Last January, Filipinos observed two major yearly celebrations: the Feast of the Black Nazarene in Quiapo, Manila and the Santo Niño Feast in Cebu, Aklan and other parts of the Philippines. Millions of faithful flocked to these two events and much time and energy was spent by our people in showing their devotion to Jesus as the Nazarene and the Santo Niño (Holy Child). However, the piles of garbage left after the Traslación procession are not at all reflective of piety. As the adage goes, “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Perhaps it’s time to review our devotions. Are they leading us to true communion with God or helping us in the development of our nation? We can start by promoting the spirit of communion and dialogue on different levels. First, a communion of goods… Like the first Christian community, we can share our surplus and the things we don’t really need with the poor around us. We can channel this communion through organizations already helping the poor like Caritas, Gawad Kalinga, the Focolare’s Bukas Palad Social Centers and other credible NGOs, and through the government’s Department of Social Welfare and Development.

Second, communion with God’s creation or the natural environment. We can start with simple waste segregation at home, planting more trees, cleaning up of esteros, rivers, and most importantly, living a simple lifestyle and getting rid of the consumer mindset by eating healthy food and reducing the use of plastic. As a community, we can lobby for environmental causes.

Another aspect of communion is promoting a spirit of dialogue with people of different beliefs and convictions. In our predominantly Christian country, we can extend a hand of friendship to our Muslim brothers and sisters. Christian leaders have already shown us
a concrete example of this in their support for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao. But even in our own neighborhood, we can initiate programs to create mutual trust and friendships with Muslim brethren so as to break down the barriers which have been built over time.

We have just concluded the various activities of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity (WPCU). Christians from different denominations worked side by side and hand in hand not just praying for Justice, (the theme for this year’s WPCU) but also by giving witness together so that we will all be one family in Christ if we dialogue with our hearts and with our life based on the Gospel. The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) through its Episcopal Commission on Ecumenical Affairs, together with the Focolare Movement and the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP) organized the program which included a breakfast fellowship attended by the Apostolic Nuncio, several bishops, pastors, priests, nuns and committed lay people; children’s activities at the Philippine Bible Society; several youth-led Ecumenical Workshops, as well as Liturgical Ecumenical Services hosted by both Catholic and Protestant churches. All of this was just a good “excuse” to be ONE FAMILY OF CHRISTIANS.

The first week of February is an opportune time to come together to do this dialogue as we hold the Uni-Harmony Week that celebrates mutual respect among world religions. What matters is to be aware of the importance of building friendship and brotherhood with Filipinos of other faiths as they are an integral part of Philippine society.

Lastly, let’s carry on a dialogue through sports, arts and culture, like music, dance, etc. to achieve peace and unity in our nation. Our “devotions” should lead us to communion, dialogue and solidarity… It’s time to step up from devotion to communion towards justice and development.

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