Manila, Philippines, Nov 6, 2017 / 20:00 pm
The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines has called for a prayer campaign to address violence in an escalating conflict between police and drug traffickers.
Since President Rodrigo Duterte’s crackdown on drug trafficking began last year, nearly 4,000 Filipinos are reported to have been killed by the police. While police say the killings have been acts of self-defense against armed gangs, critics allege that police forces are conducting unauthorized, extrajudicial executions. Vigilante groups are also said to have conducted murder in the midst of the drug war.
The bishops’ prayer campaign challenges Filipinos to pursue healing and repentance, instead of escalating the violence.
“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,” said 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.
On November 5, an estimated 3,000 Filipinos gathered for Mass and a procession along the Abenida Epidanio de los Santos, a historic Manila highway where a non-violent protest helped end the dictatorship of Ferdinand Marcos in 1986.
The prayer campaign involves praying the rosary for 33 days, until the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, on December 8th.
In August, the deaths of three teenagers prompted a 40 day prayer campaign, in which churches rang their bells nightly, and parishioners gathered to honor the dead with candles.