During his lifetime in 8th century BC, the Hebrew prophet Amos railed against social injustice and corruption. He predicted the destruction of Israel and Judah, even through the two kingdoms at the time were at the height of their reigns.
In one conversation, someone told Amos: “For our leaders, those idols took the form of money and power for which they would kill or maim to acquire more.”
“The poor lived in squalor, in dwellings made of cardboard boxes and discarded plastic sheets they picked up from the garbage disposals of factories or malls,” the person continued telling Amos. “I don’t know if the oppression your people experienced in your time was as inhuman as the one we had during the dictator’s years and somehow continues until now.”
Amos replied: “Oh yes, when leaders have lost their sense of God and have turned to money as their idol, then you can expect the most vicious tactics they would use against their subjects to get what they want.”
If it sounds like the person talking to Amos belongs to another time, there is an explanation to that.
The individual is Canadian Filipino author Florchita Bautista. She was employing the technique of a fictionalized conversation with biblical characters for her book ‘Interviews Across Time and Space’.
Now a resident of Vancouver, Bautista previously worked with migrant workers in Toronto.
She is a former nun, teacher, guidance counselor, and pastoral worker from the Philippines, who immersed herself in the lives of the urban poor and industrial workers in her native country during the rule of then strongman Ferdinand Marcos.
In his foreword for ‘Interviews Across Time and Space’, Fr. Gabriel de Chadarévian, OP, assistant pastor with the St. Mary’s Parish in Vancouver, referred to Bautista’s commitment to social justice.
“It is her own struggle for the dignity of the poor and the oppressed in the Philippines and the rights of the Filipina workers (the “nannies”) in Toronto that makes this imaginary composition a delight to read and an urgent call for all of us to wake up to the ongoing, tragic and scandalous plight of the poor in the world,” Fr. de Chadarévian wrote.
In an interview with Canadian Filipino Net, Bautista said that the idea for the book came from a trip to Greece and Turkey to follow the footsteps of St. Paul.
“I was not interested in writing about our trip itself,” Bautista related. “I did not like to write another travelogue describing the places where we had been. The idea of writing persisted so I thought of writing something about the journey of mankind from birth to death.”
Bautista thought of involving some of the characters in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible to demonstrate that everyone was “created by God with a purpose”.
“That purpose becomes our mission in life,” according to her. “Our success or failure to achieve that mission determines our life’s meaning; that is, do we live our life with satisfaction, inner peace, and happiness? Or do we live an unfulfilled life, where we seem to be ever searching for something that is missing but which we cannot even define?”
“Oftentimes we blame others, our parents, our boss in our office, our spouse, or even some events in our life, for our failure to achieve anything of value in our life. Maybe we are missing the point,” Bautista continued. “We want to achieve something great, we want to make a name before others, to be pleasing to God. So we become a workaholic. We can never rest; work, work, work, … until we drop dead!
“Maybe God created you and me only for a simple task or mission – be nice and loving to our family, to our neighbours, love them as you love yourself, be satisfied with what you have and do not aspire for that which is above your capacity to achieve,” Bautista said.
‘Interviews Across Time and Space’ will be launched on August 31, 2019 at St. Mary’s Parish (5251 Joyce Street), starting at 3:30 p.m. All proceeds from the sale will be donated for the church’s building project.