THE South American theologian Gustavo Gutierez O.P. developed the so-called Liberation Theology. This theology is based on the Exodus story where Yahweh, the God of Israel, led his people out of Egypt, the land where they were enslaved by the pagan people, through the Dead Sea and the desert into the Promised Land.
Gutierez developed this theology of liberation in the context of his homeland Peru, a South American country where the majority of the people were living in similar conditions of slavery.
The liberation of the Israelites is a story of trial and error, a journey through the desert, full of temptations. Gutierez uses this image to illustrate how his people in Peru could be liberated from a life of slavery. It is a struggle of trial and error. First of all, the people have to understand why they live in conditions of slavery. For instance, laborers and peasants must realize that they are exploited and oppressed by their bosses. Then they must resist this oppression by organizing protest actions and strikes.
I myself used this tactic when I came to the Philippines fifty years ago and was assigned in Escalante, Negros Occ., where there were plenty of sakadas who were exploited by the sugar planters.
Later on, when I was assigned as social action director in Iligan City, I taught the workers in the factories also about their rights and responsibilities as workers. The workers in the Iligan Electric Company went on strike because of a violation of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
When Marcos declared martial law in 1972, strikes were forbidden. The workers were told to go back to work and I was pinpointed as the organizer of the strike and I was sent out of the country for that. When I came back to the Philippines I found out that my name was in the list of undesirable aliens and was told that I had to leave the country again.
After some struggle with the immigration authorities I was finally allowed to enter the Philippines as a tourist. That was the time that I joined the anti-Marcos movement in Manila. I was even instrumental for setting up of the NDF office of the NPA in Utrecht, the Netherlands.
I believed that only through armed struggle we can get rid of the dictator Marcos. After the ouster of Marcos I realized that we should not continue the armed struggle, but just the same continue the struggle of active non-violence against the exploitation and oppression of the rich capitalists in the cities and in the country site. The struggle before was monopolized by the Marxist ideology of the NPA.
The Catholic Church in the beginning had attacked liberation theology because of that Marxist ideology. Even Pope Francis when he was still archbishop in Argentina had initially second thoughts about the liberation theology. But now he has changed his mind on this and he has close ties with the liberation movement because of its pastoral concerns.
Francis has the insight that there is no pastoral work without profound theology and vice versa. Francis says: “Liberation theology wants to make God’s liberating action visible in the Church’s religious and social practices.”
The basic concern of liberation theology is in conformity with the Church of the Poor, with those who are at the periphery of a capitalist society. The basic Christian communities in our parishes should let themselves be inspired also by this liberation theology.
Our parishioners must get involved also in social action and join in the struggle for liberation of the poor and oppressed in our parishes to make our Church really the Church of the Poor, as Jesus originally had envisioned his Church to be. The rich among us can join the Church of the Poor by showing their solidarity with the poor and have compassion for them in their struggle for a better life.