21 March 2008

'Good Friday People'

Juan L. Mercado is a Cebu-based columnist who is published in a number of Filipino newspapers. He is the uncle of Fr Jun Mercado OMI, whose reflections on the Seven Last Words I've just posted. Though we've never met, Johnny, as he is known, and I have been exchanging occasional emails since I contacted him about a reference in the Irish Examiner in 2005 to something he wrote. I came across that while on the internet in Haines Junction, a small town in the Yukon Territory, Canada. The wonders of modern communications!

Johnny writes from the perspective of his Catholic faith, though not as a spokesman for the Catholic Church. We desperately need more people like him.

Dr Sheila Cassidy, an Englishwoman quoted by Johnny as the one who coined in phrase 'Good Friday People', was in the Columban house in Santiago, Chile, during the early days of the Pinochet dictatorship in the 1970s when soldiers or police broke in and shot dead the housekeeper. They took away Dr Cassidy and tortured her. (Interesting that former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher befriended Pinochet.)

Juan Mercado's Viewpoint in Wednesday's Philippine Daily Inquirer begins:

INQUIRER captioned the photo: "The unbearable wait." It depicted two gaunt women staring at an exhumed coffin sealed in blue plastic. "Mothers of missing UP students Erlinda Cadapan and Concepcion Empeño view the casket containing the remains of a female," the caption explains. DNA testing at the Philippine General Hospital may show if she was one of their daughters.

"'Good Friday People" is a phrase I coined for those who find themselves called to powerlessness and suffering," writes Sheila Cassidy in her book which bears the same title. A hospice director in England today, she was tortured by Chilean soldiers for treating wounded rebels. "(These) are men and women, broken in body and assaulted in mind--deprived not merely of things we take for granted," she adds. "God calls them to walk the same road that His Son (trod)."

Juan Mercado's column for me links Calvary with torture and murder in Chile, in the Philippines and in Nazi Germany. Some perpetrators have been punished but many not. Here in the Philippines it is clear that all kinds of crimes are being carried out with impunity by people in power and nobody is being punished.

Viewpoint recalls the experience of Elie Wiesel witnessing a child being hanged in a Nazi camp and someone asking, 'Where is God?' Wiesel says, 'And I heard a voice within me answer him: "Here He is - hanging on these gallows."'

Read the whole article, which is one of the hope that Good Friday/Easter brings.

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