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Bacolod City, Philippines Wednesday, February 24, 2016
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Rock and refuge
with Fr. Roy Cimagala

Charity amid political differences

We should never think that charity is the odd man out in the field of politics. Precisely because politics is fast becoming like a contact game, sportsmanlike charity should be the main character in it.

Charity and politics are not meant to fight each other. They need each other. Charity should be the soul of politics. And politics, given our social nature, should be one of the best occasions where charity can be developed and lived fully. It provides an excellent test to see if charity is authentic.

Charity is what makes us to be real men and women, not human caricatures stretched and warped by our petty shenanigans. It's what we need to live and have, if we want to keep our humanity, sanity and sanctity intact. It's what leads us to truth and objectivity, freedom, justice, fairness and mercy, especially in our politics.

And so we just have to learn how to keep our emotions and judgments in control, and to be quick to rectify our instinctive or spontaneous reactions. Charity needs to spring first from the heart, mind and will that should be vitally linked to God, and then packaged with the best refinement we are capable of. Again, especially in our politics.

We have to disabuse ourselves from the thought, sadly quite common these days, that in politics some exceptions from charity can be tolerated and even expected. We can feel free to insult, attack, even make up charges, indulge in some below-the-belt gimmicks…

No, that's not true at all.

The real test to see if we are doing politics truly proper to us is when we manage to live charity even in the midst of the dizzying variety of possibilities and conflicts politics can occasion.

It's when the heat generated by politics also fans the flames of love

for God and for the others.

One time, I felt so gratified when I happened to take dinner in a private setting with, among others, two politicians who were supposed to be at odds with each other, at least in the papers.

At that time, they were chummy and exchanging jokes, and they refrained from talking politics in my presence.

What we should do in politics, whether we are politicians or ordinary citizens and voters, is first of all to pray and offer sacrifices, to see to it that our spiritual life is strong and healthy before we enter into the intricacies of our unavoidable politics.

Never ignore this requirement. They are what will link our politics to

the very providence of God.

Then we have to know and study the issues well. In this regard, we have to be open-minded and willing to listen to all sides as much as possible. We should try to make a conscious effort to reject biases and prejudices that we find to have no good basis.

Dialogs are crucial in this area. Thus, they should be conducted in the most charitable way, always respectful of everyone no matter how much we disagree with them. We should avoid inflammatory rhetoric, rash judgments and tactless statements.

We should just stick to the objective points of our views, letting them swim or sink on their own merits in the ocean of opinions that can be floated by others. We need to be highly sport here, seeing to it that an atmosphere of civility and good spirit pervades.

That the others do some anomalies is no excuse for us to do the same things. Remember that charity “is patient, is kind, it does not envy, does not deal perversely, it is not puffed up, is not ambitious…it bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things and endures all things.” (1Cor 13,4-7)

Then we have to know and study the politicians and candidates. This is the most tricky part, but we just have to try our best to get a good picture especially of their integrity and competence, the two basic elements to know about them.

Again here, it's more of establishing the positive aspects rather than of the negative side of the personalities involved. We have to be careful to distinguish the traits that we think can serve the needs of our political life, from the personal defects that should not be put out in public unless they have some bearing in public life.

Then we have to really understand the essence of freedom which should infuse every step of our political exercises. Freedom and charity go together always, and they give more importance to the persons than to the issues. Our attitude to politics should have this basic orientation.*

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