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Dangerous times for missionaries in Mindanao

SOUTH COTABATO (UCAN): Religious missionaries working in Mindanao, the southern Philippines, continue to live in “dangerous and dark times,” in which justice is hard to come by, according to the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN).
The group pointed out that the killing of Italian Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions Father Fausto Tentorio in 2011, remains unsolved to this day. 
The organisation decried what it described as “elusive justice” for the priest, slain in the compound of his parish church in North Cotabato province on 17 October 2011 (Sunday Examiner, 30 October 2011).
Sister Virgencita Alegado of the Religious Sisters of Mercy and chairperson of SAMIN, said missionaries in the Philippines continue to exist in a “precarious situation.”
The sister said working to uplift the lives of tribal people has also become dangerous, noting that the violence, which plagued the southern Philippines when Father Tentorio was killed, still lingers.
In a statement, SAMIN said religious who are “actively living out the gospel” are “living in fear of their lives and safety” due to alleged harassment from security forces.
“The persecution of Church people not only in Mindanao, but in other parts of the country has now become systematic, especially for those working with the (tribal people),” the sisters said in a statement.
Sister Alegado referred to the case of Sister Susan Bolanio of the Oblates of Notre Dame, who was accused in an online social media post of being a communist rebel (Sunday Examiner, October 14). The sister and the congregation have denied the allegation. The military also claimed the accusation did not come from its ranks.
In its statement, SAMIN accused the administration of president, Rodrigo Duterte, of “wantonly desecrate(ing) human life, trampl(ing) upon human rights and is contemptuous of people’s faith in God.”
The Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum described the situation of the Church in the Philippines as “living in perilous times.”
“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 bishops said.
The Catholic and Protestant bishops cited the case of Australian Sister Patricia Fox who has been ordered deported for allegedly participating in partisan political activities.
Over the past year, three Catholic priests working in rural areas have been murdered.
SAMIN, an association of women religious and missionaries, was founded in 1983 “as a response to the signs of the times” when martial law was declared by the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos.

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