“It is absolutely clear that God has called you to a free life. Just make sure that you don’t use this freedom as an excuse to do whatever you want to do and destroy your freedom. Rather, use your freedom to serve one another in love; that’s how freedom grows.” 1 – Saint Paul
IN A Global Campaign for Action against Poverty in 2005, the late South African president Nelson Mandela addressed the international community in London Trafalgar Square to make poverty history.
In his call for action in that platform, he noted that there is no true freedom while poverty persists. He further highlighted that “millions of people in the world’s poorest countries remain imprisoned, enslaved, and in chains. They are trapped in the prison of poverty. It is time to set them free.”
Since then until today, while global and local initiatives were undertaken to address poverty, the situation described by Mandela remains the same – millions of people are still trapped in the prison of poverty. In the Philippines alone, the World Poverty Clock estimates that 5.3 percent (or 5.6 million) of the Philippines’ total population live in extreme poverty.
While poverty persists, the evils of graft and corruption remain rampant and those in the prison cells of poverty are the ones hit the hardest.
They are the ones experiencing the consequences of substandard quality of basic services and insufficient services to meet the basic needs of the people in the community. Others are even deprived of access to such services. In the latest release of 2018 Corruption Perception Index by Transparency International, which measures the perceived level of public sector corruption, the Philippines slightly improved in its score and ranking from 111th among 180 countries in 2017 to 99th in 2018. Yet, there is a lot more to be done to curb this endemic menace of the country, which affects generations upon generations including the generations yet unborn.
More than political will, addressing graft and corruption and other illnesses of this nation requires the involvement of people who are truly free from the inside and out – free from any forms of restraint, clutches of the enemy, or any forms of bondages of greed, pride, hatred, apathy, idolatry and anything that feeds on the selfish interest nature of a person. Otherwise, great plans of good leaders will be sabotaged along the way by men and women whose innermost being silently cry out for more selfish gains.
As we contemplate on the value of freedom this week, let us ask ourselves how free are we and how ready are we to be instruments for others to be set free. In the context of public service, how free are we to serve with excellence, with greater sense of transparency and accountability to the public? How free are we to uphold the Code of Conduct and ethical standards in our workplace? How free are we to become men and women of exceptional character whose integrity is unquestionable and whose motivation and commitment to stand for righteousness and justice in public service is unshakable?
Real freedom will find a place in the hearts of men and women who are free from the grip of selfish interest nature. They are the ones who will seek genuine transformation within to be an instrument for the transformation of others and even the organization and the society.