As you celebrate your 50th birthday as a progressive movement of Christian students, let me remind you of the SCM’s favorite bible passage.
1:7 The LORD said to me, “Do not say, ‘I am too young.’ But go to whomever I send you and say whatever I tell you. 1:8 Do not be afraid of those to whom I send you, for I will be with you to protect you,” says the LORD.1:9 Then the LORD reached out his hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “I will most assuredly give you the words you are to speak for me. 1:10 Know for certain that I hereby give you the authority to announce to nations and kingdoms that they will be uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted.” This is the kind of message, then and now, that can get the messenger killed.
So, Jeremiah’s reaction to God’s call was natural. When he said, “I am too young,” he meant more than his age. He was afraid. Jeremiah’s mission was to proclaim judgment and redemption. He was to announce to nations and kingdoms that they will be uprooted and torn down, destroyed and demolished, rebuilt and firmly planted. Do not forget, Jesus was almost killed when he preached his first sermon. It was natural to be afraid. Even Moses was afraid when God called him to deliver God’s people from bondage. Jeremiah’s message to nations and kingdoms still stand. Moses’ call to liberation is as important as it was 3 thousand years ago. And Jesus’ message of good news to the poor, the one that eventually led to his arrest, torture, and public execution, is as vital and as relevant as the first time it was preached.
Sixty-two years and one day ago, in a rare moment of grace, humanity came together and proclaimed that the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family serve as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world; that it is essential, if humans are not to be compelled to have recourse, as a last a resort, to rebellion against tyranny and oppression, that human rights should be protected by the rule of law; that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights; and that they are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood/sisterhood. We pledged our collective commitment to these declarations.
Moreover, sixty-two years and one day ago we proclaimed that no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment and that no one shall be subjected to arbitrary arrest, detention or exile. Sixty-two years ago, humanity pledged “never again” to the injustices wrought on the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and their children, and we declared “enough!” to the inhumanities effected by emperors, kings, and their ilk.
Unfortunately, sixty-two years and one day later, there are still emperors, and kings, and rulers who wield power over life and death. There are still sons and daughters whom these kings order to be tortured and killed. There are still countless and nameless sons, daughters, husbands, wives, sisters, brothers, mothers and fathers who are abducted, never to be seen again. Everyday, in our country, in Palestine, in so many parts of our world, daughters and sons, many not even 12 years old, are violently taken away from their loved ones: snatched, imprisoned, and violated.
Sixty-two years and one day later, there are still young children who are arrested in the dead of night for throwing stones at tanks and armored personnel carriers. There are still rural health workers who are illegally detained and branded as communist bomb-makers for working among the poorest of the poor in the most far-flung barrios. And there are still bishops, pastors, deaconesses, and youth leaders whose bodies are impaled for opening their homes, their hearts, and their lives to those whose only hope is God.
Today, December 11, 2010, is exactly sixty-two years and one day later. The emperors and kings are still alive. Their empires and kingdoms still stand. But so is Jeremiah. So is Moses. And Miriam. And Deborah. And Jesus. They were alone in the biblical text. Right now, today, in our context, they are not. They are legion. They are alive in the Student Christian Movement. As they have been for the past fifty years.
Emperors and kings have the power to kill. But God's power is greater than death. The empire can kill Bishop Alberto Ramento but God can raise up ten more to take his place. Kings and rulers can kill Edison Lapuz and Eden Marcellana but God can raise up one hundred to take their place. For every prophet whose blood is spilled for love of country, for serving the people, for ministering to those whose only hope is God, God will raise up a thousand more...