Fr. Benigno Beltran – Faith & Struggle on Smokey Mountain

I have just received the following kind request from the author of this book, an amazing Catholic priest I have met during my trip last year in the Philippines:

Hello, Danut, please invite the members of the WV community and your friends to visit the website of my book Faith and Struggle on Smokey Mountain: Hope for a Planet in Peril at It is the account of thirty years as a Divine Word missionary in a garbage dump in obedience to the call of the SVD Constitutions to give preferential option to the poor, and the scavengers’ struggle for Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. World Vision has played a big part in the story of the garbage dump. God’s peace and blessings. Fr. Ben.

Here is the presentation of the book on Fr. Betran’s web site.

* * *

“I lived for more than thirty years in a huge garbage dump called Smokey Mountain in the heart of the city of Manila . . . . It was a journey through the heart of darkness, a pilgrimage through the crucible of despair to emerge into joyful hope in the end.”

Smokey Mountain, a vast garbage dump in Manila, the Philippines, served for many years as an emblem of Third World squalor. In many ways, it is a metaphor for a planet slowly choking on garbage and waste. But for Fr. Beltran, who served for three decades as chaplain to the 25,000 scavengers who survive off this reeking heap, it is also a metaphor of hope—an emblem of the will to survive, the ability to create joy and find meaning even in the midst of abject poverty.

Faith and Struggle on Smokey Mountain describes the spiritual resilience of struggling peoples, and how, through their eyes, Fr. Beltran learned to read the Gospel anew. The lessons he learned bear a message for all who struggle for a better world.

A theology that flows out of life and flows back to life is at the heart of the book, ‘Faith and Struggle on Smokey Mountain.’ Written with powerful eloquence, it was shaped by the life of the author for 30 years with and among scavengers, who became his companions in his inner pilgrimage, as well as in their common struggle for hope, justice, and social transformation, amidst the heart wrenching degradation and squalor of poverty at the garbage dump. Having been deeply a part of the story of a people he has come to love, and for whom he is a priest of God, the author presents in his book, the “jewels of the pauper” in the face of monstrous material deprivation. When a theology dislocates, challenges, provokes, enrages, humbles, and sometimes surprises, it is a theology that has intensely sought a coherence of faith, with the imperatives of social justice, and the moral claims of the poor. This is a theology that makes the heart burn and the spirit thirst for God– a theology which, according to Karl Rahner, reaches its highest moment in prayer. — Christina A. Astorga, Ph.D., Past Founding Director of the Center for the Study of Catholic Social Thought, Duquesne University, Visiting Scholar, Fordham University
Ours is an age of cynicism, consumerism, and atheist rage against God. Benigno Beltran tells a story of people betrayed and abandoned by modern society, of a wondrous planet being destroyed by greed and excess, and of a God of mystery and ‘consuming fire’ who is discovered amidst the desolation. This is a passionate, honest, and inspiring book – an indictment of us all for the world we have created, and an urgent call to justice and to hope. — Tina Beattie, Professor of Catholic Studies, University of Roehampton, London

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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