Happenings

Book applies prayer to world problems

Feb 2013    

MANILA– With the deadline moving closer for the international community to achieve significant goals to relieve human suffering, the Rev Liberato Bautista decided he had to take action.

“When I was looking at the Millennium Development Goals, I said, ‘These goals are not going to be implemented. We have to start praying for the implementation because they are too important to be neglected,’ ” he recalled.

The United Nations developed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) to focus the world’s attention on reducing poverty, protecting the vulnerable, decreasing the numbers of mothers and babies who die in childbirth, and achieving other steps by 2015.

The Rev Bautista, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society’s executive representative to the United Nations, put together a prayer guide with contributions from writers around the world. The result was Meditations and Devotions on the Millennium Development Goals, which was launched in February 2012. It has taken on new significance as another year passes and the 2015 deadline nears.

“This book … helps provide a moral construct through which we see that these eight goals are not just national and governmental goals, but nearer the core of the Christian gospel – the Christian gospel of justice and peace and wholeness and fullness of life,” said the Rev Bautista.

The Rev Rex Reyes, General Secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said the book is extraordinary because it brings together the voices of people from around the world who are “from the base”. He noted that most of the contributors are people “from the roots of the grass,” doing what they can for a better world.

He described the book as “very Methodist”. It is guided primarily by The United Methodist Church’s social teachings. “It saddens me that the voices of the indigenous people don’t seem tocome out,” he said, adding that perhaps they will for a future project.

“This book is a trailblazing effort of a faith trying to make itself heard,” he continued. It “feeds us spiritually and convicts our social consciousness”.

“For me, I have the book on my table as a daily source of nurture from now on.”

A warning

“Today, 50,000 people continue to die daily because of poverty,” said Ms Norma Dollaga, Chairman of the Philippines Annual Conference’s Board of Church and Society. In the last quarter, 4.5 million families in the Philippines went hungry.

“The book is a warning,” she said. “It will disturb us and fill our hearts with longing to see … justice.” It is also an invitation to follow our faith and love our neighbour, and a reminder that “there is no holiness but social”.

The Rev Bautista said that the book took three years to compile. He said he first considered doing a 60-day devotional guide, but as he travelled around the world and invited 300 to 400 people to contribute, he ended up with enough material for 117 days. The devotional guide approach was inspired by the Ilocano version of The Upper Room that his mother read when he was growing up in rural Sanchez Mira town in northern Philippines.

The Rev Bautista’s career has reflected his ongoing concern Book applies prayer to world problemsBy Tim Tantonfor the poor and marginalised, starting from the days when he and his wife were activists and church youth leaders during the difficult years of the military regime of Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines.

“My wife and I were both student activists and national United Methodist Youth Fellowship officers during the hardest time in the political and national life of the Philippines,” he said. “We struggled with how to deal with the immense poverty of this country, and yet, it has an abundance of resources. Therefore, the unequal distribution of wealth is one that would be glaring in one’s eyes when you deal with issues in the Philippines.”

He feels that the MDGs are a way to raise the faith community’s awareness to those types of issues. He refers to them in one sense as “minimum development goals” to lift those who are in extreme poverty into regular poverty.

Political will … and prayer

He said that governments have shown a lack of political wisdom and courage in working for the goals. At the same time, “political will is welling up from people to better their lives for sustainability, to better their lives for mental health and public health, to better their lives with respect to the eradication of hunger and poverty.”

His response, he said, is to lift the eight goals up in the context of prayer, with an emphasis on Micah 6:8. The first three goals relate to seeking justice, the second set relates to loving mercy, and the last two relate to walking humbly with God.

The Board of Church and Society published an initial 4,000 copies of the book. Proceeds from the sale of the US$7.95 (S$10) book will support The United Methodist Church’s Imagine No Malaria campaign, the denomination’s Global AIDS Fund and relief and rehabilitation efforts in the Philippines from the typhoons that visit the country year-round. The book (ISBN 978-1-4507-9931-7) can be ordered online.– United Methodist News Service.

Above picture caption: The cover of the Rev Liberato Bautista’s book, Meditations and Devotions on the Millennium Development Goals, features the eight Millennium Development Goals. – UMNS picture by Mike DuBose.

Tim Tanton is Executive Director of Content at United Methodist Communications.

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