I was in the province to visit a relative. Seated by the window on the bus, waiting for it to leave for the city, I watched a young man saying goodbye to his parents and young daughter. Then when it was time to board the bus, this man cupped his mother's face with both his hands and planted a kiss on her forehead. The mother in turn caressed her son's cheek to acknowledge the kiss. The impact of this scene, which took no more than ten seconds, was so much that I could not stop the tears from streaming down my cheeks. You see, that is the way Jonas Burgos
, my son who went missing, would say goodbye when he left the house, and I would also touch his cheek to tell him he must take care. This is how it is among us families of victims of enforced disappearance. One moment we are "normal," the next moment, something touches the heart and then we are dazed into stillness, tortured by thoughts of our missing loved one.
Thank you. You are now
signed up to our Daily Full
Through the years of search, we have been given the grace to develop new eyes and ears, much like the sight and voice of the heart. Years after Jonas' abduction, I still try to hear God's language in what has happened. John of the Cross
wrote: "The language of God is the experience God writes into our lives." Man's sinfulness has caused enforced disappearances and all human rights violations. Yet, in the search, through the people we have met, the experiences they share, there must be something that God is saying to the family and me. The family — as farmers — have a way of looking at things. It is not an accident that the rains came at the wrong time and consequently our rice harvest was poor. It was not an accident that we harvested more than three tons of mangoes on our small farm, but the price was very low. It also is not an accident that Jonas is not around, now that the farm has difficulties, and he would have known what to do. Because our God is generous and has blessed us with different eyes and ears, we refuse to be influenced by an unhealthy fatalism that says, "ants die when elephants fight or we cannot win against giants." We continue our search for justice. As we experience day-to-day things, missing Jonas, we ask ourselves "What is God saying to us in these ordinary things?" This particular stanza in St. Teresa of Avila
's poem In the Hands of God
, is an example of why I believe God talks to us in our daily lives. Be it Joseph chained or as Egypt's governor, David pained or exalted, Jonas drowned or Jonas freed, What do you want of me?
Coming across this poem, felt like an arrow through the heart. You see the day before, we were told that Jonas was drowned by his captors. Of course we cannot verify this information, but to read the poem a day after, while the information was so fresh.... Clearly, to me, the message is that we continue speaking against enforced disappearance. The message is not to be quiet. The message is to be a voice for the disappeared who cannot talk. And strongly still, the message is to seek Him with more fidelity in prayer and silence. So as Henri Nouwen says "Mourn, my people, mourn. Let your pain rise up in your heart and burst forth in songs and cries." (New Oxford Review, June, 1992) "Today we must mourn so that we don't accept as normal, this hell on earth ... to properly cry is to see injustice, indifference, lack of love and hardness of heart." (R. Rolheiser, Against an Infinite Horizon) It is this mourning for the disappearance of Jonas that has enabled us to see and listen with the heart. Edita Burgos is a doctor of education and a member of the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites. Gunmen — believed to be soldiers — abducted her son Jonas Burgos in Manila in April 2007. He is still missing.