[Address to the ADDU College Graduates, Matina, March 28, 2015]
At yesterday’s Baccalaureate Mass, I spoke about two themes which were suggested to us by Pope Francis; first, that of transcendence; second, that of being missioned to the poor and to the peripheries. The fact that life is not just about gratification in the present moment is an important fact. One does not live just for this day, or just for this life. Knowing our transcendence that reaches beyond experience and beyond death is essential to making wise decisions in our life: this includes making the decisions about the type and quality of professional I wish to be, the type and quality of family I wish to raise, the manner in which I accept or reject, celebrate or regret, maintain or reform the jobs or missions, the associates or colleagues, the lifestyles or environments of the narrative of my life. Neglect transcendence, you are condemned to superficiality; consider transcendence, you have a chance at wisdom. You even have a chance at happiness.
In the light of transcendence, consider making a big personal contribution to ending the scourge and suffering of poverty. I don’t mean just sharing with the beggar a couple of pesos every time one knocks on the window of your car. I mean habitually keeping in mind the refugees, the outcastes, the sick, the discriminated against, the rejected, the socially marginalized, the aged, the dying; in Mindanao, I mean the poor of the indigenous peoples, the poor of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao. Poor people are poor not because God wills it, but because some people will it. Poor people are poor in Mindanao because our society works for those who are “included”, and not for the “excluded.” The excluded are often a condition of the prosperity of the included. It is in the interests of the included that the excluded remain excluded. Pope Francis has lamented the cruelty of economies that exclude in favor of the included. As graduates of the ADDU, it is my prayer that you number yourselves among the liberators of the poor who lead them to prosperity, not perdition. This cannot be done as a casual pastime or as the come-on of an exclusive country club. It demands your whole attention, your whole education, your whole dedication, your whole life. It demands what your transcendence invites. In your stay at ADDU, we have spoken much about your becoming leaders in society – not leaders who advance merely the private good, as many Ateneans of the past have been, but leaders of the common good. You have not come to the Ateneo to be selfish; you have come to the Ateneo to be women and men for others. Especially with the poor in mind – the people impoverished due to injustice, the people who are culturally and religiously other, the poor who are victims of environmental injustice – remember that as graduates of ADDU batch 2015, you are called to ADDU leadership sui generis. You are to lead in bringing the fruits of your education to bear in working for the common good, that envisaged society where all in the Philippines can flourish together as human beings.
In pursuit of the common good, the fullness of life, I ask each of you today to commit yourselves personally to peace especially here in Mindanao. Your years in college have witnessed a peace process that bore great promise for peace. Recently, however, that peace process has been disturbed because of the sad event of Mamasapano and its sadder aftermath. Mamasapano exposed errors of judgment and lapses in coordination in abundance; it also resurrected old prejudices and surfaced levels of ignorance and arrogance in some of the highest levels of our democratic society. Today we are unable to say whether the BBL, in which we had reposed hope for the socio-political structures that would condition lasting peace in Mindanao, will actually be passed. Whether it is or not, I ask you throughout your lives to be men and women, Ateneans, for peace. As our guest speakers have convinced us, peace begins necessarily with us, no matter the horror of the violence we have experienced in our lives. It begins with the personal conviction that wounds can be healed, violence can be overcome, and that making peace is always more fruitful than making war. This peace process, no matter its present state, has generated heroes for peace – like President Aquino and Al Haj Murad Ebrahim, like Ging Deles, Mirams Coronel-Ferrer and Mohagher Iqbal, like Fr. Roberto Layson and Mr. Mike Alon. Graduating from ADDU, I ask that you strive in your lives to be heroes and heroines for peace.
To our parents and benefactors, thank you for supporting our graduates in their studies here at the ADDU.
May the God of prosperity and the God of peace bless us all.