On Nov. 16, 2004, the heat of the sun was scorching, and the Hacienda Luisita workers matched the sunâ€s intensity with their passion and determination for just compensation. In the presence of the police and military units, workers staunchly stood for their beliefs, exposing all the more the greed of the unyielding lords of the land.
Amongst the clamoring people, masked by the crowd and unnoticed even by the media, were the quietly persevering youth. They held on to hope for a better future as they strived to be one with the workers. Both workers and youth were optimistically struggling to claim promises that were rightfully theirs.
The image of a young man offering water to the exhausted men and women stood out in that hot November afternoon. Inasmuch as the rain gives life to plants and dry land, his caring gesture offered comfort to the unjustly treated Hacienda Luisita workers. Just like the boy amongst 5,000 who presented to Jesus his five loaves of bread and two fishes, he is an example of courage and selflessness.
When sudden violence broke out and blatant, unforgiving oppression was made more real by fists and guns, the Hacienda Luisita workers paid for their conviction â€“- many with their blood and some with their lives. This tragedy was mourned not only by the families of those who died, but also by the people of the nation who clearly saw and deplored the tyranny.
The smoke from tear gas and killer weapons cleared out and the chaos subsided. The wails of the hurt and orphaned rang out. Dead bodies were everywhere â€“- one of which was that of the quiet hero who gave out water to the workers a few hours earlier.
Juancho Sanchez â€“- a pastorâ€s son, an active member of the Christian Youth Fellowship of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (CYF-UCCP), a child of the church and the community â€“- offered his life together with the weak and indigent, all for the hope of escaping poverty and living reasonably. A young man molded by the church, lovingly taught in the home, formed in truth and with strong faith and principle was killed mercilessly in the Hacienda Luisita massacre.
The violence in Hacienda Luisita poignantly demonstrates how lives are taken by evil, while people like Juancho simultaneously risk offering themselves as sacrifice on the altar of truth and justice. This catastrophe, blood-smeared and uncalled for, will â€“- and should â€“- never be forgotten by all who believe in truth and justice.
The entirety of the UCCP grieves for the unwarranted slaughter of Hacienda Luisita victims and Juancho Sanchez who lost his life with them. Church people are called to stand in the name of truth and righteousness for the Word of God implores in Micah 6:8, â€œHe has showed you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.â€
The Hacienda Luisita incident is just a part of the bigger picture of injustice that consistently happens in many areas of our country. More often than not, those who choose to uphold their beliefs in the peaceful way, without force or malice, are those who are abused and deprived by the powerful few. And what is their â€œcrimeâ€? Wanting a better life for their families and a chance to live with dignity and not merely exist as toiling slaves.
As long as inequality and violence continues, the memory and legacy of a selfless pastorâ€s child, Juancho Sanchez, will continue. He was amongst many who lost their lives and their chance of seeing their dreams to completion. Their hopes and dreams call us to continue. Listen, for Yahweh still speaks:
Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?
Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelterâ€”
when you see the naked, to clothe them,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? (Isaiah 58:6-7)