DAVAO CITY (MindaNews / 17 December) – Redemptorist Brother Karl Gaspar’s book, “Desperately Seeking God’s Saving Action” with the sub-title “Yolanda Survivors’ Hope Beyond Heartbreaking Lamentations” will have its Davao City launch Thursday, three days after it was launched in Manila.
Gaspar, a theologian and anthropologist, led his congregation’s mission to respond to survivors of super typhoon Yolanda after the November 8, 2013 catastrophe, “to be present…to accompany those who are grieving and healing.”
The book is divided into seven parts: Contextualizing the Space of Engagement with Disaster Survivors; Encountering a Mega Disaster with Yolanda; Pursuing the Anthropological Discourses; Presence and Absence of Theologizing in the Context of a Globalized Response to a Localized Catastrophe; Looking into how the Church responded to the needs of the survivors; Bringing Plentiful Redemption to the Yolanda Survivors; and Journaling to survive Yolanda’s impact.
Published by the Quezon City-based Institute of Spirituality in Asia (ISA), the book will be launched at the Abdon Josol Hall, St. Alphonsus Theological and Mission Institute (SATMI), Redemptorist Compound along Bajada at 4 p.m. Thursday and will have its Tacloban City launch on January 15, 2015, two days before the arrival of Pope Francis there.
Launched at the Titus Brandsma Media Center in Quezon City last Monday, the book has been recommended by a reviewer to be a “required reading” for theological seminaries and colleges of social work, and for “technocrats in disaster management.”
“Through the book we see the emergence of a new kind of chaplaincy in the Philippines. It would make good sense for theological seminaries and colleges of social work to include the book in their required reading list. It would make valuable if technocrats in disaster management take it also to heart,” Ma. Sophia Lizares wrote in her review.
Lizares managed the Indian Ocean tsunami response in Sri Lanka and Indonesia as Asia Executive Secretary of the United Evangelical Mission (UEM) from 2005-2008. She drafted the UEM’s policy paper on disaster preparedness and response.
Randolph Reserva, program manager of the Leyte Community Resilience Enhancement Project of the Association of Psychologists and Helping Practitioners, Inc., said the book even if it focused on super typhoon Yolanda, “should remain relevant for years to come.”
Reserva said the book “is the perfect wake-up call to all of us to rethink our ways so as to continue revolutionizing our world whilst taking care of Mother Nature.”
Lizares said Gaspar documents not only survivor narratives but also the politics of aid delivery and survivor perceptions and pulls together “a critique of dole-outs, the privileges of aid agencies, and the ‘unspoken competition’ among them in the face of the slow, disorganized and ultimately frustrating fumbling of state agencies”
“The critique is important, but this is not what will make Desperately Seeking distinctive. Confronted by ‘a completely new context of mission,’ Gaspar argues for the inclusion of anthropological discourse and political ecology into the psycho-social-spiritual integration (PSSI) that is finding its way into disaster response in the Philippines,” Lizares wrote.
The book also presents “a model of how faith-based groups could carry out their work, not as bleeding hearts but as professional pastoral carers,” Lizares said.
Fr. Michael Brehl, Superior General of the Redemptorists said the book is “very useful in helping others to respond quickly, effectively, compassionately and prophetically to future disasters. More than this, it offers a perspective on pastoral ministry and missiological activity which might help us to proclaim the Gospel anew today in many different circumstances and situations.”
For Helen Graham, MM of the Institute of Formation and Religious Studies in Quezon City, Gaspar’s book “allows us to listen to the voices of those who suffered through , and survived the catastrophic typhoon Yolanda that swept over Tacloban and other areas in 2013, bringing destruction and death in its wake. We listen to them as they struggle to find the language to name the disaster: as they alternate between blaming God and clinging to God in faith and hope.”
Fr. Reynaldo Raluto, Academic Dean of the St. John Vianney Theological Seminary in Cagayan de Oro City, wrote: “We should take seriously this book’s challenge to be duly sensitive to the cultures of the grieving victims and to be sharply critical with the unhealthy practices of the prevailing disaster management framework.”
Gaspar teaches theology at SATMI, Anthropology at the Ateneo de Davao University’s Ateneo Institute of Anthropology and at the Pamulaan Center of the University of Southeastern Philippines.
Gaspar’s book, “Manobo Dreams in Arakan: A People’s Struggle to Keep Their Homeland,” won the National Book Award for Social Sciences in 2012.
This is Gaspar’s second book published by ISA after “The Masses are Messiah: Contemplating the Filipino Soul” in 2010.
His other books include “To be poor and obscure,” “Mystic Wanderers in the Land of Perpetual Departures” and “How long? Prison Reflections from the Philippines.”
Gaspar writes two columns, in English and Binisayar, for MindaViews, the opinion section of MindaNews: A Sojourner’s Views and Panaw-Lantaw. (MindaNews)