunger, empty stomachs, crying sick children and life in a hovel. They want justice and land that is their right. Their detractors are even suggesting that they might have had weapons and fired back and even be members of the communist New People’s Army (NPA). This tactic is called “red-baiting.” Despite the name-calling of the victims, the national outcry has been heard. The presidential spokesperson said, “Families of the victims of this extremely cruel act can count on the government that it will enforce the full wrath of the law against its perpetrators.”
Wanting justice for the poor and the marginalized, the hungry and the downtrodden is to be in solidarity with the poor and the exploited. These are spiritual, non-materialistic values that motivate many people to act justly and build dignity in communities.
Communists have taken up arms for a violent struggle and they divide a nation into classes of people and wage a war of “class struggle.” It’s an atheistic ideology and shuns religious values and eventually becomes as repressive as the corrupt government and system it replaces. The gulags and concentration camps of communist countries are evidence of this.
Communists do not believe in gradual social transformation by the power of justice, compassion, education, and economic justice. They work for a violent revolution. The Christian or the good moderate Muslim believes not in exclusion but inclusion, society is for everyone and government reform is possible when good people, men, and women motivated by religious and spiritual values, are brought to power by the people through the democratic process.
The Christian or moderate Muslim approach is a spiritual evolution rather than violent revolution. True Christianity and true Islam promote the value of human dignity and the rights of the individual person. Communism espouses the predominance of the state over the individual. The person ought not to own property but only the state can.
The tagging or name-calling of Christians working for gospel values as atheistic communists is a contradiction in terms. The unjust, corrupt dynastic regimes must be challenged in a non-violent way. Their rule is imposed by force, intimidation, and violence and trying to silence them and conditioning society by branding them as evil people is to foreshadow their assassination or murder.
The nine farmers killed in Hacienda Nene in Barangay Bulanon were called communist rebels or subversives after they were killed. Christian and Muslim human rights workers have also been targeted and they too have been killed. Speaking the truth, standing for the rights of the poor and the exploited is a dangerous way to live.
As we have written, even Archbishop Oscar Romero now a martyr and saint, was shot dead because he spoke out and challenged the brutal regime killing thousands of innocent people. He stood with the poor and oppressed people of El Salvador and was wrongly called a communist. Jesus of Nazareth was himself falsely accused, marked and executed as a rebel and part of a plot to make himself king. So, what’s new in the Philippines where the innocents are always blamed for the crimes of the powerful?