Choosing to serve the people

The second semester began for most Yukon high school students this past week. For some this will be their last term before graduation. Soon those students will be making a basic choice. Do they continue on with their education at a technical school or...

The second semester began for most Yukon high school students this past week. For some this will be their last term before graduation. Soon those students will be making a basic choice. Do they continue on with their education at a technical school or college or do they enter the work world?

There are, however, other choices that they will have to make for themselves. Some early on even in high school have chosen paths of service. These young women and men see themselves pursuing careers that they hope will improve the lives of those around them. Some will see eliminating suffering as their goal. Others will find occupations that try to improve the lives and living conditions of others in a myriad of ways.

Those who chose human service careers will continue to face choices. Some will see a problem and work hard to address its negative outcomes. Others will see the same problem and attempt to eliminate its causes. This later path may also lead its practioners to actions that confront powerful, often unjust, political and economic forces that have shaped our global society.

Choices have consequences. Dr. Chandu Claver, the 2009 Development and Peace Solidarity Speaker here in the Yukon, chose to train as a family physician and surgeon in his native Philippines. With his skills Claver could have found employment abroad or in an air-conditioned clinic in metropolitan Manila. However as a member of an indigenous Igorots, a hill tribe of Luzon, Philippines, he opted to work in the Cordillera province of Kalinga among his people after completing his post graduate program in 1984.

Claver started to practice the small hospital. “I quickly realized that waiting for patients to come was palliative and had no impact on the morbidity rate,” said Chandu in a 2006 interview taken from Bulatlat, a weekly alternative newsmagazine in the Philippines. He began going out to remote barrios or settlements. There he practised preventative medicine by setting up community based primary health programmes.

Guerrilla activity in the region sparked by long-standing grievances triggered a massive military response in the early 1990s. “I suddenly came face to face with civilian deaths and injuries, as well as evacuation of whole barangays (villages), and its health consequences,” recalled Dr. Claver in the Bulatlat interview. Two staff members were killed. Health teams were intimidated. One was sprayed with machine gun fire. Others were arrested and detained. His health-care work led him to human rights defence and advocacy.

The guerrilla threat abated. The military remained though. Claver and others believe the military presence was now intended to counter opposition to government plans to open up indigenous land to foreign mining interests, Canadian corporations included among them. Now Claver’s human rights efforts focused on the right of indigenous people to participate in the decisions determining the development of their lands.

On July 31, 2006 on the way to drop their youngest daughter off at school Claver and his wife Alice drove through a busy intersection in Tabuk, Kalinga, Philippines. A van load of men, believed to be government-backed paramilitaries, ambushed them. Dr. Claver received three bullet wounds. His wife died in the attack. Their daughter received a superficial wound.

Dr. Claver will speak at CYO Hall below Sacred Heart Cathedral at 4th and Steele at 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, February 12th. The Canadian Filipino Association of the Yukon will host a potluck beginning at 5:30 p.m. in the CYO Hall before the Claver’s talk on Development in the Philippines, Human Rights or Profit. All are welcome. For more information call 633-6579.

When asked about the path he chose, Claver thought of the saying, “Do right by the people. Follow it, and you will never be wrong,” he affirmed in the Bulatlat interview.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste Notes

Sunday, February 8—Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark: 1: 29-39.

Sunday, February 8—A period of preparation for Orthodox Christians preceding the Great Lent and leading up to the Holy Pascha begins the Triodion.

Monday, February 9—Tu Bishevat is a Jewish celebration of the coming of spring. Foods native to Israel are prepared.

Tuesday, February 10—World Day of the Sick, promoted by the Vatican, is an occasion to reflect on the meaning of human suffering and the Christian duty to respond to it. Prayers for the sick and health care providers are encouraged.

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