The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines in a pastoral letter released yesterday, stressed the need for prayers versus the culture of violence and hate prevailing in the country today.
The CBCP pastoral letter titled “Conquering Evil with Good” has been circulated through social media and will be translated into local languages to be read in churches around the country, San Carlos Bishop Gerardo Alminaza said yesterday.
The bishops, in their pastoral letter, said “for the past few months now, we have observed how the culture of violence has gradually prevailed in our land”.
“The recent bombing of the cathedral of Jolo where scores of people were killed and several more were injured is further evidence to the cycle of hate that is destroying the moral fabric of our country,” they said.
The bishops, who have been the subject of verbal attacks from President Rodrigo Duterte, noted that lately they have been at the receiving end of cruel words“that pierce into the soul of the Catholic Church like sharp daggers”.
But they said they have taken their cue from Pope Francis who said in some instances “the best response is silence and prayer.”
The bishops said they respect the freedom of conscience and religion of people of other faiths, including former Catholic Christians who may have already renounced their faith.
“But as far as we know, the freedom of expression does not include a license to insult other people’s faith, especially our core beliefs. We know that this cuts deeply into the souls of our people—especially the poor, because faith is the only thing they have to hold on to. It gives them hope and strength to continue living and working despite all the odds that come their way,” the bishop said.
The bishops said they want to make it clear that they are not against the government’s efforts to fight illegal drugs.
“We do respect the fact that it is the government’s duty to maintain law and order and to protect its citizens from lawless elements. We have long acknowledged that illegal drugs are a menace to society and that their easier victims are the poor,” they said.
The bishops said like most other Filipinos they had high hopes that the government would truly flex some political will to be able to use the full force of the law in working against this terrible menace.
“It was when we started hearing of mostly poor people being brutally murdered on mere suspicion of being small-time drug users and peddlers while the big-time smugglers and drug lords went scot-free, that we started wondering about the direction this ‘drug war’ was taking,” they said.
The bishops said they have no intention of interfering in the conduct of State affairs, but neither do they intend to abdicate their “sacred mandate as shepherds to whom the Lord has entrusted his flock”.
“We have a solemn duty to defend our flock, especially when they are attacked by wolves,” they said.
They said they do not fight with arms, “we fight only with the truth. Therefore, no amount of intimidation or even threat to our lives will make us give up our prophetic role, especially that of giving voice to the voiceless.”
“We also must consider the right to life of people who are brutally murdered just because they are suspected of being opponents of government, as well as those who are summarily executed by armed groups. Everyone in the civilized community of nations would agree that even those who may have committed criminal offenses should be treated in a humane way, even as justice demands that they be held accountable for their actions,” they added.
The bishops also said “there is no way we can call ourselves a civilized society if we hold children in conflict with the law criminally liable”.
Children who get involved in crimes, such as those who are used as runners by adult drug pushers, do not deserve to be treated as criminals, they are victims that need to be rescued, the bishops said.
“It is obvious that most children in conflict with the law come from very poor families and were born and raised in an environment of abuse. We beg our country’s legislators to give the bills they are drafting some serious rethinking and consider the greater harm that such a move can cause onthe young people of our country,” they said.
The bishops commended initiatives to improve the Bahay-Pag-asa shelters for the care of children in conflict with the law.
“More than ever, as members of the Church, we must realize that our strength lies in keeping our communities of faith intact. We must educate the faithful in the application of their conscience to the complex and myriad problems of life — in the choice of leaders, in the exercise of their vocation as citizens, in the raising of families, in their work and chosen professions, in the efforts to care for the environment, etc,” they said.
The bishops said “As members of God’s flock, we must learn to be brave, to stick together, and look after one another. Let this moment be a time to pray, to be strong, wise, and committed.”*
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