Kristianong Katilingban literally means Christian Community in the Ilonggo language of Negros Occidental.This name was adapted by the diocese of Bacolod to describe the growing number of small communities coming out of the challenge of Martial Law. The concept of small basic christian communities had begun in the 60s in Latin America. In their attempt to lift themselves out of their poverty the people their had taken the christian gospels seriously and applied them to their daily lives. The liberating spirit of the gospels began to give them hope that their lives could be different. They didn’t have to remain poor.
With the coming of Martial Law in the Philippines this new understanding of the liberating spirit of the gospels in the Church began to take root here. The Philippines shared a lot of similarities with the situation in many Latin American countries.
Shortly after Martial Law was declared Gore and another Columban priest John Brazil went to see the how the Maryknoll priests in Tagum in Mindanao were developing their small communities. They found them to be very liturgically oriented and they knew that the approach in the mountains of Kabankalan would have to be broarder.
The KKs in the mountains of Kabankalan had to face the onslought of landgrabbers and abusive military. The need to secure their land was primary and any success in community building would have to be connected to this need. Because of this broarder approach the KKs grew strong.
At this time the understanding of a more wholistic approach to the problems of the poor and their religious faith was beginning to develop. In other words you had to look at the political, social, economic, cultural and religious needs of the people. All these aspects needed to be included in the transforming process in society if their was to be real change in the lives of the poor. While some parishes concentrated on the cultural and religious needs others gave priotity to the political and economic. The KKs saw the need to include all aspects and integrate them into all their activities.
As the price of sugar rose in the early seventies the search for “vacant” land also grew. People with connections began to claim the land occupied by poor farmers. This land was government land and the poor had the first legal claim by their actual possession. The courts and local police and military were used to evict the people who had no way to complain, except to their local KK. The land was literally being stolen from right under their feet! The KK's put a stop to such abuses through their strong organization and solidarity. Their strength was in their numbers. If a member was to be evicted all the KKs rallied and went to the land of the person to be evicted. When the police /military arrived they would be facing up to a thousand members quitely working away in the field of the one to be evicted. When the police/military saw what they were up against they quitely retreated. The people then saw that if they stood together non violently then they could keep their land. Where the KKS were strong their was little attempt to engage in landgrabbing. The KKs grew from strength to strength and this unfortunately brought the attention of the the military and people of power on them.
The heart of the KK was their Sunday gathering called the Panimbahon (worship service). This was a bible based prayer service much like the Liturgy of the Word in the Catholic Mass. The one difference being that instead of a sermon the people had a discussion on the gospel text of that Sunday. It was in this discussion, where the people applied the texts to their local situation, that the strength and courage of the people was summoned to face the many challenges around them. For centuries most had accepted that it was God’s will that they were poor and therefore they just had to accept their lot in life without complaint. Their reward would be in heaven! Through their discussions, seminars and inservice trainings they came to see that it was not God’s will that they were poor but the will of powerful and abusive people. In fact their faith now obliged them to change the unjust situation of their lives. They began to gradually assimilate the liberating spirit of the gospels.
In the best sense of the word the KKs were subversive. They were challenging the whole rotten system that was keeping them poor. The dominant political, social, economic, cultural and religious values had to be challenged. The rich and powerfull wanted a subserviant and ignorant population so that they could be exploited at will. The KKs were chalenging the prevailing values of the status quo. This is why they had to be stopped.
The wholistic approached of the KKs really resonated with the poor. It gave them a totally different outlook on life. It, most of all, gave them hope that their lives could be different and that they didn’t have to live the rest of their lives in dire poverty. And to top it off God’s was on their side in the task of changing the situation! It was up to them now to bring about non violent change through their solidarity and renewed faith.
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