“We pray for our nation and all the inhabitants therein, that they will know peace, genuine peace based on justice and righteousness.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA – Leaders of Catholic and Protestant churches are calling on the faithful to unite and defend human rights.
At the beginning of the week of Christian prayer, January 21, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) declared in a unity statement, “We pray for our nation and all the inhabitants therein, that they will know peace, genuine peace based on justice and righteousness.”
As part of the week of prayer, Church people will hold a gathering dubbed as “One Faith. One Nation. One Voice” on January 25, Friday, 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. at Rajah Sulayman Park, Roxas Boulevard, Malate, Manila.
The gathering is seen as a response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s tirades against the Catholic Church and other forms of harassment against Church people.
In an interview with Bulatlat, Bishop Roberto Mallari of San Jose, Nueva Ecija said Duterte’s open invitation to kill bishops “opens a door for people to commit injustices.”
In his speech last Jan. 10, Duterte suggested to bystanders to rob and kill bishops. It’s the latest in a string of tirades Duterte blurted out against the Catholic Church, whose bishops have been critical of his bloody campaign to end illegal drugs.
Under the Duterte administration, three Catholic priests have been killed. They are Fr. Marcelito Paez , Fr. Mark Ventura and Fr. Richmond Nilo.
NCCP-member Churches, meanwhile, have been subjected to red baiting, according to Minnie Anne Calub, acting general secretary of the NCCP.
“Church people who stand by the rights of the people are being called communists,” Calub told Bulatlat. “But we will not be cowed. Caring for the people has been the commitment of our clergy and lay people.”
‘Life is sacred’
Mallari said the CBCP’s opposition to extrajudicial killings is rooted in their conviction that “every human person has utmost importance in the eyes of God.”
At least 20,000 have been killed in Duterte’s “war on drugs,” according to independent human rights organizations.
Mallari shared that their diocese has been reaching out to drug dependents through their House of Prayer and Evangelization (Hope) project. After two batches of graduates, Mallari witnessed the transformation of former drug dependents into better, God-loving persons.
“One of them said, ‘Ang basurang buhay ko, nagkaroon ng kahulugan. I will help other victims,’” Mallari said.
Families of victims of war on drugs are expected to attend the Jan. 25 gathering, Calub said.
Calub said the Church people should unite with other sectors of the Philippine society. “This Week of Prayer, we are calling on Filipinos to pray together and see the face of Jesus in farmers who produce food but never have enough food, in workers who toil but do not receive just wages, in indigenous peoples who grew up in their ancestral land but are now being evicted, in the youth whose future remain uncertain.”
Calub said they are hoping that the January 25 event would be the first of many gatherings of Church people amid attacks on the Church.
Sorsogon Bishop Arturo Bastes has earlier said, “There should be a mass movement among decent Filipinos to make him desist from speaking like a devil. Let us do something to make him stop this evil!”