Wednesday, July 18, 2007


By Joel Ferraris

ALIBI is a mixed media artpiece using old CDs and CD cases painted with acrylic and other paints that I did on a Mahjong tabletop. It was included in The Gambling Show at the John Batten Gallery, Hong Kong SAR in September, 2001.

The hand of a poor child, a slum-dweller, dirty but projects innocence, reaches out for alms towards a city built on fragile foundations represented by the love for money. There, encapsulated in the temporal comforts and security powered by an artificial light that outwardly radiates the Yen, Euro and Dollar symbols that form the word YES, the city is busy with its fast-paced life pulsating 24 hours a day to go with the rhythm of globalization.

On the four sides of the frame, which is part of a mahjong tabletop, are the words CHARITY, LOSE, JACKPOT, WIN written clockwise in succession. They are placed there as if to give the viewer or the alms-giver the choice to either sincerely give to charity and win back his soul even if he loses the jackpot ... or ignore sincere charitable work, lose his soul but win the jackpot.

Scattered all over the whole picture are cracks exposing the golden serpents represented by the dollar sign. They symbolize the rottenness of worshipping wealth instead of the ONE TRUE GOD THE FATHER ALMIGHTY.

Born in a predominantly Christian country in southeast Asia, wherein majority are Catholics, I've been exposed to issues regarding immorality like prostitution, abortion, adultery, drug addiction, etc. and where one of them is gambling.

Jueteng, cockfighting, lotto, spider-wrestling, and all other forms of gambling, whether legal or not, are accompanied by questions, arguments and criticisms about charity receiving donations from gambling activities of any form and the dire effects of addiction to gambling where properties such as land titles were lost. We even have our local charity sweepstakes that contribute a sizable chunk of money to the needy.

My question is, if gambling is immoral why is it that charitable institutions accept and continue to accept donations from these dubious activities? Is the act of giving to charity gives gambling a good face? If one really wants to give as an act of generosity or love, why not give it directly, like what Lord Jesus Christ did, without going into the intricacies of regulating where the alms went or how were they spent? And why do we need to channel our donations through gambling? Is it because we always want something in return?

I’m tempted to think that actually it’s the jackpot people are aiming for and not the sincerity of giving to charity.

A friend of mine here in Hong Kong was hooked to lotto and mark six for years that he said he had already spent a more or less HK$ 65,000 in lotto tickets for several years. He could have bought a piece of land in the Philippines with that amount - a sure jackpot!

Gawad Kalinga in the Philippines is one big and significant effort in rectifying a morally bankrupt society and corrupt government. But more importantly it is deeper spiritual understanding about the real essence of Christianity for a Christian nation that needs to be encouraged. People need to see deeper what loving one's neighbor is and redirect their focus from the wrong practices of venerating or worshiping lifeless hand graven images, that God the Father Almighty hates, towards helping their spiritually and materially poor neighbors instead. If they so claim to love of God the Father Almighty that they cannot see they should express that love to their needy neighbors that they can see instead of giving special attention to lifeless, helpless objects that gather dust in one corner.

The alibis of many spiritually ignorant people to resort to immorality as a solution to poverty are a weak defense of their struggle to survive when in fact true Christianity, devoid of all misleading and deceptive teachings and actions of deceivers bearing the name of Christ since it was first introduced here on earth, have all the solutions for the taking.

Likewise the alibis of those religious authorities to use hand graven images as books to the ignorant to strengthen people's faith has to be rectified too because obviously, even if in the Philippines there is an abundant supply of these objects, there is no guarantee that people really love God the Father Almighty that much as reflected by how they wrongly treat and/or ignore their neighbors.

I do hope that the efforts of donor companies, political candidates, the rich and all other organizations jumping into the bandwagon of projects of charitable groups, like Gawad Kalinga for example, will really be sincere moves in support of the campaign for the good of those who have less in life rather than merely just another ploy to make their group or company look good while in close competition with their rivals. Otherwise it will be another shallow and hypocritical means of helping the poor. Gawad Kalinga's wide media exposure is an attractive cosmetics that could add to a donor company's profits.
As one good example of a bad practice, violent fraternities conduct free clinics in slum areas but at the same time engage their rival frats in bloody frat wars when in fact their constitution speaks of service to God, country and family and the brotherhood. Don't they realize that Satan is also a god and he is a murderer?

Again a conscientious Christian needs to go back to and open his Holy Bible and read Lord Jesus Christ teaching about alms giving and offering gifts to the temple of God the Father Almighty.

One thing more, where casinos are, there gravitates immorality where the sex industry flourishes. Ironically, as in the case of Macau where a new Las Vegas-like area is being constructed, a lot of talents are pouring in for the sake of lucrative jobs. This reminds me of the story where Lot was asked by Abraham to choose which direction he will go. Lot had chosen to live in Sodom.

Lord Jesus Christ gave food to the needy to fill their stomachs and most importantly because this is the kind of religion he wants people to practice. He gave them spiritual food to nourish their souls in order for them not to be corrupted by this world. He not only gave them fish but also taught them how to fish.

If Gawad Kalinga follows this best example by our Master, where the focus of one's faith and love of God the Father Almighty is to help the needy neighbors by giving them not only material but spiritual food as well, by becoming steadfastly holy people and not by focusing on lifeless, helpless objects for worship to strengthen one's faith, then this movement that has won awards will win the favor of the Giver of Life by making it strong and endure till the end. Most importantly, it is introducing God the Father Almighty to the people and to encourage them to return to faith, to obey and love Him above all that needs to be the focus of the mission and vision and not merely to alleviate the plight of the poor because, after all, there are affluent countries in the world that abandoned, ignored or have forgotten Him.

To alleviate the plight of the poor there is no simple solution. Material solution is not even the answer.
"Seek ye first the Kingdom of God the Father Almighty and His righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you."

No comments: