Why are church people targets of political persecution?
The Church in the Philippines lives in perilous times as an increasing number of clergy, religious and church workers face unspeakable violence and whose rights are violated by President Duterte’s administration. Church people who join the pilgrimage of poor communities and support their struggle for justice, peace and human dignity suffer state-perpetuated political persecution.
The assault against Sister Patricia Fox, who is an Australian religious missionary and the regional superior of Our Lady of Sion Sisters in the Philippines, is the most recent blow against church workers and religious institutions. For the past 27 years, she has immersed herself in the arms of the toiling Filipino masses and worked hand-in-hand with farmers, supporting through her prayers and selfless service their struggle for land and life.
Sister Pat, as she is known in the ecumenical community, was illegally arrested by elements of the Bureau of Immigration at her residence in Quezon City. She was detained for two days, from April 16 to 17, following allegations of her participation in political actions against the Philippine government. The soft-spoken and good-natured missionary nun was released, following strong condemnation from faith communities, human rights defenders, and members of civil society groups and peoples’ organizations.
We cannot comprehend why church people become targets of political persecution. When has it become a crime to accompany the poor and the oppressed in their struggle? When has it become a crime to preach the words of God and live out the works of Christ?
Recent events manifest a systematic state-sponsored attack on church people. Last Dec. 4, Catholic priest Marcelito Paez was killed after facilitating the release of a political prisoner. On May 11, 2017, Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and peace advocate Carlo Morales was arrested, detained for nearly a year, and was recently released upon the granting of his bail plea.
We hold the Duterte administration accountable for the many cases, documented or otherwise, on the persecution of church people. We demand that this administration stop the increasing and increasingly hostile attempts at silencing church people who accompany those that experience far greater historical and structural injustices.
We call upon all Christians and people of good will to boldly resist state violence and political oppression, and continue to stand up for and work in solidarity with the poor, deprived and oppressed, so that justice and peace may reign and life, in all its sanctity and dignity, can be enjoyed.
BISHOP DEOGRACIAS S. IÑIGUEZ JR., and RT. REV. FELIXBERTO L. CALANG, IFI,
cochairpersons, Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum
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