IN reaction to our coverage and commentaries on the ongoing refugee crisis affecting Europe and other parts of the world, several readers have suggested our attention should be directed to the many displaced and otherwise persecuted people in our own country, rather than the plight of others.
That point of view – “worry about our own problems before worrying about someone else’s” – is wrong, and runs counter to the ideals of compassion we believe most of our countrymen as Filipinos and people of faith strive to uphold, however imperfectly. We live in a different country, not a different planet. The problem of people forced out of their homes by war and despotic rulers, left with no choice but to make a dangerous and all too often deadly trek to an uncertain future in search of a place where they can find a little safety and dignity is not a “Syrian problem,” or a “European problem,” or a “Muslim problem,” it is a human problem. Our sense of humanity demands that we be aware of it, and try to help.
That being said, we agree that our sense of humanity absolutely demands that we give no less attention to suffering within our own borders. The recent shocking revelations of brutality and murder purportedly carried out by paramilitary groups against Lumad communities in Surigao del Sur are, sadly, just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Violence has displaced thousands of indigenous people throughout Mindanao, and affects other communities elsewhere. Thousands of people remain in dire straits in places affected by Typhoon Yolanda almost two years after that disaster struck, and in the time since, many more have been affected by other calamities that have not been as “newsworthy” by media but whose impacts are just as cruel, painful and devastating as the headline-making disasters for the victims. Even in the absence of natural or man-made disasters, the revelations in recent data from the UN Commission on Human Rights that nearly a quarter of the Philippine population live in slum areas and up to 1.3 million children have no permanent homes at all should shock and shame us into action.
Be our care and concern need not be, and must not be selective. Exclusion, after all, is one of the chief culprits in all the misery suffered by people. The wonderful thing about compassion is that it has no natural limits; while we may realistically be able to do little more than to care for the plight of suffering people and to do our best to call the attention of others to it, that is still a powerful tool, because it encourages people to work together to find solutions. Caring gives the people who are suffering the one thing they need to start rebuilding their lives – hope. Let us not deny them that.
Let us never stop caring.