Global Perspective

January 11, 2006Vol. 3, No. 24

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Antonio D. Sison
 
Antonio David Sison is a Filipino theologian, screenwriter and independent filmmaker. For his doctorate, he researched the confluence of Edward Schillebeeckx's eschatology and Third Cinema. He is currently in formation with the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in Cincinnati, Ohio. His e-mail is ton_sison@yahoo.com







Stoning injustice

By Antonio D. Sison

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In the independent Filipino film "Perfumed Nightmare," the protagonist Kidlat Tahimik comes face-to-face with a massive supermarket building under construction. The supermarket looms on the horizon as a menacing shadow of crass commercialism that threatens to displace small and defenseless street vendors. In a startling turn, Kidlat pelts the building with small stones. What damage could stones inflict on a hulking concrete edifice? The absurdity of it, the moviegoer thinks until realizing the scene signals the unfolding of another layer of meaning: Diminutive Kidlat with only puny stones for weapons plays David to the concrete Goliath of the looming supermarket. In the biblical story, David refuses to fight Goliath using conventional weaponry; he opts to use a shepherd's sling and some stones. The statement is clear: There is a higher power on David's side on which the outcome of the battle rests.

In "Perfumed Nightmare," I see a powerful cinematic allusion to an unseen divine power actively involved in the struggle for justice.

My sister spearheads the Philippine operation of an NGO known as International Justice Mission. She is a little over five feet, looks much younger than her thirty-some years and is frail-looking; she would easily be mistaken for a college girl, not the full-fledged lawyer that she is. IJM Philippines has taken up the Herculean task of rescuing the young and defenseless from the clutches of oppression and injustice. Unlike in cinema, working for justice in the real world entails real risks. In fact, as a security measure, International Justice Mission cautioned me not to mention her name. But my sister has developed the interior structures to believe in a higher power, a God who exercises a preferential option for the downtrodden. It is God's liberative love that compels her. Together with a lean staff, she goes forth armed with her virtual sling and stones, facing battles against society's Goliaths -- pedophile rings, white slavery, sex trafficking and other manifestations of social evil that mock and assault human dignity.

(International Justice Mission/Ted Haddock)
In a Metro Manila jail, two children meet with IJM staff and interns documenting their cases to secure their release or transfer to a home for children. Children are often held illegally in adult prisons while awaiting trial.
As various kinds of social injustice thrive in the world, IJM rises as a powerful testament to the abiding presence of Jesus Christ in the here and now. The cornerstone of the organization is a Biblically-based faith in the God of love, compassion and justice. The challenge of the gospel innervates IJM as it queries, "But as Christians who follow Christ call to love our neighbors, is it right to do nothing?" The critical link is thus established: faith must be translated into social action.

The genesis of the International Justice Mission was kindled by the call from overseas Christian service workers and missionaries who, in the early 1990s, encountered various cases of oppression and injustice that caused untold suffering to women and children. Oftentimes, local authorities were in cahoots with the perpetrators of injustice and had become part of the problem, not the solution. International Justice Mission, established in 1994, launched a comprehensive two-year study that ascertained the need for providing missionaries with professional assistance. It put together a team of professional Christians -- lawyers, experts in government relations, and mission workers acquainted with cross-cultural ministry work. At the helm of active operations is founder Gary Haugen, former senior trial attorney with the Police Misconduct Task Force of the U.S. Department of Justice and director of the UN genocide investigation in Rwanda. The mission's headquarters is in Washington, but it has a formidable network of international operations.

The oil that keeps International Justice Mission burning is prayer. A web of prayer partners across the globe receive confidential prayer requests every week that cover every aspect of the mission's operations from the expeditious prosecution of the perpetrators of injustice to the restoration and healing of victims.

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One such victim is Maria, who was forced into prostitution at age 15 to help support her impoverished family of ten siblings. While working in a Manila brothel, she found herself getting pregnant by one of her sex-for-pay customers and giving birth to her first child. IJM Manila, in collaboration with police authorities, rescued Maria from the brothel, and then rescued her baby who was held hostage by the brothel operator. Mother and child are now lodged in an aftercare facility, reunited as a family. But there are an estimated 60,000 to 75,000 child prostitutes like Maria all over the country, according to ECPAT International. What can one NGO do?

Though my sister and I are separated by oceans, in the movie in my mind, I can see her at work standing before the monstrous evil of child prostitution and abuse. She goes to battle armed only with a sling and some puny stones. The absurdity of itů until I realize that symbols represent realities much bigger than themselves. The sling and stones represent a Higher Power, one who is righteously furious over injustice, and mindful of the weak and downtrodden. There is a bigger picture, the message clear and simple: Seek God. Seek justice.

 
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