People hold images of Our Lady of Guadalupe and photos of their family members, who they say were killed because of their alleged involvement in illegal drugs, during a March 2 protest and march in memory of the victims in Manila, Philippines. CNS photo/Romeo Ranoco, Reuters

Speaking Out: Philippines' Church keeps faith in face of injustice

By  Ena Goquiolay, Youth Speak News
  • May 12, 2017

Okay din si Duterte! (Duterte is alright!),” my dad said in approval. Gathered at the dinner table, talk of the boorish Filipino president peppered our family meal.

Last year, just around election time in the Philippines, all that the grown-ups around me could talk about was Rodrigo Duterte, a promising presidential candidate, a mayor from Davao City. They shared the same sentiments as my father. Something had to be done about the crime, poverty and social injustices. There is a reason so many of us are immigrants. The means seemed to justify the ends.

Duterte vowed to eradicate crime and do away with corruption once and for all. He offered a radical solution to those who dare cross the law — death.

Some have been impressed by the potty-mouthed leader, but there was a firm and fearless voice that went against the social grain. In the year since Duterte’s election, the Catholic Church in the Philippines has taken on the role of official opposition.

Filipino Archbishop Socrates Villegas opposes Duterte’s laws and challenged Catholics: “How many of our Catholics openly and blatantly declare, ‘I am a Catholic, but I agree that drug addicts must be killed; they are useless. I am a Catholic, but I am pro-death penalty.’ ”

We see the Catholic Church oppose the State when human dignity is violated for the sake of justice. We remember Pope John Paul II and the Church’s role in the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe. In Syria, priests and nuns are martyred by the Islamic State for standing their ground against Islamic conversion.

We think of Blessed Mother Teresa’s Catholic speech as she accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. She decried abortion, asking a roomful of leaders to “stand by the unborn child.”

Today in Canada, the Church supports faithful Catholic doctors who oppose euthanasia.

Separation from my homeland had left me distant from the Philippines’ political affairs. But witnessing the Church’s battle against sin on a national level now calls me to action.

In a society where progress is valued more than human lives, we should resist a culture of death that kills in the name of justice and freedom. Catholic saints and martyrs teach us that being a follower of Christ and His Church calls us to be soldiers for mercy and militants for souls.

In March, the Philippine government took another step toward reinstating the death penalty more than a decade after it was abolished. Almost a year into Duterte’s presidency, more than 8,000 people have been killed.

Dubbed the Punisher, Duterte’s death squads continue to execute individuals connected to the drug world. For these lost souls, let us pray, “O my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of hell, lead all souls to Heaven, especially those most in need of Thy mercy.”

(Goquiolay, 24, is a freelance writer in Toronto.)

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