By DOUGL AS HYDE
ON Christmas Eve, 1957. Luis ON Christmas Eve, 1957. Luis Taruc went to Midnight Mass in the prison chapel. and the jibes of his fellow-prisoners. members of the Communist Party secretariat and political bureau. rang in his ears as he left to go there. "I felt that I had come home." he wrote to me later. There were still many doubts and misgivings in his mind. To "confess to another man" still seemed abhorrent. But, as he sat in the prison chapel, memories of his childhood came flooding back into his mind. Not all his doubts were resolved that night. But he left desiring above all else that he might once again become a Christian and will ing, if he could be convinced that the Church was right and that he had been wrong in his view of her, to return to Catholicism, In May, 1958, after years of estrangement from the Church, Taruc returned to the Sacraments. His last objections to "confessing to another man" had been broken down. It was in a mood of great humility that he went to Communion for the first time since he became a Communist.
WITHIN only a few weeks of his return to the Sacraments a trial which had been dragging over the .years came to an end. He was given four separate life sentences on charges arising from rebellion.
In a letter written to me immediately after the blow fell. he told me that he believed that the judge had done him an injustice, that even though he had led a rebellion he was not guilty of the specific offences against individuals with which he had been charged. But he also went on to say that he was trying to understand the judge's motives and. if it was God's will that he should live the rest of his life in jail. he would spend those years praying for him and for others His letters at that time reveal that his faith had been strengthened rather than weakened. by what had happened. They breathe a charity which is both humbling and inspiring. But he was nonetheless. clearly, very hard-hit by the sentence. One immediate consequence of this was that he stopned writing his book and said that that particular operation was at an end. He believed that if it were to be comoleted and then published. or used in some other way. neonle would believe that he had broken under the impact of the life sentence and was bargaining for his release. His letters also showed that he was feeling extremely lonely and depressed
THEN. Providentially, came an invitation to attend a conference in Singapore. I accepted it but simultaneously made my plans for getting back to the Philippines and to Taruc. i told the security-intelligence authorities there that I wanted to be allowed to work with Taruc. so that i might persuade him to start writing again and also so that I might strengthen his morale. But I believed that it would be unseemly for me to work in his prison cell by day and then return to the comfort of a hotel by night. So I requested them to permit me to go to jail with him and provide me with a nearby cell. The authorities obliged. There was no neighbouring cell available but they rigged one up for me at the end of a corridor which led to the guards' two lavatories. As I learned in due course, my actual living conditions were rather more uncomfortable than his.
TARUC, I found. was. indeed, discouraged and depressed. During our first morning together in his cell he was adamant that the writing of his story most not be re-started. It would. he said, be misconstrued by his old opponents and used against him by his old comrades. told him that I believed that if he told his story fully, giving a detailed account of everything that had led up to his break with Communism and then making clear his present ideas and position, this could do nothing but good. hi the end I persuaded him. Although he had been going regularly to Mass in the prison he had not been going to Communion. When I discussed this with him I found that he did not want to seem to he parading his conversion before those of his guards and his fellow prisoners who went there too. But again I was able to persuade him, and it was a memorable moment when we knelt together at the Communion rail, before an altar backed with barbed wire.
WHEN we came to working on those parts of the book in which he discussed his views, it became clear that, even though there could be no doubt about the genuineness of his conversion at the spiritual level. large areas of his thinking were still coloured by his former Communist beliefs. He was totally disillusioned with the
Communist Party as such and he utterly repudiated its atheistMarxist philosophy.
But it was as though the old methods of thought still prevailed when he tried to find solutions to social and political problems-even much of the old vocabulary remained. This was something he was not aware of and he was profoundly shocked when I drew his attention to it. But it was natural enough in the circumstances.
"Somehow." I told him. "we have got to Christianise the whole of your thought." When I had originally suggested the writing of his story I was more concerned with it as a means of changing a man than of producing a book for publication.
Now. indeed. it proved its usefulness in this way. We went through it together sentence by sentence. word by word. analysing every shade of possible meaning, discussing at length every idea he had put into it. We argued for 16 hours a day for weeks on end. so that I would return to my own scorching-hot, insect-infested cell totally exhausted each night.
N or solutions IN the process of writing and re writing his story his ideas changed under the impact of our discussions. From time to time I would leave him in order to work on the typescript. But I would give him something on Catholic social teaching to read while I was away, then hammer out its meaning with
him when 1 came back. •
At the end of five and a half weeks he had acquired a new Christian, democratic social philosophy. Quite spontaneously and automatically he was thinking of Christian solutions. instead of Marxist-revolutionary ones, to the problems which had always been nearest and dearest to his heart— the need for social reform. to end poverty, malnutrition and ignorance, to gain justice for the common people. to achieve a Philippines which was prosperous and peaceful, taking its place among the emergent nations of the world. There could be no possible basis for anyone who was in possession of the full facts to doubt the fundamental change which had occurred in him. He had become. in my opinion and that of priests who had met him. a very good Christian indeed, who may yet be enabled to serve the Church well
TARUC'S book is awaiting a
Government decision before it can be published in the Philippines. His story includes a section in which he discusses those policies and actions of the opponents of Communism which aided the Huk rebellion.
For this reason it may possibly
embarrass sonic political parties and some living politicians. Another section, in which he tells the story of his conversion, is one of the most moving conversion stories ever told.
Since Taruc is, after all, a top security prisoner. serving a life sentence, it is understandable that the Government should think carefully before sanctioning its publication. But the book he has written is of much more than Filipino interest. It will meet an urgent need all over Asia and can do a splendid job for the Faith everywhere.
MEANWHILE. l have recently
returned from the Philippines after another period of some weeks in jail. I wanted to complete the work an the book and at the same time to give Taruc companionship during this frustrating period of waiting for a Government decision.
In addition, I had during my first stay in prison influenced. without knowing it at the time, a group of Chinese students, suspected of Communism, who had been in prison for more than three years. This time I had a cell near theirs.
I found that the discussions I had started had continued in my absence. By the time I left I knew that an" operation which began with the aim of bringing one man away from Communism was on the way to bringing 15 back to the Free World instead,