11 July 2012
A Liberating Sacrifice
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
– Martin Luther King
In Philippine history, a number of religious organizations have played an important role not only in building the moral foundation of society, but also in championing the cause of human dignity and liberty especially under the most difficult and trying situations. In the course of championing the cause of human rights, especially of the wretched of the earth, Church people were and continue to be subjected to persecution. The progressive segments of the Philippine churches have strongly responded to the cry of the people against repression and oppression. A number of Church people had sacrificed their lives “ for the ransom of many” by protecting people’s rights. The recent killing of Dutch layworker and missionary, Willem Geertman is one of the latest forms of persecution of the progressive segment of the Churches – concluded by police investigations as simple robbery without the benefit of a scrutiny on the motivation behind, considering the victim’s land reform and anti-mining advocacy.
Since Martial Law, many religious people were not spared from the brutal human rights violations of its worst forms, including enforced disappearances, torture and extrajudicial killings. For families of the disappeared in the Philippines, the name of Redemptorist priest, Fr. Rudy Romano as martyr and hero, because of his life of selfless service to the poor, shall always be remembered. Twenty-seven years ago, in Labangon, on 11 July 1985, Fr. Romano was abducted by alleged members of the Military Intelligence Group in Labangon, Cebu City. Despite strong evidence against the perpetrators, the latter were acquitted.
The still unresolved disappearance of Fr. Romano and the very recent killing of the Dutch missionary, Willem Geertman are concrete manifestations of the continuing persecution of Church people who lived the very essence of the gospels; followed the footsteps of Christ and served the poor, deprived and oppressed. In treading the road less travelled through their human rights advocacy, they earned the ire of the Machiavellian forces of our times. Their persecution and the utter absence of redress prove the existence of impunity.
Today is the 27th anniversary of the disappearance of Fr. Rudy Romano. In this commemoration, we reflect on the inspiring life and exemplary deeds of Fr. Rudy Romano.
In a couple of days, we will also commemorate the 18th anniversary of the unveiling of “Flame of Courage,” as part of the Bantayog ng mga Desaparecido memorial shrine at the Baclaran Redemptorist church grounds. The monument bearing the figure of a woman holding a torch along with a child carrying a picture of his missing father symbolizes the hope of many families of the disappeared to be once again reunited with their disappeared loved ones. The monument now serves as a place where families, friends and human rights advocates gather to remember, offer prayers and pay tribute to the memory of Filipino Desaparecidos. On this occasion, as we remember Fr. Rudy, Mr. Geertman and many other victims, we call on the Philippine government under the administration of Pres. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to prioritize the enactment of the Anti-Enforced Disappearance Law and to accept the recommendation of many States during the 2nd Universal Periodic Review on the Philippines before the UN Human Rights Council to immediately sign and ratify of the International Convention on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance. These two complementary legal measures, if adopted and put in place, can serve as effective tools not only to provide better human rights protection, but also to combat impunity.
The supreme sacrifice of Fr. Rudy Romano, layleader and Dutch missionary, Mr. Willem Geertman and of many others serve as seeds which will certainly sprout and grow and bear fruits a hundredfold. We believe that the sacrifice made by righteous men and women like them can lead us to the true path of a just, peaceful and humane society free from enforced disappearances and other forms of human rights violations.
As the Gospel of John 2:24 states, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat fails to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.”
As the Gospel of John 2:24 states, “I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat fails to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds.” The perpetrators have not silenced just men and women just because they have killed them or made them disappear.
Justice for Fr. Rudy Romano!
Justice for Mr. Willem Geertman!
Justice for all victims of persecution of Church people.
Signed and authenticated by:
MARY AILEEN D. BACALSO
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