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Professional independence of judges and lawyers central to the protection and promotion of human rights, the rule of law and democracy in Asia

A Statement by the Asian Human Rights Commission
April 15, 2013

The following is a statement issued by a group of Asian jurists, who met from 9-11 April in Bangkok, to discuss about threats to professional freedom of lawyers and the independence of the judiciary in Asia. Jurists from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Burma, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, South Korea, Vietnam, and Hong Kong attended the consultation. The Asian Human Rights Commission along with the Lawyers' Collective of Sri Lanka organised the consultation.

On 11 April 2013, the Government of Bangladesh arrested the Interim Editor of a Bangla daily, Daily Amardesh, Mr. Mahmudur Rahman. When the police produced Rahman before the Dhaka Chief Metropolitan Magistrate's Court, he reportedly said: I know well that if I appoint any lawyer, he or she will submit prayers for my bail and cancellation of the remand prayer foolishly. The court will act on whatever decision comes from the government.

This statement and its insight concerning the absence of judicial independence are unfortunately resonated in most of Asia. The public perception in Asia is that, in matters where the government is keen in persecuting a person, the government dictates the courts to be biased in favour of the executive, and hence the courts cannot act independently.

The expectation, that the judiciary is to act independently and impartially at all circumstances, has eroded in most of Asia. This has led to a distrustful outlook about judicial independence in Asia. The spread of such a viewpoint is the reflection of massive changes that have already taken place or of conditions that have not improved in Asia, that poses serious threats to the independence of the judiciary and the rule of law itself in the region.

The participants expressed serious concern about the threats to the judiciary, arising from different sources and sometimes reflected by the internal changes within the judiciary itself. The unanimous view of all the participants is that, the independence of the judiciary must be taken up as a major concern in Asia, and that it must be reflected in the interventions by the international community, including the United Nations in its efforts that are undertaken to promote and to protect human rights in Asia. Protection of human rights is seriously undermined and threatened, when citizens cannot expect their courts to act independently, and to guarantee individual rights.

Concern about the absence of adequate protection for judges, lawyers, and litigants was a major sentiment expressed throughout this consultation. The participants felt that, a citizen commencing the path of seeking justice through courts, is exposed to serious threats to his or her life, liberties and to property. A citizen also has to take into consideration the threats that lawyers themselves are being exposed to, and the possible unwarranted influences that may affect the judiciary from acting independently.

Many examples of threats were cited; faced by lawyers, judges and often litigants and witnesses, when they resort to litigation.

The following is a list of concerns expressed by the participants: (i) threat of disenrollment of lawyers; (ii) actions of contempt of court against litigants and lawyers; (iii) attempted abduction of lawyers, witnesses and litigants; (iv) absence of investigation by the police on complaints of threats and intimidation of lawyers and litigants; (v) fabrication of criminal charges against lawyers, litigants and witnesses; (vi) illegal arrest and custodial torture of lawyers, litigants and witnesses, in which, often even on complaints, courts are unable or unwilling to promptly intervene; (vii) close surveillance by state agencies of lawyers, judges and litigants, that violates privacy and privilege of professional communications; (viii) lawyers who are employed in government as well as private sectors restricted from freely exercising professional freedom; (ix) organised vilification campaigns of lawyers and judges by state and non-state actors; (x) intimidation of judges by arbitrarily transferring them repeatedly or promoting judges tainted with corruption overlooking seniority; (xi) internal as well as international travel restrictions imposed upon lawyers.

The above list is not exhaustive. Lawyers who dare to challenge the smothering of professional freedom risk the loss of practice and income.

Analysing a recent example, extensive discussions were held on the impeachment of the Chief Justice of Sri Lanka, Dr. Shirani Bandaranayake. The Government of Sri Lanka abruptly removed Justice Bandaranayake from service, when a Supreme Court Bench led by her delivered judgments that were unfavourable to the government. The illegal removal of the Chief Justice from office, without adhering to universally approved fair trial guarantees, itself is a stark expression of the threats that the judiciary is exposed to while trying to discharge their duties independently. The dismissal of the Chief Justice also strongly indicates selection processes, where persons willing to sacrifice the independence of the judiciary in favour of the executive, are preferred by the government in such designations.

The participants highlighted the centrality of the independence of the judiciary to ensure the protection and promotion of human rights. Efforts to promote the rule of law and democracy are inseparable from judicial independence in Asia. Fundamental to this is the elimination of all threats against the exercise of professional independence of the judiciary.

It must be restated, that the role of the magistrate, is to protect the individual from undue interferences from the executive. This mandate is seriously undermined when the executive makes all efforts to subjugate magistracy to its administrative writ.

Lawyers are officers of the court. Threats to lawyers are threats to the independent operation of the judiciary. When the executive prevents, the possibility of citizens with grievances against the executive seeking redress through courts, the very notion of the separation of powers is jeopardised and negated.

The executive, to undermine judicial independence, denies the judiciary adequate resources. In all Asian states, there are serious complaints, from the judiciary and the general public, that necessary budgetary allocations are not provided to judicial institutions. This has hampered seriously the efficiency of these institutions. In India for instance, this has led to delays in adjudication, that a case today takes more than a decade to complete, rendering the concept of justice itself a misnomer.

The participants further expressed serious concerns about judicial corruption and accountability. In most Asian states, the judges face serious allegations of corruption. In Bangladesh for instance, judges openly demand and receive bribes. In most of Asia, an independent oversight mechanism that could investigate into judicial corruption does not exist. Often judges themselves prevent the creation of such an institution.

The participants affirmed that in Asia, judicial independence as a subject of discussion is to be brought to the forefront of national, regional, and international debates. This, the participants confirmed is the most urgent requirement, without which all discussions about protection and promotion of human rights, on prevention of corruption, and on democracy and the rule of law would be meaningless. The participants urged that the international community, including the United Nations – particularly its human rights mechanisms – should prioritise the need to protect the rights of the people to seek judicial protection and to obtain it within a framework of justice and fairness.

The participants reiterated that if there is failure in ensuring judicial independence in Asia, then, much of the global efforts to promote the rule of law, democracy, and human rights in Asia will not render any practical and tangible results. Without a concentrated effort to ensure judicial independence, the participants expressed fear, that the people living in states where the judiciary does not enjoy the independent status it disserves, will continue facing huge stumbling blocks in the realisation of universally accepted fundamental human rights guarantees, most importantly of dignity, equality and freedom.

The participants urged that the international community, including the United Nations, should acquire adequate knowledge about the threats posed to the independence of the judiciary and to the lawyers in Asia. The participants further reiterated their concern, that today, the issue is not adequately addressed regionally and internationally, and called upon the states and all other international as well as regional entities, having their influence in Asia, to develop bilateral policies with Asian states where threats to judicial independence is considered as a matter of utmost urgency.

The participants emphasised, that there is much to be done, by Asian lawyers and judges, in order to promote their own concerns about professional independence. The participants affirmed that more discussions like the one held at Bangkok need to take place within domestic jurisdictions. They urged, that to realise this, Asian jurists should come together, and pursue the development of the institution of justice as a common cause in Asia.

The participants reiterated that it is the duty of Asian jurists to demand policy changes from their governments, so that states give priority to the advancement of justice and to the development of domestic institutions' capacities to deliver justice. The participants are unanimously of the opinion that towards the above end, a network of lawyers and judges - siting and/or retired - should be developed in Asia. This network should lead the way to bring the discussion of independence of judges and lawyers to the forefront.

As a matter of priority, this network should develop capacities to assist lawyers and judges who face threats. Each case of threat to professional freedom needs to be expeditiously documented and shared with others within the country as well as internationally. With adequate utilisation of modern communication facilities, such sharing of information could be done without incurring exorbitant costs. Towards this, lawyers must be trained to document the treats they face, meticulously and with the greatest possible details.

The practice of such documentation and dissemination of information is inadequate in Asia so far. The participants opined, that the quality of the documentation and its widest possible dissemination seeking interventions, whenever professional independence of either the judiciary or that of the lawyers are under attack, could be a game changer to the existing conditions dominated by fear and isolation in Asia. Besides, practical steps should be developed to assist persons facing threats, for instance, by ensuring protection of lawyers and judges under threat by safe relocation, whenever necessary.

The participants agreed to take active part in the development of this network for protection of independence of the judiciary and that of the lawyers.





Vinegar shopper or journalist?

April 5, 2013

“Pinabili lang ng suka sa kanto, pagbalik journalist na” (“Told to buy vinegar at the corner store, he trotted back a journalist.”). That put-down reflects a key concern of “Crimes and Unpunishment: The Killing of Filipino Journalists.” Unesco and Asian Institute of Journalism launched the book December.

It underpins weeding out of bogus journalists from the Bureau of Customs beat: 408, under the Arroyo administration, to 96 today. The “Customs press corps” then equaled 408 provincial newspapers (32 are dailies). That was about seven times foreign and local reporters accredited to Malacańang. Commissioner Ruffy Biazon pledged to continue to weeding out hao-siaos – fly-by-night journalists who doubled as fixers or P.R. agents.

“Isn’t it obvious?”, columnist Boo Chanco snapped. “Most of those people claiming to represent media are anything but?” Chanco counseled the then mint-new Commissioner Biazon: Keep your nose clean. Then, confront those who flaunt oversize “Press” credentials, even if they threaten you (Isn’t the correct word “blackmail?)

“Most are from tabloids that have no circulation. Past Customs officials tolerated this outsized number of reporters because they hid dirt. Instead, confer with publishers of major papers and network managers to help sift out those who moonlight as fixers.“

“At the new customs port in Sasa, Davao, “Friday boys” are known as warik-warik. They “list media men for funding,” Jun Ledesma of Sun.Star Davao wrote. I “was also told some can even facilitate release of shipments”.

Is a vinegar shopper a journalist? In 1693, the dictionary logged in the word “journalist” for the first time. This meant “a writer or editor for a news medium.” Or “a writer who aims at a mass audience.”

Since then radio and TV came on stream. The Internet burst into the scene in the mid-1980s. The “[a]dvent of the new and social media has seen emergence of so-called citizen journalists.”

But “fixer” for customs shakedowns has been never been among a journalist's task. And it is in the Customs and politics, that we stumble across a unique Philippine creation – and problem aside from notorious tabloid writers: the ” block-timers”.

Radio stations, abroad, don’t have ”block-timers” then. Neither do Asean countries, like Thailand or Malaysia. They claim to be journalists. In reality, they’re “walk-in customers”. At any of 952 radio stations that the National Telecommunications Commission oversees, with a shaky hand, they plunk down cash for airtime.

With no questions asked, they broadcast --- what? News and comment, they claim. Character assassination or praise, for a price, their critics counter.

They “give us the opinion of the uneducated that brings us in touch with the ignorance of the community”, Oscar Wilde once wrote. The 2013 political campaign sees blocktimer abuse scrape new depths.

Print media indicates what is “paid ad”. This is published distinct from editorial matter. Block-timers clam up on who picks up their program tabs. But those praised – or shellacked – give a fair idea of who pays. Stations wash their hands, by saying: “the program does not reflect the management’s view”. Basta.

“Block timing is (also) a primary fund-generator for provincial radio stations,” Melinda de Jesus of Committee on Media Freedom and Responsibility noted earlier. This proved to be the emerging problem for Kapisanan Ng Mga Brodkasters as programs with little accountability proliferate in a country that works by the revised “Golden Rule”: “He who has the gold, rules.”

A CMFR study found lack of training and, even more significant, ethical sense. Some 25 percent finished high school while 13 percent “had no record of educational attainment.” There’s little, by way of training on objectivity, balance, fairness – and avoidance of conflict of interest, as journalism code of ethics provide.

Most “block timers” operate in a moral wasteland, where facts are few and comments have a price tag. “Where the carcass is, there the vultures gather.” Electronic gunslinging is abuse. “Power without responsibility has been the prerogative of the harlot through the ages,” Irish statesman Stanley Baldwin wrote.

KBP found fault with the no-rules-hold coverage in the Luneta hostage crisis. Fines were imposed on major networks. “A mere slap on the wrist,” fumed the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism. Perhaps.

But this was a 180-degree turn for KBP from the Chavez versus National Telecommunications case of Feb. 2008. In that en banc decision, the Supreme Court, lashed KBP for playing footsie, with the Macapagal-Arroyo regime’s gags on the “Hello Garci” tapes.

KBP’s Radio Code now prohibits open-ended contracts for “block-timers.” Identifying sponsors of block time programs will increase transparency. But implementation of existing measures – from certification that the “block timer” adheres to KBP's code to monthly reports – has been spotty.

Indeed “our membership lists remain porous,” observed a Cebu Press Freedom Week editorial. “We’ve still to flush out hao-shiaos who flaunt press cards or block time microphones.”





No presidential election after PNoy’s term nears its mandated end?

April 4, 2013

Just this week, avid friends of QN began eyeing on the 2016 presidential elections. Each has his own early guess of who most likely will run for president, to succeed the incumbent – “if election does happen,” says one.

Well, here was an early speculation that the next presidential election will not come about! What? No, the speculator did not mean that incumbent President Noynoy Aquino will declare a third martial law (the first was declared by Pres. Elpidio Quirino, and the second, by Pres. Ferdinand Marcos. He explained from his own readings of the intertwining issues besetting Philippine society today, that some constitutional processes, via congress, will make that happen.

Of the possible candidates for president, named by QN’s friends were incumbent Vice-Pres. Jejomar Binay, Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas, and senators Bongbong Marcos and Chiz Escudero.

The mention of Bongbong and Chiz surprised everyone. To this circle of intellectuals, mostly professionals (doctors, educators, and lawyers) while others are either fresh college graduates who made good leadership records in their own campuses during their studentry years and businessmen, Bongbong will be a strong contender and Chiz will accede teaming up with him. In fact at least two unidentical national movements, as early as 2011, are campaigning for a Marcos-Escudero tandem, via the internet.

So, how come Chiz will be Bongbong’s rival? The ideator offered the strong explanation that PNoy will get Chiz into the Liberal Party, and, anticipating an overwhelming Escudero victory in the May, 2013 polls on the strength of an LP powerhouse team which will most likely send most of their bets to the Senate, PNoy will hold on to that and proceed with a series of anchor infrastructure and coconut industry projects in the Bicol region in order to power up an acclamation for Chiz from among the Bicolanos themselves.

That region will then become PNoy’s strongest bailiwick, because the rebels there will stand up as one for PNoy once that region starts by 2014 becoming the newest center of megastructures – including a boost to the reinvigoration of the shipping industry there that will facilitate the influencing power of the coconut industry, a move that the previous administrations, since the time of Fidel Ramos missed looking at very seriously.

The rebels, in a way, will benefit gradually from that innovative move. The choice of Chiz as PNoy’s bet for the presidency will diametrically frustrate all efforts of Bongbong. Even Bongbong will see that as a brilliant move.

Bongbong’s Ilocos Norte will no longer enjoy its claims for further economic prowess and that therefore, that province will lose a big platter of electoral support which will come from Bicolano voters. Bongbong will also be seeing the acrid future that the Waray region will welcome PNoy’s move of fast-tracking development in Bicol and therefore owe it to PNoy once they will see the link that with Bicol’s emergence as a new development center, Eastern Visayas will very closely benefit therefrom.

Well, according to this QN ideator, the massive boom in Bicol will draw in more than 50 per cent of its manpower requirement, Bicol’s own manpower being prepared for the resultant challenges and responsibilities on that continuum. Not only that, Bicol will absorb most of the agricultural produce in Region VIII – a radical correction strategy that will eventually make Samar (for the most part of the region) and Leyte a development partner of Bicol.

Our proponent here gave the Philippines-United States of America partnership as partly a model for this, except that the Bicol-Waray partnership building will inject insights from China’s successful bid for economic power. Voila!

On the possibility of a no-election scenario, the civil society is believed to reclaim the prestige it once had during the first two years of the presidency of PNoy’s nanay, madam Corazon Cojuangco Aquino. It will succeed in convincing the need for a charter change, via amendments introduced in Congress, that will see the need for the USA to keep Noynoy in power.

The quantum of reasoning offered for this proposition lies on the possibility of North Korea and China teaming up in a well-calculated war against the USA. The charter change will spell that out, while the war threat is effective, or while war will actually occur. Calls for immediate change will most likely be sounded out as early as during the first week of legislative sessions following the May, 2013 elections. By then, more battle ships will ruminate the waters a little off the Philippine north territory, and some beaches north of Luzon will most likely be populated by war-ready American soldiers. God forbid!

The name of Sen. Bong Revilla had been knocked down from their list of possible contenders. Bong will not enjoy PNoy’s support, and so will Jojo, that thus, they may even yield to Chiz, or, to PNoy’s extended presidency, given these scenarios.

Against these nagging backdrops, the common tawo in the Waray Region still plays a deaf ear. They are more excited about how much money will top contenders for local posts will give every voter – not just every family, or home. On a farther end, many farmers cannot spend better time than thinking of how to recoup from losses in harvests that rats, tayangaw and other pests have been stealing ahead. The Department of Agriculture in the region has yet to come up with a credible report on such losses. The National Irrigation Administration also needs to explain why some of the irrigation systems that it had built could not deliver water, accordingly, since the last years of Gloria Arroyo’s presidency, while in a few areas – particularly in Basey, Samar, some parts of its irrigation project has created disaster, in a manner of speaking.

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“We are for peace. But so long as U.S. imperialism refuses to give up its arrogant and unreasonable demands and its scheme to extend aggression, the only course for the Chinese people is to remain determined to go on fighting side by side with the Korean people. Not that we are warlike. We are willing to stop the war at once and leave the remaining questions for later settlement. But U.S. imperialism is not willing to do so. All right then, let the fighting go on. However many years U.S. imperialism wants to fight, we are ready to fight right up to the moment when it is willing to stop, right up to the moment of complete victory for the Chinese and Korean peoples.” – MaoTse Tung.

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“No other profession demands more of human beings than being the Army profession, when one embraces the profession of arms he is expected to perform the supreme sacrifice a man can give his life” - Col. Jonathan G. Ponce INF (GSC) PA.





Living the spirit of Vatican II

April 3, 2013

MORE than 50 years after its occurrence, Vatican II continues to defy the understanding and appreciation of many people. In fact, it is attacked by two opposite sides, from what we may call as the Right and the Left, the Conservative and the Liberal.

There are those who think that the ecumenical council betrays the spirit of Christianity, by debunking a big and what they consider as an essential part of tradition. These are the Traditionalists who are uncomfortable with Masses said in the vernacular or a Church very active in human and world affairs.

At the other end, there are those who consider Vatican II as not doing enough to cope with the demands of the times and the needs of modern man. They want to delete some Church doctrines that to their mind are now obsolete if not an obstacle to their ministry.

I suppose we can never please everyone with anything that we do in this life. My consolation is that even Christ, the very son of God who became man to redeem us, neither pleased everyone. In fact, he was crucified by a good number of the people, the leaders in fact of the people then.

But Vatican II is a great watershed in Church life, a true gift of the Holy Spirit to make the Church not only attuned to the dynamics of modern times but also and more importantly, to make Christianity more deeply and widely lived by each one and all of us together.

It was a comprehensive effort participated in by a good number of Cardinals, bishops, other clerics, theologians and other periti (experts), plus some lay faithful and even observers from other sects who together tried to discern what the Holy Spirit was prompting and continues to prompt the Church to do and to be.

For centuries, the Church had slowly and steadily gotten stuck with certain stereotypes that needed to be dismantled. For sure, this process of renewing the Church will always be a work-in-progress. Social, cultural and historical conditionings that actually vary need to be reassessed from time to time.

This need for continuing renewal will never end, since not only is the Church a living organism. It is also one with a supernatural if mysterious source and goal. There will always be tension involved in its life, and part of our task is how to keep that tension healthy and constructive rather than destructive.

Vatican II has made some dramatic shifts of attitudes and ways of doing things. Where before the laity were considered secondary citizens and the servants and longa manus of the clerics, now the fundamental equality of all the faithful – clerics, laity and religious – while respecting and fostering the legitimate variety among them is highlighted.

The relationship between laity and clerics is now better defined and keyed to the dynamics of mutual generous and all-out serving of one another. Before, this relationship highlighted the more prominent position of the clerics, while the attention given to the laity leaned more to the minimalist direction.

The universal call to sanctity is stressed more in Vatican II. Before, sanctity appeared to be reserved only to a few lucky individuals. Vatican II also highlighted the lay spirituality, encouraging the lay faithful to be consistent with their faith and baptismal commitment right in the middle of the world.

This is a challenging part, because while we can be impressed with the overflowing crowd in churches on Sundays and other important feasts and solemnities, actually the great majority of the people are still far from being truly Christian and are in great need to be evangelized.

Thus, more lay people are being encouraged to live out their Christian commitment to carry out personal apostolate with their families, friends and colleagues at work, grounding this effort on their daily pursuit for personal sanctity through prayer, recourse to the sacraments, continuing formation and ascetical struggle, etc.

The clerics are encouraged to be generous in giving due care and attention to the laypeople. They should be willing to be servants even to the point of washing the feet of the people as exemplified by Christ himself, and why not, of being crucified. That would indicate that they are really giving their all.

Vatican II demands everyone to go beyond simply being nominal Christians and to be active and living members of the Church, each one doing his part to the full in solidarity with everybody else.

Besides, Vatican II has lot to say about liturgy, ecumenism, education, family, etc. Let’s live its spirit well!





Last hoorah for Msgr. Montero

April 3, 2013

March 31, 2013 is the official last day of Msgr. Romy Montero as the associate pastor at the Our Lady of Pompei Church and Director of Filipino Pastoral Ministry. After 8 years in New York, he will be serving San Isidro Labrador Parish of Calbayog Diocese in Samar, Philippines as his next pastoral assignment.

Holding back tears and in between smiles of gratitude, impromptu spiels in remembrance of Msgr. Montero’s memories at Pompei were delivered by those whose lives he touched.

Many thanked him and souvenir photos were happily taken afterwards. The highlight was giving Msgr. Romy the parting gift or “pabaon” of $15,000.00 from the Filipino Pastoral Ministry as a token of appreciation for his service to the Filipino community of Our Lady of Pompei.

Maraming Salamat Po, Msgr. Romy.


Msgr. Montero with Glenda Dizon
Glenda Dizon cheerfully gives the parting gift or “pabaon” of $15,000 to Msgr. Montero from the Filipino Pastoral Ministry as a token of appreciation for his service to the Filipino community of Our Lady of Pompei. (Photo by RG Rigos)


Msgr. Montero with FPM members of Pompei
Msgr. Montero is surrounded by FPM members after he received his parting gift. (Photo by RG Rigos)






Let’s be good partisans

March 21, 2013

Now that we are again into exercising our duties as citizens to elect our public officials, we need to remind ourselves to be good partisans.

To be partisan is unavoidable among us as we try to choose our options in our effort to organize ourselves as a people journeying in this world toward our ultimate goal in heaven.

This is nothing to be surprised about, and should not cause us some misplaced fear as long as we live that aspect of our life properly.

To be partisan is a consequence of our human condition. Since we cannot help but have different backgrounds, preferences, views, etc., neither can we help to avoid being partisan of what we think would serve our interests as well as those of the others, or in fact, what would serve our common good.

We need to be respectful though of the different and even conflicting opinions, and just try our best to settle or resolve our differences in ways that are fair and charitable.

To be fair and charitable while being partisan can mean many things. It can mean always trying to enter into dialogue instead of imposing one’s opinions on others. That is why we need to promote anything that can enhance dialogue. We need to hear all sides that have something to say about a certain issue.

It can also mean the effort to get a consensus when a variety of options is presented. As much as possible we have to agree to a certain device or mechanism to arrive at a consensus. In other words, the rules of the game should be set out and accepted by all parties as much as possible.

Underlying all this is the attitude of charity and understanding towards others. No matter how strong we feel about views, ours or those of others – and indeed we can be strong in our views in certain situations – we should never lose this attitude of charity and understanding.

To be Christian about it, what we need to do, more than just voicing out our views and positions, is to pray and offer sacrifices before, during and after expressing these views and positions. We need to understand that it’s not only reason, much less, passion, that should be mainly used in sorting out our differences.

We have to use the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, because these are what are truly proper to us in our discussions as persons and children of God. Reason and passion without these theological virtues can get us nowhere but spiraling tension and conflict.

We should see to it that our mind and heart be freed of any trace of resentment, anger and the like during and after the exchanges. We should try to avoid as much as possible illegitimate biases and prejudices, always keeping an open mind and the attitude of quickness to understand, disregard and forgive whenever some mistakes are committed by the parties involved.

What should ideally happen is that greater love and understanding is achieved after the discussion, and even after one’s position is outvoted or defeated. Especially when the differences are merely matters of opinion, we should not make a big fuss as to whether who wins or who loses. We just accept what the consensus says.

And even if the differences are serious matters of faith and morals, we should make sure that that such situation does not entitle us to go against the requirements of justice and charity.

While it’s true that we can employ certain techniques and tactics of persuasion that can also be strong and forceful, we should see to it that we don’t depart from the sphere of justice and charity.

In fact, whenever we have to assume a strong position we have to make sure that we also are stepping up our eagerness to be most fair and charitable, only using legitimate means even if they involve inconveniences.

In this regard, we have to realize more deeply that we need to be vitally identified with Christ. It’s the only way we can remain truly fair and charitable amid these sharp and painful differences.

Vital union with Christ would teach us how to be patient, how to see things in the context of eternity, far from a narrow and shallow view of things and from a knee-jerk reaction to issues. It would teach us how to be merciful even as we try to go ahead with a strong and clear vision of things and do our best to win our case.



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