Father Shay Cullen
29 September 2016
The Catholic Church- and that means not only 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 challenged in this day by the war on drugs. God’s people in the Church needs to take a stand with and reach out to those in need of healing, care and help. Drug dependents are the victim attacked by bandits and was cared for by the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho.
The Philippine Church and every one who considers him or herself a Catholic is challenged by the commitment and fiery words of President Duterte to continue his war-on-drugs and remove as many suspects as possible.
Few can doubt the dedication and commitment of President Duterte to rid the Philippines of the drug menace,. According to a United Nations report, the Philippines has one of the highest use of illegal drugs in Asia. The Philippine Dangerous Drugs Board estimates there are 1.8 million drug dependents in the Philippines.
The true Christian believers in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching of justice, mercy, repentance and forgiveness with penance must think about the moral issues of this campaign and its methods of killing the suspects without evidence or trial is a big challenge to the Catholic Church. It is a call on the conscience and the integrity of the institutional leaders and the People of God everywhere and especially in Asia and the Philippines to take a stand on this.
Eighty percent of the population can be said to be Catholic and perhaps 60 percent know 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, has compassion, justice and forgiveness. Do unto others as you would want them to do unto you is at the heart of the message. Jesus in Matthew 25 said we will be judged by the love and compassion we show to the hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless and those we visit in jail. What we do to them we do to Jesus of Nazareth.
In a July 2016 poll by Pulse Asia, a stunning 91 percent of Filipinos said that they trusted in the president. The survey released on Wednesday, July 20 asked 1,200 Filipinos if they trusted in President Duterte and almost all answered yes. It was less than half a percent that said they did not trust him while less than half a percent distrusted him and eight percent were undecided.
Catholics are committed by their faith 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 take a stand for them. So the teaching of Jesus challenges them and the Church to question the methods used in the war on drugs.
Those methods, according to some commentators, violate human rights and the dignity of the human person. Catholic faith- if it is truly correct faith and not merely attending routinely Holy Mass, religious rites and rituals and singing hymns- has to be seen flowing into action. St. James has said in his New Testament letter, “Faith without good deeds is dead.” Catholics are called by their faith to take a stand on the moral issue of justice and due process and the rights of the people to live and not be shot dead on the mere suspicion of a policeman who has sworn to protect the people, not shoot them.
Is it true that the Catholic population is accepting it? That is until it turns on their children and their relatives and they will feel that there is no Church or civil institution left to protect their rights.
The Catholic Church has made a statement on the killing of suspects recently. The head of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Archbishop Soc Villegas, signed a statement that deplored 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. With willful murder, we also grieve the sins of sexual perversion, oppression of the poor and the defrauding of laborers of their wages. Like murder, these sins cry to heaven for divine justice. We are not numb to these other offenses against human life.”
Earlier, Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo, De La Salle Philippines president Brother Jose Mari Jimenez, Ateneo de Manila University president Father Jose Ramon Villarin, and the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Women in the Philippines, among others, took turns in slamming the recent killings.
Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani appealed to the conscience of the authorities and other individuals to refrain from killing drug suspects.
It is the challenge to the People of God in the Philippines to act on their belief in the sanctity of human life, the rule of law, 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 Catholic faith is all about and that is the challenge to the catholic communities everywhere.