Remembering is a radical act when colonialism depends on our communities forgetting our history and our shared humanity. Remembering is a radical act when imperialism makes us forget that our bodies are more than commodities, are made for more than production or labor. Remembering is a radical act when capitalism lulls us into the everyday routines that make us take for granted, the impermanence of this life.
The call to remembering – remembering that we are dust – is a call to remembering our impermanence and, therefore, our humanness. More than intellectual remembering, we are called to remember in the visceral, tangible ways. More than theory and ideas of transformation, change, and justice. It is justice expressed as the tangible: as land, clean water, affordable quality food, adequate housing, living wages, safe schools, debt forgiveness, the end of militarization and police brutality, free healthcare… It is this and so much more that is needed to uphold human dignity, to practice committing to memory the Image of God (imago dei) of all people, especially those pushed towards the margins of society – the ones that colonialism, capitalism, and imperialism attempts to erase and to wipe out of existence and out of everyday memory.
It is allowing ourselves to leave our ivory towers, our comfort zones, “our” communities in order to immerse ourselves in the realities of those who bear the brunt of systemic oppression in the world. To learn so that we can act towards justice by working towards redistribution of resources so that, at the very least, all can have their basic needs met, to live into solidarity in ways that transcends borders and class.
Someone who dedicated her life in such a way was Maria Lorena “Laurie” Barros, a writer, poet, and student at the University of the Philippines (UP) Dilliman who graduated with honors when Ferdinand Marcos was President. In the lead up towards Marcos declaring Martial Law, and in response to political repression, media censorship, curfews, disappearances, and rampant human rights violations and human rights abuses, the student movement and the national democratic movement in the Philippines grew. Lorena co-founded MAKIBAKA, a woman’s organization that aimed at addressing the three basic problems of the Philippines: imperialism, feudalism, and bureaucratic capitalism.
Activists were increasingly in danger and forced to go underground, including Lorena. Although a graduate of a prestigious university, she chose the side of the toiling masses, the poor, the workers. She left the comfort of city life to fight alongside them until 1976, when she was killed at the age of 28 in an encounter with the military.
She wrote: “Liberation cannot consist merely of a ‘change of heart’ in either the exploiter or exploited, a turnabout of values. Nor can liberation start from such a ‘change of heart’: rather it is change in the material conditions which will bring about a ‘change of heart’.”1
In this season, we are called to enact change in tangible ways. To change our hearts, to change our lives, to build right relationships with one another, to put our desires for justice and transformation into material terms. To put earthiness to our faith. To make the soil ready by being intentional in how we use our resources – our time, finances, energy, spirits.
In remembering Jesus’s short ministry, we remember he spent his time with common folk, those considered “unclean,” and left the political minutia to those who collude with the Roman Empire. Instead, he spent his time immersing himself in everyday life with the masses, learning from and empowering those at the bottom rungs of society. We have been taught to see following Jesus as an impossible task. But it is intentional that we are discouraged and have been distracted. Empire has set up the world this way. And we forget.
But remembering that we are dust reminds us that we are all dust – that we are one, that we are connected, and that oppressive systems too will pass away. This connectedness transcends identity and helps us remember that we are called to be part of this ongoing Movement. Jesus reminds us that we were meant to do greater things than he (John 14:12) and that he had such faith in us that he even prayed for us when he was still enfleshed (John 17:20-23). He reminds us that we have what it takes.
Despite being dust and because we are dust.
Prayer of Hope
Creator God, thank you for inviting us to engage in justice and in solidarity in the midst of bleak times. Allow us to be aware of these invitations. Allow us to see abundance, creativity, and unity around us, that we may take up the challenge of pursuing justice and wholeness in tangible, visceral ways, especially if it disturbs us, disrupts our routine, or makes us uncomfortable. We remember that we are dust. We pray that this remembering empowers us and deepens our relationships for the liberation of all.
Get Organized and Immerse with the Masses: The California-Nevada Philippine Solidarity Task Force of the UMC leads annual Pastoral and Solidarity Visits to the Philippines. Meet and build relationships with grassroots organizations and communities participating in resistance. We also have ongoing education connecting faith and social justice in general. For more info, visit our Facebook page and message us!
Engage in Relief and Advocacy: Connect with the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) about the human rights situation in the Philippines and how people of faith there engage in social justice on the ground.
Join the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) with member organizations worldwide.
Continue Education: Watch and hear first-hand testimonies from people impacted by systemic oppression in the Philippines from the International People’s Tribunal.