Family members of missing persons light candles during a memorial for victims of involuntary disappearances in Manila. (Photo by Jire Carreon)
I presented a five-minute video to a group of religious men and women during their Lenten recollection. The video showed the dilemma of a young girl facing the challenge of an enforced disappearance in a family.
The girl was only eight years old when the abduction happened. Now at 19, this girl recalls the day her uncle Jonas was abducted. Almost 12 years have passed but the impact has not diminished.
In fact today, this girl, a first year college student whose video is a school project, is confronted with a question. What will she do in the face of this continuing torture of enforced disappearance?
If you were this girl's mother, or grandmother, what advice would you give her? The dilemma is very real.
The video reveals truths in the heart of a young girl being called to be a prophet. Should she respond and be the voice of the voiceless and missing or should she succumb to fear and take refuge in false safety found in silence?
Should I be afraid? How can one "not be afraid?" The girl is my granddaughter. And the current situation in the Philippines is very dangerous, especially for critics of the government.
My son Jonas was abducted by the military more than 11 years ago. Even if we won our case in the courts, Jonas has not been returned and no one has been punished for not complying with the court’s order. He has no voice. He is still missing.
The search presented conflicting situations filled with human rights violations committed in the guise of fighting insurgency, terrorism, drugs, corruption, plus the law enforcers and protectors are my suspects and respondents, while those who help me in the search and protect me are those labeled as leftists, activists and violators of the law.
It is like a cruel joke played on the families of victims of enforced disappearance.
This reality of contradictions is so present, and it heightens awareness of God's presence in my life today.
The single event of the abduction has catapulted me to a life I have never imagined. But more than the abduction, my response to it is the biggest miracle and blessing that has happened and is happening.
What is a prophet? I think in oversimplistic terms, you could say a prophet is a truth teller, one who responds to situations as this by proclaiming the truth.
My response is still evolving and is now in its 11th year. I was not aware that this was already a call to be a truth teller.
Reflecting on this piece, things are getting clearer. Fidelity to the search, not being cowed into silence nor provoked into violence, yet forgiving and praying, silent yet heard, is the only way I can describe my response.
Through the years, the response is being expanded to include all sons of tortured mothers, mothers of disappeared sons, mothers of peopled slain, displaced tribal people, inclusive of all without exceptions, whether in tattered clothes or uniforms.
Right after the abduction, I was terrified, terrified of the unknown. How could the unknown be truth? But should this fear alone shape my decisions?
Everyone always experiences a conflict situation. Social injustices are daily predicaments.
First in the call to be a truth teller is a sensitivity to situations and an acceptance that these situations confront us and put us in a predicament.
We do not ignore the conflict situation, we confront it and identify those that are contradictory to God.
That is only half the response. The other half is to announce this to the world. For example, cursing God is not acceptable, demeaning and shaming women is vulgar, no reason is good enough to take other people’s lives or disappear them.
We can do this only if we have that conviction that we cannot, and will not, allow someone or something to try and prevent us being His presence in the world.
We "do not allow" by doing something, by saying something, by acting, by being God’s presence. And the prophet says, "As long as you proclaim it, you fulfilled your role. The person who refuses to hear it suffers the consequences."
And this word, voice, act, no matter how small, brings hope to those around you. God’s hopes can be performed only through us, human beings.
Yes, we are afraid, and it disrupts the normal way of life we live, but Jesus assures us, "Do not be afraid, do not be discouraged, He will never leave you."
When Jonas was taken, I thought I would die of a broken heart. But it was not in His plan to take me yet. And by His grace, because of modern-day prophets, there is hope my heart will be whole again.
Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen, believed to be soldiers, abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing.