Friday, October 1, 2010

“But even enemies can show respect”

They say it was bold, creative, fantastic, funny, brilliant. True. But it was also wrong. Pardon me for not jumping on the bandwagon praising famed storyteller/tour guide/performance artist Carlos Celdran’s  daring coup at the Manila Cathedral when he barged in during a mass dressed as Jose Rizal and holding up a placard that simply said, “Damaso,” to protest the Catholic Church’s stance on the RH Bill issue.

from PDI: Holding up a placard with the word Damaso on it, tourist guide Carlos Celdran screams at the clergy to get out of politics during Mass at Manila Cathedral. Damaso, an abusive Spanish friar, is immortalized in Rizal’s “Noli me Tangere.” EDWIN BACASMAS
I believe, though, that the Catholic Church, or any other church for that matter, has no business dipping its long and many hands into politics (besides, they have enough of that within their organization already). The constitution prohibits that. The Philippines is not a Catholic country (even qualifying that statement with “predominantly” may not even be accurate anymore). I believe that the Reproductive Health bill should be passed – I’d rather have health professionals and educators introduce our children to reproductive health and sex education instead of pop songs, internet porn and TV shows and commercials.

I also believe that Celdran should be released, not even be charged – it’s just wrong for him to be in jail while Romeo Jalosjos isn’t; while priests found to have committed pedophilia are merely suspended by the church or transferred to another diocese. The government has pardoned a plunderer, it cannot justify keeping someone like Celdran incarcerated.  But…

…see, some of those inside the Manila Cathedral that day were simply to pray, get closer to God. Perhaps one or two were praying for forgiveness, for the soul of a departed loved one, for salvation. Not everyone inside that church that day were either pro or anti-RH bill, some of them perhaps don’t care about it at all, so I will play the party pooper and stand by my opinion that while the cause is a very worthy one, there are other ways. Lest I be accused of not seeing the bigger picture, I just want to say that that bigger picture does not justify the blatant disrespect for others' religious beliefs and their right to practice those beliefs and worship in peace. Not all Catholics support their Church's stand on the RH issue, in the same way that not all Muslims participated in or supported the 9/11 bombing of WTC and other acts of terrorism perpetuated by extremists.  Barging into a mosque wearing a Salman Rushdie mask and holding up a placard that says "Khomeini,” or wearing a ski mask with a placard that says “Abu Sayyaf,” isn’t right too. Nor is having an animal rights activist gate crash an ongoing cañao dressed as Bambi to protest the slaughter of dogs for meat. Ok, now that’s ridiculous. Or is it, really?

The RH bill is a big deal, and religious freedom is too, and Celdran’s freedom to express his beliefs ends where the freedom of another to practice his or hers without being harassed or violated begins. Considering all churches and Catholics fair game in one’s advocacy against their leaders is no different from persecuting all Muslims for the acts of extremists, or all Americans for their government’s atrocities, or all Filipinos for that botched hostage rescue attempt at the Quirino Grandstand. Oh wait, that’s already happening in Hongkong and mainland China, right? And didn’t we cry foul?  

I posted these thoughts on a social networking site and got this reply: “religion ang umpisa ng lahat ng gulo dito sa mundo... f**k them all.” Be careful now.

As Priam said to Achilles in the movie, Troy, “You're still my enemy tonight. But even enemies can show respect.”   

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