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Why are God’s people silent?

The Catholic Church in The Philippines, which means not just the leadership, but the people of God who believe in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching on the sacredness of life, mercy, compassion and understanding, are being challenged in this day and age by the War-on-Drugs.

God’s people in the Church need to take a stand alongside and reach out to those in need of healing, care and help. Drug dependents are the victims of bandits, just like the one that was cared for by the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho.

The Philippine Church and everyone who considers themselves a Catholic are challenged by the blind determination and fiery words of the president, Rodrigo Duterte, to continue his so called war-on-drugs by removing as many suspects as possible.

A United Nations report on The Philippines says that it has one of the highest user rates in Asia. The Philippine Dangerous Drug Board estimates there are 1.8 million drug dependent people in Pearl of the Orient Seas.

The true Christian believers in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching on justice, mercy, repentance and forgiveness, with penance, must think about the moral issues of this campaign and its methods of killing suspects without evidence or trial.

It is a big challenge to the Catholic Church. It is a call to the conscience and the integrity of the institutional leaders and the people of God everywhere, especially in Asia and The Philippines, to take a stand.

Eighty per cent of the population claim to be Catholic and perhaps 60 per cent know about and believe in the commandment, Thou shall not kill. They believe they must act and speak to protect life, practice love and mercy, to heal the wounded, have compassion and justice, as well as to forgive.

“Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you” is at the heart of the message. In Matthew 25, Jesus says we will be judged by the love and compassion we show to the hungry, thirsty, naked, the homeless and those in jail. What we do to them we do to Jesus of Nazareth.

In a July 2016 poll conducted by Pulse Asia, a stunning 91 per cent of Filipinos said they trust in the president. The survey, released on July 20, asked 1,200 Filipinos if they trusted in Duterte and almost all answered yes.

Less than half a per cent said they did not trust him, while less than half a per cent distrusted him, with eight per cent undecided.

The Catholic faith commits us to uphold life, life in the womb of the unborn, life of the poor and the hungry, life of the oppressed and downtrodden, and to make a stand for them.

So the teaching of Jesus challenges people of God and the Church to question the methods used in this war-on-drugs.

Some commentators say it is a violation of human rights and the dignity of the human person. Catholic faith, if it is a truly faith and not merely lip service or going to religious rites and rituals, has to be seen to be flowing into action.

St. James says in his New Testament letter, “Faith without good deeds is dead.” Catholics are called by their faith to take a stand on the moral issues of justice and due process, as well as the right of the people to live and not be shot dead on mere suspicion by the police, who have sworn to protect the people—not shoot them.

But it is true that the Catholic population is accepting it.

That is until it is turned on their children and relatives. Then they know there is no Church or civil institution left to protect their rights.

The Catholic Church has spoken on the killing of suspects. The head of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of The Philippines, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, signed a statement deploring the violence.

“Although death is a twin sister born with us on the same day we were born, death by terror and violence, death in the hands of our fellowmen is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance,” he says.

“With willful murder, we also grieve the sins of sexual perversion, oppression of the poor and the defrauding of labourers of their wages. Like murder, these sins cry to heaven for divine justice. We are not numb to these other offences against human life.”

Earlier, Bishop Broderick Pabillo, the auxiliary in Manila; De La Salle Philippines president, Brother José Mari Jimenez; Ateneo de Manila University president, Father José Ramon Villarin; and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in The Philippines, among others, took turns in slamming the recent killings.

The retired bishop of Novaliches, Bishop Teodoro Bacani, appealed to the conscience of the authorities, as well as other individuals to refrain from killing drug suspects.

It is the silence of the people of God in The Philippines that prevents them from acting on their belief in the sanctity of human life, the rule of law and the principal of innocent until proven guilty.

Taking a stand and speaking out for justice, for what is just and right, what is true and good is what the Catholic faith is all about and that is the big challenge Catholic communities of today must face the world over.


 • Father Shay Cullen