People Power

People Power

How to get rid of a tyrannical government? The situation in Egypt reminds me of how the Filipino people forced Ferdinand Marcos out of the country in February, 1986.

While armed rebellion against the Marcos government was being waged by the New People’s Army (a Communist group) and by the Moro National Liberation Front (a Muslim separatist army) it was millions of popular activists in Manila who won the day.

“People power,” as it was known, was a form of active nonviolence exercised by a huge segment of the population.What was unique about the Filipino case was that the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines had issued a statement calling the Marcos government illegitimate and had urged the use of nonviolent means to remove Marcos from power. People were urged to engage in civil disobedience—not paying taxes for example—and to boycott companies supporting the Marcos regime. Another tactic was creating a run on the Filipino National Bank. When people closed their accounts and moved their money to private banks and credit unions the government owned bank had to close. These were extreme means for an extreme situation.

Is it ever right for people to engage in such activities aimed at toppling a government that has lost popular support? The Catholic answer is “Yes, under certain conditions.” The government must be tyrannical, oppressing the human rights of its citizens. There must be some reasonable prospect of success. The costs must be smaller than the harm caused by the existing tyrannical establishment. Official Church teaching even includes the possibility of a violent revolution as a means of last resort.

When I stood with the millions in the streets of Manila in 1986 there was great fear and uncertainty. However the people were determined and courageous.  

I can only imagine what it must feel like in the streets of Cairo today. I urge all our readers to pray for the victory of justice and peace.

***** Photo Credit:  CNS photo/Suhaib Salem, Reuters 


About the Author

Dan Kroger, O.F.M., a native of Cincinnati, joined the Franciscans in 1967 and was ordained in 1973. He taught high school and served in rural parishes in the Philippines. Dan earned a Ph.D. in Christian ethics at Notre Dame. He also taught at De La Salle University, Manila, until he was assigned to his present post as publisher/CEO at Franciscan Media in 2006.