Bishops start rosary campaign against violent drug war
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called for a prayer campaign urging Filipinos to pursue healing and repentance to stop the escalating violence in the conflict between police and drug traffickers. The prayer campaign involves praying the rosary for 33 days, until the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th.
“Repent so healing can begin. Stopping the killing is only one big step. The journey of healing for the values of our nation turned upside down will be a long journey still,” stated Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Filipino bishops conference. “God’s people, let’s go back to the Lord … we choose darkness over light … We choose violence rather than peace,” he added.
Archbishop Villegas said that curses will be cast on a nation which spills the blood of its own citizens and urged Filipinos to resist the temptation to violence and work for justice:
“Peace to you the murdered brethren and victims of extrajudicial killings. May the Lord give you peace in His kingdom, that peace that the world failed to give you! May your blood speak to us, disturb us and move us to act to resist violence.”
Healing begins with asking for repentance, the archbishop said and urged leaders ask forgiveness “for falling for the lure of comfort and the attraction of convenience, for giving in to the temptation to be powerful and popular rather than be humble and faithful, for our tendency to judge rather than seek unity, for keeping quiet when we should speak and blabbering when what is needed is silence, God forgive us, leaders of your Church.” He challenged clergy and government officials to be the first to turn away from sin and commit to the service of their roles.
Villegas noted that civil servants are meant to be servants to the people and called for greater respect of the country’s democratic institutions and laws. He urged the government to pursue justice, not revenge, and to rule with respect rather than fear.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug trafficking began last year, over 7,000 people are reported to have been killed from July 2016 to January 2017 by police officers and vigilante groups. While police say their killings of nearly 4,000 Filipinos have been acts of self-defence against armed gangs, critics allege that police forces are conducting unauthorized, extrajudicial executions.
Presidential spokesperson Harry Rogue denied any extrajudicial killings and said the government was investigating more than 2,000 suspicious deaths. He also encouraged the bishops to work more closely with drug rehabilitation and anti-drug forces.