12/11/2019, 12.57
PHILIPPINES
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Hope follows the earthquake in Mindanao

by Peter Geremia

A PIME missionary writes an open letter for the Christmas holidays, noting that “in the areas most affected by years of conflict [. . .] some military and rebel leaders are learning to become peacemakers”. Protestants, members of tribal groups and Muslims are set to attend the "Misa del Gallo" novena.

Kidapawan City (AsiaNews) – The people of Kidapawan (North Cotabato) and surrounding municipalities still live in desperate conditions as a result of the severe seismic swarm that hit the area about two months ago.

Fr Peter Geremia (picture 2), an 80-year-old priest with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) and leader of the Inter-Cultural Organization Network for Solidarity and Peace (ICON-SP), carries out his missionary work in this part of the island of Mindanao.

In an open letter written for the Christmas holidays, the missionary stresses "the joy of solidarity, the joy of giving and sharing" people experience despite difficulties. In the message that follows, he says that “unexpected signs of hope appeared.”

Dear friends,

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Christmas is coming, but how can it be a happy Christmas in our area? Last October, three powerful earthquakes and countless aftershocks spread panic and destroyed many houses, schools, churches and even hospitals and hotels. By now, thousands of people are still sleeping in tents… The whole population shared the fear or panic of shaking and insecurity. Many abandoned the security of their homes and all share the shaking of the earth under our feet…

But many are also learning to help one another and we are experiencing a massive movement of assistance coming from all over the nation and from abroad. Thus, we experience the joy of solidarity, the joy of giving and sharing. Then unexpected signs of hope appeared. There are voices calling for the lifting of Martial Law in our island and calls to resume peace talks with the rebel groups, thus military and rebel leaders seem to be forgetting about fighting each other and are joining in assisting the victims of calamities. Many dialogues are taking place in the areas most affected by years of conflict and some military and rebel leaders are learning to become peacemakers…

Now we are about to start the “Misa De Gallo”, a novena of 9 days of dawn masses. All kinds of people, even Protestants and Tribals and some Muslims, join this unusual tradition: a stream of people with torches wake up in the middle of the night and walk towards churches or chapels dressed up with Christmas lights. Waves of greetings, joyful songs in the air… Many seem to forget their problems. Waves of happy feelings and happy expectations… This tradition is so popular that many Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) practice it in various countries where they are, and this year Pope Francis will join the Misa De Gallo of the Filipinos in Rome.

Believe it or not, it is going to be a happy Christmas and hopeful New Year. The Child of Bethlehem has strange ways of spreading joy and hope even among people who do not know him well. This kind of Christmas spirit is contagious and we wish that you may also share this joyful spirit in spite of all problems and fears.

Sincere thanks for your solidarity and support and prayers. We thank you for sharing our efforts to be instruments of mercy and peace. We pray that you will also share the special happiness that we experience.

Happy Christmas and peaceful New Year!

(Photo credit: Nassa/Caritas Philippines).

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