Can Abortion Be Justified?

Last night I dined with a friend. He’s the coordinator of one big international humanitarian NGO. We worked in a very different field, but somehow it is still connected.

Over wine, we got talking about the kinds of things we see in our places of work. On why expatriates like us are discouraged from being in insecure locations such as inside the settlement to spend the night, let alone live every day.

I said I would not do it. I am done with my cowboy days but I am sure young humanitarian actors will push their luck and try the adventure. But is it an adventure to live with the refugees if you represent oppression and reason for them being displaced? Maybe not, but that’s a story for another time.

On a more serious tone, our conversation gravitated on the subject of abortion. Since both of us work in the health sector, these are subjects we know are sensitive, and talked on hushed voices, and never blurted out in daylight, but we know it happens, and justified.

You see, without blaming anyone or any agency, we know that rape happens in the settlement or camps. People are in an insecure location and vulnerable situation, and many are just vultures taking advantage of the case, and the people they think are below them.

Imagine my surprise to hear that not only women are vulnerable in such a situation. In one week, he said they got report of men being raped but women out numbered them. Reports of defilement is available at police stations, but whether or not perpetrators are apprehended is hard to tell.

So, what he told me why they do it – abortion to victims of rape, made me think twice about why I am doing what I am doing here in Uganda. I even have to agree to disagree with him based on my faith.

That’s why abortion is hush-hush is because it’s the last resort. He said the best is still to have more robust policies on the protection of women and men against sexual exploitation and abuse, and stronger enforcement from the authorities. But when that system fails, there should be a support network that will catch these women victimized by their vulnerability, in a place where they thought they are protected but are not.

Being a victim is a hard pill to swallow. The psychological trauma it brings to the victim makes it hard for them to think straight. The fear of being discovered, labeled, and eventually ostracised in a community where you’re supposed to get your strength from to go on each day is tremendous.

What happens when the rape resulted in pregnancy?

That’s when another cycle of psychological trauma happens. Being pregnant from a rape always remind that person of what happened, of how she was not able to avoid it. Blame herself for bringing it to herself. The fight internally gets intense, making it hard for her to fight back, and often, the psychological trauma wins over the rational way of thinking, which can lead to many difficult decisions, including abortion and the worst suicide.

The mental health support system is as complicated as it can get. Not everybody understands what they are talking about, and when in such a complicated situation, often, the victims are left to fend for themselves. Making it hard for women to feel they had someone on their side. My friend told me that even he doesn’t like that program they have on abortion, but after seeing women getting into such a situation, he knew it has to be done. But he also told me that its the last resort when all support fails, and if they don’t do it, women will also find a crude way to get rid of the pregnancy that will also put their life further at risk.

So for us not to get there, as a humanitarian actor, we have a lot of responsibility for the people we serve.

First, when we design policy on protection and prevention of sexual violence and abuse, don’t let it on paper and pretend that action will magically materialize. No, it never does, that is why we should put weight on it and enforce it. We are making sure something or someone answers for the atrocities received in the hands of perpetrators.

Second, empower the support groups. Avoid the victim-blaming that often happens when rape is discovered. Nobody wants to be accosted and violated. Notably, no one should take advantage of a vulnerable situation to exert power over women and men.

Third, regardless of faith practices, we have to find solutions that best serve the many. I am not endorsing abortion. Like my friend, I am against it and will never advise it on anyone, but if all else fails, make sure that the solution identified will serve best the person and allowed to believe that s/he is not a victim but rather a survivor.

Fourth, as a person, we are our brothers and sisters keeper. We look out for each other and support each other by making sure that we all are equitable. God never wants harm to come our way, He wants us to live in harmony, but the world is crazy now. We become selfish and self-centered to the point of destruction.

The life where I live now is never easy. We make do of what we have, take advantage of the simple pleasures where it is merited. My friends here and I take our jobs seriously, that’s why our after-dinner subject was something that resonated in my head long after the wine wears off.

The road we travel to reach our workplace

On Becoming A Better Human Being

Yesterday I started sending messages to my friends in the Middle East wishing them “Ramadan Kareem” (which means Have a Generous Ramadan) despite all the sadness we hear in the news of Palestinian women, men and children being killed for wanting to return to their homeland and all the other countries at war now and of people being ostracized and killed for being different.

The month of Ramadhan [is that] in which was revealed the Qur’an, a guidance for the people and clear proofs of guidance and criterion. So whoever sights [the new moon of] the month, let him fast it; and whoever is ill or on a journey – then an equal number of other days. Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship and [wants] for you to complete the period and to glorify Allah for that [to] which He has guided you; and perhaps you will be grateful.
[Quran 2:185]

The faithful continue to believe that all these shall pass and we will see a peaceful world. As Catholic, I also wish the same, and I think others too practicing other religions, wants a world where we can co-exist and enjoy the freedom to express who we are, what we believe and who we want to be.

***

Then I remembered a chapter in the book of the Dalai Lama talking about religion and how it can make us a better person.

We know that most of the crisis and war around the world are fought in the name of religion or the belief that that is what their gods believe they should do and gain their place in their heaven.

But many of us know that the teachings of the different religions (Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism) and other faith practices are towards peace, love, tolerance, acceptance of our differences and in fighting off excessive desires (in wealth and fame). And all of that is inert individual characteristics that we already possess. That is why, if we banded together, we would eventually win the war that is ravaging our world now.

According to the Dalai Lama, we can have philosophical and metaphysical views on religion at the same time live it according to your daily existence. But he also said that although the philosophical views differ and sometimes contradicts each other, in spiritual practice all religions are connected. They all recommend inner transformation of our stream of consciousness which will make us better, more devout people”.

True right? It all boils down to our understanding and accepting that we may have different faith beliefs, but we are similar on a spiritual level. Others may profess it outwardly, but it doesn’t mean they are more faithful than the others. It really depends on how you live it out, on how you’re spirituality makes you a better person for others.

Each one of us may believe in one way and one truth but it doesn’t mean that it is the same for the next person, we should be open to accepting the truth of other traditions even if it goes against our own convictions regardless of its reasons and how it affects others.

We as a person should have our own conviction but we should keep an open mind and be tolerant to those who don’t share them because that makes us different from each other but at the same time similar in a way that we accept each other to be like you — a person living each day trying to be a better person for others.

Postscript:

I am happy to say that all my friends who responded to my messages are all fine together with their families. They want us to remember them in our prayers and to keep up wanting for world PEACE!

Reading suggestion(s):

My Spiritual Autobiography His Hoiness The Dalai Lama

I went to bed happy.

The last thing I did was publish my last post and turned off the lights. I guess I was tired because most nights I don’t sleep before the witching hour of 3 am the following day so sleeping before midnight was a real treat! But whatever time I went to la la land I always wake up the same time, before the rooster even which tells me I must be getting old 😄. Who cares anyway? Definitely not me!

Anyway, fully awake now I checked my phone and saw the little WordPress, WhatsApp and Facebook icon giving notice that people actually read my post. Well the WhatsApp message was something else but I am pleased with who I saw, and read and I liked them. Especially in Facebook because these are people that I personally know and knows me back.

The first three women who liked my FB post are the three women that I admire myself.

We encountered life and work together and actually a fourth even reached out to me privately when I posted my poem Falling In The Cracks. She offered to listen but all I could reply was “Thanks Amel” because I know even without telling she knows what I am feeling.

Then I saw this quote fitting tribute to the friends I made over the years.

It is not really the number of friend you have that matters its the quality and the bonds you made together.

It doesn’t matter how often you see or talk to each other its the feeling that you know they are there no matter what.

There is always that invisible tie that binds friends together and its truly great to know that the binds are made of gold thread that is priceless like that of families.

Shout out to my friends 🔊 You know who you are!

Lets to friendship! Even virtually

Meet My Roommate … Saint Mary Magdelene

Our family owns a life-size statue of Saint Mary Magdalene. We acquired her to be part of my village procession tradition every Holy Week. My family keeps her in my room 360 days and 5 days in the church each year.

Every Holy Wednesday, she’s taken out of the house to be cleaned, dressed, perfumed and put in her carriage to be surrounded by fresh flowers for the first procession. After that, for 5 nights, she will stay in the church among the other Saint statues that joins in all the parade until Easter Sunday.

Today is my Mom’s birthday too, forgoing a visit to the cemetery because today is also Holy Wednesday, our focus is on Magda, she’s gone to the church being prep for the evening processions. This year we made new gowns for her, after all, she’s been wearing her old dresses for over 10 years, it’s time for a change. Later in the night, after all the exhausting procession – pushing and carrying her “andas” people will flock to the house for a Thanksgiving dinner before fasting until Sabado de Gloria.

 

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Magda being prepped by my Aunt for the evening procession — the yellow dress is for Holy Wednesday (She will change dress for the Good Friday procession)

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Saint Mary Magdalene minus the fresh flowers, her cross and skull

But what do my family know about Mary Magdalene? We talk about her casually as if she’s a living person. We fondly call her Magda short for Magdalena (well as Filipino we’re fond of nicknames so living or not living she got one) when we’re planning for the Holy Week or about her new wardrobe. Regarding whether we know more about her life, I am pretty sure my family don’t know much 😊 just like me. So, I took the liberty to seek out information about Magda so my family and friends will know more about our in-house Saint whose been sharing my room for quite a while now.

 

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Saint Mary Magdalene feast day is on July 22nd, and she is believed to be the patron saint of women, of pharmacists and those fighting off temptations (and more).

Here are more stories about her St. Mary Magdalene HD and Smithsonian put together a clear description of her life in the article Who Was Mary Magdalene?

Saint Mary Magdalene, Magda to my family, is the perfect example of tolerance and inclusiveness amidst the persecution. Her story is very much real then as it is now.

She’s a Jewish woman living with the Gentiles that’s why they labelled her as a prostitute. But that is according to the interpretation of scholars because in the bible her not being with her fellow Jews ostracised her and tagged her as bad.

Much like today’s xenophobia, intolerance and discriminations happening all over the world. We separate people according to religion, race, and skin colour and we persecute people because one set of people feel superior to the others … a perfect example is the decade-long tensed situation between Israel and Palestine, which I witnessed first hand when I was there for a year.

It is true history repeats itself, and the worst part is we never learn from it. Many people use religion as a way to separate rather than to come together. The assumption that one race or colour is better than the others. When will we ever learn? I hope, that when we do we will achieve lasting peace everybody so desire especially in countries where religion is used to the extreme and uses the name of God, Allah, Buddha in vain

I guess we should as a family commemorate her feast day and pray for tolerance and peace and continue including her in our litany every night after the rosary. Afterall, Magda lives with us all year round and never complaining.