Why celebrate 500 years of Christianity in the Philippines? 

Was not Christianity a mere tool for colonial rule?

By Bishop Pablo Virgilio David

The same Christian faith that the conquistadores tried to use in order to pursue their colonial purposes in our country also inspired our revolutionaries around three and a half centuries later to dream of freedom and democracy. It is the same Christian faith that eventually motivated them to defend the basic human dignity of the Indios and to desire to put an end to tyranny and colonial rule.

The Spanish missionaries had taught the natives to chant the Pasion during the Holy Week. Unknown to the authorities, the same Pasion which was about the suffering Messiah offering his life for the redemption of humankind had inspired our heroes to offer their lives for the redemption of our country—at the cost of their own blood, sweat and tears. (See Reynaldo Ileto’s Pasyon at Rebolusyon.)

We were of course bitterly divided during the time of the transition: between the pro’s and the anti’s, between those on the side of colonial politics, and those who dared to be on the side of revolutionary politics. Division is not always a negative thing. As St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:19, sometimes “there have to be divisions… in order that those who are approved among (us) may become known.” Or think about what Jesus said when he spoke like an angry prophet of doom, “I have come to light a fire on earth; how I wish it were already ablaze. Do you think I have come to bring peace on earth? No not peace but division…”. These are unpleasant words that we’d rather not hear, especially when we make unity into an absolute value. People forget that unity can sometimes be negative too—when it is about uniting around an ungodly purpose. No wonder God sowed division on the builders of the tower of Babel, so that he could later genuinely reunite them in the Spirit through Pentecost.

Our own ancestors were intelligent enough to accept what was good and reject what was evil in what the Spaniards had brought with them when they came to our land. They also eventually learned to distinguish between the missionaries who had totally allied themselves with the colonial politics of the conquistadores and those who were critical of it, those who had the courage to defend the rights of the natives against the abuses and cruelties of the colonial masters.

The mere fact that we eventually repudiated colonial rule but continued to embrace the Christian faith even after we won the revolution could only mean that the natives did not equate Christianity with Colonialism. At some point, the faith that they had embraced was no longer alien to them. It had succeeded in taking root on the fertile ground of our innate spirituality as a people.

Let us, therefore, make it clear: what we will celebrate in 2021 is not colonialism but the Christian faith that the natives of these islands welcomed as a gift, albeit from people who were not necessarily motivated by the purest of motives. God can indeed write straight even with the most crooked lines. (CBCPNews)