Justice for Fr. Pops!

“ Your dreams are my dreams, your struggles are my struggles’  you and I are only partners in building God’s Kingdom”

Fr. Fausto Tentorio, PIME (1952-2011)

        Embracing life is embracing death but in death comes new life. This was true when news aired in various TV and radio programs headlining the murder of Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio, a priest from PIME ((Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere) on the broad daylight of 17 October 2011 at the convent of the Mother of Perpetual Help Parish in Arakan, North Cotabato. He was silence by the forces of darkness and death because he was giving life and light. They were trying to inflict fear and yet his death paved the way towards a new missionary zeal; the gun shots have not silenced the just man. His spirit and his struggles for the cause of his people kindled the heart of many young missionaries to travel the same path he had traveled. It is in trying to silence the voice that many voices muted in silence have started to speak, to announce and to proclaim.

          It was November in 2011 when I officially received an invitation from the Promotion of Church Peoples Response stirring me to participate in the PILGRIMAGE TO ARAKAN: A JOURNEY FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE initiated by the group Justice for Fr. Fausto “Pops” Tentorio Movement. The movement made a bolder stands on the killing through organizing a four-day journey of mission solidarity against impunity on November 26-29, 2011. The spirit of the martyred PIME priest brought them together (human rights and peace advocates and various church leaders) to come out, speak, announce and proclaim their one stand “NO TO IMPUNITY!

         & nbsp;  These four-day mission solidarity; honoring and remembering Father Pop’s life, work and ministry ignited an inspiration for me. I started to understand how he lived with an utmost spiritual and apostolic ardor; inserting himself into the masses of ordinary people, breaking the barriers of race, language, and creed; sharing in the mission of Christ to build God’s kingdom through building relationships with the people of Arakan Valley.

         & nbsp;   The Spirit led Father Pops to shepherd these people in the early 1980’s where his apostolic zeal to their communities proved himself worthy to be called a real PIME missionary. His life is a real manifestation of an authentic service, courage, hope and faith that resulted from the outpouring of God’s grace channeled through his apostolic and missionary endeavors. He was a man of aspirations, inspiration and dreams. He tirelessly held fast unto his dreams of building God’s kingdom by organizing, launching, creating, supporting and living in a fraternal communion with these people. His thirty- four years of deep service to the most abandoned people in North Cotabato and his commitment of solidarity with the Lumad’s struggle for self-determination particularly the Manobo in the Arakan Valley and that of the poor peasant-settlers for genuine land reform have been sources of inspiration for many church workers. His life inspired many to announce in a bolder sense the Kingdom of God by facing squarely the consequences of being a disciple of Christ.

         & nbsp;  In his spirit of service and leadership, he was able to uplift the life situations of the community of indigenous people in North Cotabato by launching literacy and health programs; benifiting 3,000 Lumad peasant scholars. His literacy programs spread out from Arakan, Makilala, Tulunan, Antipas and to other municipalities of Cotabato where he spearheaded 30 daycare centers and supported the Ata-Manobo schools in Talingod Davao del Norte. His health programs under TFCDI (Tribal Filipino Center for Development Inc,) raised to people’s health awareness where Father Fausto manifested his prowness in pastoral theology. His prolific figure led him to a post as board member of Rural Missionaries of the Philippines-Southern Mindanao and Mindanao Interfaith Services Foundation Incorporated. He was one of those who initiated the foundation of Association of Progressive Peasant Organization and he founded the Tinananon-Kulamanon Lumadnong Panaghiusa; a peasant and Lumad organization.

         & nbsp;   Father Fausto’s works, life and ministry are manifestations of living in the axiom of giving life in doing good. My Christology professor once told us, “Jesus’ praxis urges us to do good and condemn the anti-kingdom values”. To do good and to avoid evil is fundamental in promoting the kingdom values but if we simply do good and avoid evil, we didn’t eliminate the evil; we just avoided them and allowed them to proliferate. Avoiding them would be more difficult if they are already growing, proliferating, increasing; enough to surround and engulf us. To promote the Kingdom of God entails not only avoiding evil but by denouncing, condemning and facing boldly all the forces of the anti-kingdom. Indeed, Fr. Pops missionary way of life attested into this kingdom formula; his struggles and self- determination for the cause of the Manobo, Lumads or tribal people of Arakan, his resistance over destructive mining and blocking the way for any further alienation of these people from their ancestral domain, by assisting in the forming of People’s Organization of the Manobo; filling the void left by the state in the provision of social services and development projects, by establishing, developing and maintaining the Basic Christian Community (BCC) in the light of liberation theology, and by standing against the militarization of Arakan caused him a lot to pay in trying to alienate his people from the anti-kingdom values. Half of his life was dedicated to the struggle of Manobo as a part of the wider national democratic struggle of the Filipino people for genuine democracy and social liberation. He gave everything of himself unselfishly and unreservedly and yet others still demanded him a price from this self-emptying; from his “kenosis”.

         & nbsp;   Father Fausto’s missionary spirit is a reminder of our common responsibility to proclaim God’s kingdom. He has the sense of urgency, creativity and affectivity in proclaiming it. He inserted himself into the terrorizing condition of our time and was able to respond concretely because he searched, prayed, and inculturated himself in “signs of time”. He tried to heal, preserve, develop and elevate the culture of these people through the proclamation of the kingdom values concretely manifested in his authentic relationship. He surpassed theories by incarnating the words. His brand of discipleship serves as a check- in- balance to our own understanding of what and how to become a disciple of Christ today. His whole life is a contribution into the greatest love story ever told in history; that God loves us faithfully and he is ready “to lay down his life for his people.”

         & nbsp;   “Fr. Pops’ death serves as an inspiration for us to selflessly share in the mission work of Christ for those who are marginalized and oppressed by the society. His death shall not be meaningless, because his legacy of life of service and steadfastness to his mission keeps our hearts ablaze with love, hope, and enthusiasm to serve and the cause for which he offered his life will be sustained by all those who care for the causes that he lived for”, an excerpt from the statement of the Claretian Missionaries in the Philippines.

         & nbsp;      The light is calling; be inspired, move, journey, embrace , speak, prostrate yourself into the Spirit that leads the path towards death to new life! The unbending and uncompromising will for hope, justice and peace has lit a light; its spark is growing…flaming enough to overshadow the darkness and I have vowed down “he must to rise once again”.

Justice for Fr. Pops!

One path of the same inspiration’
‘Believing in one real dream’
‘Fighting for the cause of one struggle’
‘Together, we build God’s Kingdom’

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