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THE PASSERBY | A reminder on charity (on the Prince Harry and Meghan Markle controversy)



THE hullabaloo surrounding the recent Oprah Winfrey interview of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle has given me a sharp reminder on charity. And that’s simply because I realize that while my initial reaction was a strong dismissal of the whole affair, considering it as a waste of time, among many other bitingly negative thoughts that entered my mind, I realize that I have to be charitable.

And to be charitable means that even if I regard the whole affair as nonsensical, tone-deaf to the many other more important issues of the day, I just have to give the main objects of my disgust the benefit of the doubt. Yes, they deserve to be heard and given due attention just the same, even if my initial impression was very negative.

I remember that my immediate reaction to the interview was to think that what this couple was complaining about or was bitching about was nothing compared to what I hear almost daily about the plight of many poor people who come to me for advice or at least for some words of comfort, if not for some material help. I considered their problem as petty.

That was already the first mistake. It was to compare the problem of the prince and his wife with the problems of the others. In that way, I already lost sight of the objective merits of the issue at hand. The ensuing considerations would already be colored by that bias.

It took me time before I realize that I had to restrain my reactions, for the simple reason that in the first place I don’t really know all the facts involved. And even if I knew a good deal of them such that I can already form some judgments, it does not mean that I can just be dismissive of them.

Charity demands that I try to understand them just as I have to do the same to all the other parties involved, including the many commentators who obviously made off-the-cuff and shooting-from-the-hip comments. I should just look for solutions rather than spend most of the time lamenting.

Most of the time, charity would require that we should just keep quiet, and while trying to sort out things and find solutions, we should just pray and offer sacrifices since these are the basic and indispensable things to be done when problems arise. As much as possible, we do not take sides.

Which does not mean that we are simply acting like bystanders, indifferent to the problems around, and afraid to take sides. It has to be made clear that we are actually taking a strong side which is the side of charity. Charity transcends partisanship. Charity has to deal with everyone without antagonizing anyone. Even those who are in error should be treated kindly. Charity is for both the winners and the losers.

This was the example of Christ who made it the new and ultimate commandment that he gave us before he went up to heaven. We have to learn to live charity especially when we engage ourselves in some contentious issues, or sort out our unavoidable differences and conflicts especially in the area of politics.

We have to be wary of what seems to be the mainstream world culture today that limits charity to some works of mercy alone while setting it aside when we do politics or when we discuss hot button issues.
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By Fr. Roy Cimagala is Chaplain at the Center for Industrial Technology and Enterprise (CITE) Talamban, Cebu City. Email: roycimagala@gmail.com