The protests in Chile 2019. Photo by Jorge Fernández Salas on Unsplash
My name is Martin Koroiciri and I am a Columban missionary priest from Fiji, serving in Santiago Chile in the southern suburban area where most people of low class or low-income earners of Santiago live. I was assigned here as a Seminarian two years ago and now I am back as a priest, I enjoyed the mission then and I continue to find joy in mission every day with them. But in the last few weeks, it has been painful to watch her (Santiago) cry for justice.
Chileans have endured suffering for so long, low pension income, high rise in the cost of living and wages are too low. This (protests) started from youths fighting for justice, but then the fight grew from the people who had been suffering for years. Their rage for justice poured out to the streets as they waved their flags and signs of what they protested about. Some people went to the extreme and burnt buses, train stations, and supermarkets to make their points heard. They might not have realized that these damages affected the poor more than it affected the rich.
How can we proclaim the good news to those who find it hard to see the good in life? How do we help them find the light of Christ in the midst of all the darkness? Every day we ask them to pray that Chile may find Peace; How can this prayer become a practical answer? Is this a repetition of history, where can we can delve deeper into another form of liberation theology? Or is this another opportunity to discover another form of theology? Another view of justice? Another experience of God in the midst of chaos?
For so long in history, the answer to violence has been more violence. In other words, the means do not justify the ends to find justice. Young people urge others to go out and support their protests and if someone does not show support, they rebel against them. Recently a man had to escape when people burnt his car simply because he did not show support by tooting his horn.
Their cry is for peace, their cry is for justice, their cry is for fairness, and yet some of their actions are causing others to suffer. How is justice justified in this situation? How can we help them find peace?
Does the Gospel message only apply to people who live in harmony? Or can it apply to a country in a state of agony?
As I mentioned at the beginning of this reflection, I found joy in the mission two years ago, and I continue to find joy in mission, but joy never comes alone, but then again, I am never alone. “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13)
Maybe these questions apply to all countries facing similar situations as Chile? By this I mean, those that have been denied justice for so long, they are exploding with anger. Please pray for all countries in Latin America and the world that are crying out for Peace, and Justice.
Columban Fr Martin Koroiciri