Impact of slander: what is your responsibility?


It is unfortunate how we could be so tactless at times, unleashing words that can hurt – or worse, destroy – other people. Religious, political, cultural, and social bigotry are often the issues why we tend to be biased against other groups that don’t belong to our own.  The tragedy that happened in Bohol and Cebu brought both empathy and indifference from different sectors.  What made it painful to bear for the survivors was not much on the physical devastation that they suffered from the earthquake, but the insensitive remarks of some sects and individuals.

Bohol earthquake
Survivor of the earthquake in Bohol fleeing from the area.

By God’s grace, I was so fortunate to be 264 kilometers away from the epicenter of the 7.2 magnitude earthquake that struck Bohol, Cebu, and other parts of Central Philippines and Mindanao in the early morning of October 15, 2013. What I felt only at 8:14 of that fateful morning was a slight swaying of the earth beneath my feet that lasted for about a minute, enough to make me feel dizzy..  

But my heart goes out to the Boholanos and Cebuanos who had to brace up against falling objects and buildings, possible breaking of the ground, and the threat of tsunami. Good thing authorities quickly ruled out the possibility of tidal wave.

It is heart-breaking, however, to know that some lives have to end and scores injured as buildings crumble over them. Ancient structures, specifically churches, that have withstood all kinds of weather over the centuries ultimately gave way. The over a hundred aftershocks left thousands, including some of my loved ones and relatives, sleepless and fearful.  Even the idea of going to the bathroom was terrifying for some because the aftershock can occur anytime.

The bell tower of the Basilica del Sto. Nino in Cebu City: photo on the left shows it before the tragedy happened; while the photograph on the right shows the destroyed bell tower.

Salt on the wound

After the tragedy, not only a few wondered whether this calamity is God’s punishment on sinners.  It is so unfortunate how some sects and cults could readily point their fingers at Catholics as the cause of the tragedy, accusing the latter for being “pagans” and “idol worshipers”. They readily conclude that the collapse of centuries-old Catholic churches is a sign that God’s wrath has finally fallen upon the people.

Other insensitive individuals, meanwhile, jeer at and curse the Visayan people, apparently discriminating them as inferior than the Tagalogs of Metro Manila and other parts of northern Philippines.

Although, these kinds of religious bigotry and regionalistic mentality is confined only among a minority, who may have been wanting in attention, their words were somehow “salt on the wound”.

Yes, it profoundly hurts to hear all those negative remarks from no less than fellow Filipinos and pharisaical Christians!  Slander, indeed, can be very demoralizing. It is a shame how this only Christian nation in Southeast Asia can be so prone to slander.

By  your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned.  (Matthew 12:37)

Slander is an ancient vice

Insensitive remarks and insults are not new to us, actually.  People in the ancient times got entangled in the vicious circle of slander and false accusations.  Some evidence of this are even found in the Bible, where prophets of the Old Testament, and Jesus Himself, had to constantly exhort believers to be careful in their speech, for the tongue has the power of a two-edged sword. It can either make or break a person.

The morale and reputation of a person can be greatly scarred and tainted by our irresponsible and careless remarks. And sadly, all too often we fail to recognize the scope, depth, and seriousness of what we say.

But believing in the resiliency and integrity of the Filipino people, I know the “Bisaya” will rise above all these life’s trials and would not wallow on put-downs.

And to those who have nothing good to say about others, please just keep your mouth shut!

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