Tag Archives: Pope Francis

[In the news] Pope backs Filipino bishop who received death threats -UCANnews

A bishop who claimed to have received death threats for criticizing the Philippine government’s “total war” on drugs has received a boost from Pope Francis.

Bishop Pablo Virgilio David of Kalookan said his “eyes blurred with tears” when the pontiff told him that he was aware of what he was enduring.

“I want you to know that I know your situation. I know what you are going through. I am praying for you,” the prelate quoted the pope as saying.

Bishop David was in Rome last week with other Filipino prelates for an audience with Pope Francis.

The meeting, which happens every five years, is obligatory for bishops who must visit the “threshold of the apostles” to report on the state of their dioceses or prelatures.

Bishop David said he was surprised when at the end of the meeting the pontiff stopped him and gave him a special blessing.

“I was ready to step out already when he held my arm and said, ‘Wait. Please let me give you a special blessing. I want you to know I am with you as you face trials in your ministry in your diocese,'” Bishop David posted on his Facebook account.

Read more @www.ucanews.com

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[From the web] Have ‘courage’, Pope tells ‘killing field’ bishop -CBCPnews

Pope Francis encouraged Bishop Pablo David of Kalookan to face the challenges in his diocese with “courage”.

The pope met with the first of the three groups of bishops from the Philippines May 20 during the “ad limina” that prelates are required to make to the Vatican.

Seated around the pope, David and other bishops were allowed to address the pontiff freely without the aid of a microphone.

When David had his turn, he told the pope that he had no question and just wanted to ask for his prayers.

“I was surprised when he interrupted me in the middle of my sentence and said, ‘I want you to know that I know your situation; I know what you are going through. I am praying for you,’” David recalled.

“My eyes blurred with tears when he said that. I had to clear my throat to be able to go on speaking,” he said.

The Kalookan diocese is composed of the southern part of Caloocan, Malabon and Navotas covering some of the poorest communities in Metro Manila.

The bishop earlier said the cities in his diocese have been “turned into killing fields” in the government’s bloody campaign against illegal drugs trade that claimed thousands of lives.

Read more @cbcpnews.net

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[Statement] Aksyon Klima Pilipinas on Pope Francis’ Encyclical: Humanity as Stewards of the Earth

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas statement on Pope Francis’ Encyclical: Humanity as Stewards of the Earth
17 June 2015

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas (AK), a dynamic network of 43 civil society organizations working on various climate change and development issues, embraces the much-anticipated encyclical of Pope Francis on climate change. As Pope Francis pointed out during the 20th Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), climate change is a serious ethical and moral responsibility. The call of AK has been and always will be for climate action strengthened by international agreements supported by national agendas and realized by local authorities.

Aksyon Klima

God’s instruction during the creation of humanity was, “to replenish the earth, and subdue it, have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moved upon the Earth” (Genesis 1:28). Given the present concerning situation of this Earth, humanity has clearly forgotten this fundamental responsibility.

The abuse and over-consumption of the goods that the Earth has to offer is a clear demonstration of the savagery that exists in the human heart, corrupted by sin, manifested by the devastation and dangers brought about by climate change. Extreme weather events and other catastrophes that exacerbate the vulnerable situation of the poor and marginalized societies is the only way Mother Earth can teach us the lesson of the necessity to take care of the environment, which in turn will allow Mother Earth to provide for humanity.

Pope Francis’ encyclical comes at an opportune time when Parties to UNFCCC are set to meet in Paris later this year to come up with a new climate change agreement. AK hopes that the encyclical will lead to a strong response to climate change from all Parties to the Convention. This strong response should be able to overcome mistrust and selfishness to promote the culture of solidarity, cooperation and dialogue.

The Philippines, where majority of the population is Catholic and is recognized for their enlightened faith and unwavering devotion, should invoke the national government to listen and learn from the lessons that Pope Francis is trying to advocate. This call from the Pope is a humble request to all governments to include climate action in their respective national agendas. The Philippines, long has been the face and voice of climate change vulnerable countries, should be at the helm of this movement to call for climate action.

The Pope’s encyclical released today may not reflect the individual ambitions of our politicians but hopefully could touch the meekness of their hearts and the humility of their consciences for them to choose and pave the path for climate action.

Aksyon Klima Pilipinas extends our utmost gratitude to Pope Francis for always being the voice of the voiceless and the light of those who are oppressed. In Pope Francis’ continued advocacy for climate action, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas joins the Pope in thought, action and prayer for humanity to become responsible stewards of this Earth.

For more information, please contact:
Gene Angelo P. Ferrer
National Coordinator, Aksyon Klima Pilipinas
+63 917 852 6789
coordinator@aksyonklima.ph

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[Statement] ATM on Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Sii” (“Praise Be To You”)

ATM Statement on Pope Francis’ Encyclical “Laudato Sii” (“Praise Be To You”)
18 June 2015

As his holiness Pope Francis said in his homily on February 9, 2015 in Vatican, “A Christian who does not protect creation, who does not let it grow, is a Christian who does not care about the work of God … And this is the first response to the first creation: protect creation, make it grow.”

(Source: http://en.radiovaticana.va/news/2015/02/09/pope_mass_protecting_creation_a_christian_responsibility/1122292)

atm-logoIt is with this that Alyansa Tigil Mina (ATM), an alliance of environmental and human rights groups composed of more than a hundred organizations and partners all over the Philippines expresses its full appreciation and support to his Holiness, Pope Francis, on this monumental day, June 18 of the present time as he gives light to one of the world’s most pressing issues: the environment and climate change.

As stewards of Mothers Earth, we have the obligation to nurture and protect the resources and creation His Almighty has given  us to call home. We must remember that we, the human race owe the Earth and not the other way around. Sadly, we have paid Mother Earth and our environment with nothing but abuse and irresponsibility as we prioritize capitalistic intentions above honoring the integrity of creation. We mutilate our lands, we pollute our bodies of water, we burn our forests, we plunder our resources, we kill our wildlife, we destroy with irrational liberty everything that nature has lent us.

History can attest how our savagery to the environment has paved the way for social and economic inequality. As we continue destroying nature for monetary gains, the poor becomes poorer and the rich becomes richer.  Here in the Philippines, environmentally destructive activities, such as mining has raised the socio-economic disparities of many if not all mining-affected communities. In fact, most mining-affected communities have high poverty rates and belong to the country’s poorest of the poor communities.

Aside from causing environmental degradation and increasing socio-economic inequality, environmentally destructive activities spawned many other negative impacts such as human rights abuses and violations and cultural displacement.

Environmentally destructive activities that exacerbate climate change have also made many countries, the Philippines included, to be more vulnerable to disasters brought by the climate crisis. No Filipino can ever forget Super Typhoon Yolanda and the devastation it brought everyone in the Eastern Visayas.

With this, Alyansa Tigil Mina calls on our world leaders to fulfil their moral obligation to Mother Earth. We call on all nations, including our very own government to fight climate change and give honor to God’s creation.  We must all respond with concrete action to the idea being proposed by Pope Francis – that of integral ecology.

Let us stop environmentally destructive activities and bear in mind what our capitalistic motivations have brought our world. Let us also be reminded that climate change and the threats it pose are far beyond political affiliations and boundaries or even religion. It is an issue that concerns each and every one of us that inhabit this world.

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam.

(sgd.)
Fr. Edu Gariguez
Chairperson, Alyansa Tigil Mina

[Statement] Human Labor – Not a Commodity! -VISAYAS CLERGY DISCERNMENT GROUP

VISAYAS CLERGY DISCERNMENT GROUP

Human Labor – Not a Commodity!

Statement for Labor Day 2015
April 29, 2015

Bp Gerardo Alminaza croppedBishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, D.D.
Bishop of San Carlos
Head Convenor, Visayas Clergy Discernment Group

Pope Francis, in his homily on the Feast of St. Joseph, the Worker on May 2013, reminded us, that a society that does not fairly compensate labor, “that does not give work to people and that only looks to its balance books; that only seeks profit is unjust and goes against God.”

Over the years, we have been presenting the Church teachings on labor. We have also
presented on-going analyses of the social situation that affects labor adversely. Perhaps, it
is now time to be PRO-ACTIVE and make CONCRETE PROPOSALS. Moreover, there is a need to
strengthen ORGANIZED LABOR and SUPPORT GROUPS both local and international.

We have elucidated ad nauseam the Church teaching that labor is NOT A COMMODITY.
However, the reality is that CAPITAL still lists labor as one of the OVERHEAD EXPENSES.
When we negotiate for a flat-rate minimum wage, we are still working within the same
INHUMAN PARADIGM of capital that looks on wages as one of the many overhead expenses.

We must get out of the present inhuman box. We must assert that labor is a HUMAN
PARTNER of CAPITAL. Without it, capital cannot produce. In fact, capital was, in the first
place, produced by labor.

In view of the above NEW VIEWPOINT and NEW PARADIGM, we suggest that labor will no
longer be included in the list of overhead expenses. Rather, when the NET PROFIT is in
place, there will be an EQUITABLE division of the collective fruit of the collaboration of
labor and capital. In the existing paradigm, the surplus value of labor goes EXCLUSIVELY to
capital, and labor is just given a pittance. Now is the time to assert that, without labor AND
capital operating TOGETHER, there cannot be profit. So, some kind of PROFIT SHARING is
proposed here.

The above proposal will debunk the claim of some capitalists that high wages will not make
their business profitable. In view of this, the government has exempted some “distressed”
and small businesses from giving the minimum wage. This is not working! Concomitantly,
any UNIFORM and ACROSS THE BOARD setting of a minimum wage will face the unequal
capacity of small and big capitalists.

The Church social encyclical Mater et Magistra exhorted that remuneration of labor “must be determined in accordance with justice and equity” (MM, 71). This means that workers must be compensated according to the fruits of their labor, which “allow them to live a truly human life.”

Another factor is the fear that FOREIGN INVESTMENTS might not come in if wages are too high. The STATUS QUO is that the government has an UNWRITTEN COME-ON TO FOREIGN INVESTORS, “There is more fun and PROFIT in the Philippines because labor is CHEAP and UNORGANIZED!” If labor is A NECESSARY PARTNER in the negotiations of how much foreign capital will share from the net profit, reasonable foreign investors might see a different picture.

There must be a STRATEGIC and COMPREHENSIVE PLAN OF ACTION in view of the above NEW VIEWPOINT and NEW PARADIGM. We suggest that a people’s conference will craft a
proposed LAW embodying the above NEW VIEWPOINT and NEW PARADIGM. Our chances of getting a law passed according to the spirit of the new paradigm are rather slim. But, we
use this opportunity to EDUCATE the people through public debate and education program on our proposed law.

The ULTIMATE PURPOSE is to strengthen labor union organizing. This will include a thorough analysis of the EXTERNAL and INTERNAL FACTORS that hinder and promote genuine labor unions.

Pope Francis said that trade unions are essential for social change. Earlier, St. John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens has supported the right of workers to form labor unions in order to safeguard their vital interests.

WE GO BACK TO THE BASIC PRINCIPLE – GENUINE CHANGE CANNOT COME FROM ABOVE (e.g. a new law); IT CAN ONLY COME FROM BELOW, LED BY THE VANGUARD WORKERS WHO ARE ORGANIZED INTO STRONG LABOR UNIONS; with the support of other sympathetic sectors of society.

On Labor Day, we are one with workers and all people of goodwill in the call, “PEOPLE OVER PROFIT!”

Sicut Christus vivit,

+ Gerardo A. Alminaza, D.D.
Bishop of San Carlos
Head Convenor
Visayas Clergy Discernment Group
visayasclergydiscernment@yahoo.com

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[Press Release] Labor group says Aquino’s policies deepen not combat poverty -CTUHR

Labor group says Aquino’s policies deepen not combat poverty

“Aquino’s policies like privatization of public utilities do not fight poverty but deepen it.”

CTUHR logo

This was labor and human rights group, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights reaction to a recent statement issued by Pres. Aquino saying that in line with Pope Francis’ calls, the government is already doing its job to combat poverty through the conditional cash transfer program.

The group said that Aquino seemed to have missed if not ignored Pope Francis’ message about striking inequalities, poverty and corruption which the Pontiff consistently emphasized during his 4-day visit to the Philippines.

“His Holiness did not speak of the past, but the present government when He said that ‘we need to transform social structures that perpetuate poverty.’ Yet, instead of recognizing this, Aquino took pride in combating poverty through the CCT program that is seeing an increase in budget even if it failed to make a dent in reducing the number of poor,” Daisy Arago, CTUHR executive director said

The group then slammed the Aquino government’s privatization of public utilities and services as highlighted by the water rate hike and MRT-LRT fare hikes just as everyone was preparing for the Papal visit.

“The government gives alms to the poor through CCT but cut their means to survive independently. Aquino’s privatization policies and Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program not only violate the people’s right to basic services and utilities, they dispossess them and buried them deeper into poverty. The recent fare hikes in MRT and LRT for instance, take the income of millions of working poor who depend on it for cheap transportation and millions more families will be forced to limit their water use as rate increases,” Arago explained.

LRT and MRT fares increased by 50 to 87 percent which means 400 to 900-peso addition to the monthly expenses of each worker who use the train to go to and from work. Similarly, water bills will increase monthly household expenses with the recent approval of Maynilad’s rate hike proposal.

The group said that while the working poor are made to bear these fare and rate hikes, big companies are left unscathed and are guaranteed more profits.

According to Bayan Muna, the MRT earned P2.2 billion in ticket sales and only spent P1.8 billion in operation expenses last year. LRT earned 2.5 billion but only spent 1.03 billion for operation expenses. The government is also reported to have allocated over P11 billion pesos for the maintenance, rehabilitation and subsidies of the train lines this 2015 that will mostly go to private operators.

The fare increase for MRT and LRT, according to the government, is not for railway system’s repair and rehabilitation but will go to private companies who operate the train lines as part of their guaranteed returns.

Moreover, private companies that distribute water in the Metro have seen increased profits. According to Ibon Foundation, Maynilad grew by 48 percent yearly 2007 to 2012 and Manila Water, by more than 15 percent in the same period.

“Throughout his term, Aquino has been pushing for policies that benefit only the rich by passing the burden to the poor majority. Perhaps, the challenge to fight poverty as posed by Pope Francis is not for the government to hear, but a call to the Filipino people to speak out, to reclaim our collective rights to basic services that are being taken away by big companies and a government that treat the poor not just unfairly, but a variable in the game of power and money,” Arago said.

For reference: Daisy Arago, Executive Director, Center for Trade Union and Human Rights, +63 916 248 4876 or +632 411 0256, pie.ctuhr@gmail.com

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[Press Release] Yolanda survivors calls for climate justice during Papal visit -PMCJ

Yolanda survivors calls for climate justice during Papal visit

Survivors of typhoon Yolanda in Anibong, Tacloban, along with various civil society organizations, welcomed Pope Francis yesterday with a series of activities pertaining to climate justice and rehabilitation during his visit to areas devastated by the storm surge.

PMCJ LOGO NEW

One among the communities left most devastated by the typhoon, survivors from Anibong greeted the Holy Father with a banner reading, “People’s Pope: Support us in seeking Climate Solidarity and Justice, and an End to Fossil Fuel Investment” which they hung at the large shipping vessel still stuck in the area today since it was swept ashore by the typhoon.

“Mercy and compassion must also be extended not only to people, but to Mother Nature as well,” said Pascualito Ilagan, convenor of PMCJ Eastern Visayas.

The banner-hanging was followed by a short program organized by the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ), a national coalition consisting of grassroots communities and sectors campaigning for policy changes on Yolanda and climate change.

“These activities are aimed at raising awareness for several issues related to climate change and the rehabilitation efforts for typhoon Yolanda,” Ilagan stated. “We, the people who suffer the most from the effects of climate change demand justice.”

Held days before Pope Francis issues an encyclical on climate change this year, PMCJ, its member organizations and the communities in Tacloban, along with the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines – National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA) urged the Pope to join them in the fight for a safer climate and justice for communities affected by the climate crisis.

“We welcome Pope Francis with the hope that our advocacy for the care of the earth and for genuine development and justice for the poor will be taken up as part of the major agenda for his pastoral visit,” Fr. Edu Gariguez, Executive Secretary of CBCP-NASSA said in a previous statement. “Climate change is an issue that is clearly related to our Christian responsibility to care for the earth and to care for the poor and vulnerable in our midst.”

Communities and local church members are scheduled to discuss the topic of integrity of creation and climate justice among church members and community members today, which will be concluded by a Vigil for climate justice.

“We encourage the Pope to show solidarity with the survivors of typhoon Yolanda, whose experience proves the need to end investments in fossil fuel and eco-destructive projects,” Gerry Arances, National Coordinator of PMCJ. “It also reminds us of the urgency of shifting from a paradigm of pursuing profit to one which gives priority to nature and the people’s interest.”

PRESS RELEASE
JANUARY 17, 2015

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[Press Release] Land use group seeks Pope Francis’ support for proper land use in the country -CLUP Now!

Land use group seeks Pope Francis’ support for proper land use in the country

In line with the Pope’s visit to the Philippines, the Campaign for Land Use Policy Now! (CLUP Now!) Network is seeking for Pope Francis’ prayers and support for a better land use in the country.

CLUP NOW

“One of the highlights of the Pope’s visit is today’s trip to Tacloban to spend time with the survivors of super typhoon Haiyan,” stated Anthony Marzan, convenor of CLUP Now! “We are hoping that through this visit, Pope Francis sees how poor land use planning contributed to the devastation caused by the super typhoon. We hope that through him, our leaders will realize the implication of having a national land use policy and other environmental laws in addressing the disastrous effects of climate change. A good land use policy promises a safer future for everyone.”

CLUP Now! is particularly pushing for the passage of the National Land Use Act (NLUA) this 16th Congress. Through proper and controlled allocation of land, one of NLUA’s aims is to reduce the negative effects of climate change in the country.

Climate change is identified as the main reason why super typhoons like Haiyan occur. According to Elmer Mercado, land use expert, controlling and limiting the use of land resources especially in high-risk areas can reduce the devastation brought about by the typhoons. He emphasized that there should be a strong spatial restriction in areas at risk.

Rep. Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, author of the NLUA in the lower house, also once pointed out the importance of having a national land use policy in building a disaster-resilient nation. “Good land use plans will result in a disaster-resilient community if properly implemented.” Bag-ao stated. She mentioned that proper land use planning covers issues on food security and environmental protection, as well.

Meanwhile, Senator Loren Legarda, author of the NLUA in the Senate, is also optimistic that Pope Francis will give a powerful message that will tap the importance of environmental laws such as the NLUA in creating a safer environment for the poor.

“Pope Francis understands that the poorest citizens of the world are the most vulnerable to the effects of environmental degradation. The Earth that we live in provides us with our needs, and even if we have all the money in the world, we will not survive in a deteriorating environment,” Legarda stated.“I hope this will be among his messages to the Filipinos so that we would be more mindful of our environment by respecting our environmental laws, veering away from a consumptive lifestyle, and working towards sustainability and resilience.”

Legarda also said that protecting and preserving the environment is a moral responsibility for everyone. “The impact of nature’s forces on vulnerable communities must be reduced to prevent disasters and alleviate poverty,” she added.

The Papal visit in the country is focused on addressing issues on climate change and poverty. The Pope is expected to issue an encyclical on climate change after visiting the country.

For more information, contact:
Kim Alvarez, CLUP Now!, 0918-6545059, kbalvarez@gmail.com
Gillian Cruz, CLUP Now!, 09157830489, gillianmariecruz@gmail.com
CLUP Now! Network, campaignfornlua@gmail.com

CAMPAIGN FOR LAND USE POLICY NOW!
CLUP Now!

PRESS RELEASE
January 17, 2015

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[Statement] CBCP-NASSA and ATM Joint Statement on the Mining Issue During the Visit of Pope Francis Manila and Tacloban in the Philippines: 15-19 January 2015

CBCP-NASSA and ATM
Joint Statement on the Mining Issue During the Visit of Pope Francis
Manila and Tacloban in the Philippines: 15-19 January 2015

“Do not defile the land where you live and where I dwell (Num. 35:34).”

In two instances, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) has published statements on the mining issue in the Philippines. In 1995, the CBCP asked for the repeal of the Philippine Mining Act (RA 7942) citing the “devastating effects and the adverse social impacts of mining that will destroy both environment and people and will lead to national unrest”. The Bishops expressed their support for the many local petitions against mining operations in the Philippines. Then in 2006, CBCP re-affirmed their stand for the repeal of the Mining Act of 1995, believing that “the Mining Act destroys life”. The Bishops stated that “allowing the interests of big mining corporations to prevail over people’s right to these sources amounts to violating their right to life. Furthermore, mining threatens people’s health and environmental safety through the wanton dumping of waste and tailings in rivers and seas.”

cbcp nassa atm

Last Sept. 9, 2013, Tarcisio Cardinal Bertone read the message of Pope Francis to the mining industry during the Day of Reflection between the Mining Industry and the Vatican. The Holy Father reminded everyone that “ the great challenge of business leaders is to create a harmony of interests, involving investors, managers, workers, their families, the future of their children, the preservation of the environment on both a regional and international scale, and a contribution to world peace.”

CBCP-NASSA and ATM believes that any meaningful dialogue or engagement with the mining industry must be strongly built on the Catholic Social Teachings and informed by the principles of:

a) Integrity of Creation – The interrelatedness and interconnectedness of nature and man within nature, must be recognized, and that large-scale destruction of forests by mining operations must be contained to preserve ecological sustainability.
b) Responsible Stewardship – Human extractive activity must not disrupt sustenance of current needs nor the needs of future generations. Human activity must promote harmony and development that correspond with God’s plan, paying close attention to consequences of these actions
c) Human Dignity – mining projects must not exploit the already marginalized people, including the mine workers who are not justly compensated, or the farmers who lose their irrigation, or the fishers who see their waters contaminated or the indigenous peoples who not only lose their lands, but their livelihoods and culture as well, and women and children lose their access to health and well-being
d) Preferential Option for the Poor – communities affected by mining loss their access to land and water, leaders are bribed and corruption breeds bad governance, and the benefits of mineral extractions are cornered by the elites.

To this end, we implore the Holy Father to support and stand with the communities, local organizations and popular movements who are responding to the challenges of the mining industry. We urge Pope Francis to:

1. Support the call of Philippine Bishops and the mining-affected communities to repeal the Philippine Mining Act (RA 7942) and the clamor for a new mining law that recognizes the environment and ecology, respects human rights and ensures that negative impacts of mining are completely addressed and avoided;
2. Ensure that the voices of the marginalized and the poor are heard and given space in any dialogue or interaction between the Church and the mining industry, from the local up to the global levels;
3. Encourage the Catholic leadership as well as other religious leaders, to practice their stewardship role in facilitating harmony, peace and social justice to address the issues brought by mining and other extractive industries. The way forward must include a true discernment incorporating the attempt to correct historical injustices, promoting greater transparency and seeking and working for alternatives to the market-driven and consumerist-materialist economic system.

We are confident that the Holy Father will be the inspiration of Filipinos who struggle to convert and renew themselves, and become true stewards of God’s creation. We continuously invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit to bless us with spiritual fervor, and we are ever grateful to Mary, Mother of Jesus and our Mother, for her intercession.

Signed.
Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines
National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA)

and

Alyansa Tigil Mina
(Alliance Against Mining)

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[Appeal] An Open Letter to Pope Francis -Ron De Vera/AFAD

An Open Letter to Pope Francis

Vote for this article for the 5th HR Pinduteros’ choice awards…

Dear Pope Francis,

¡Bienvenido a las Filipinas! Welcome to the Philippines! By now, I’m sure you’re already flooded with messages poured upon you by my fellow Filipinos. Thus, my voice will be just another amongst the crowd.

AFAD

My voice comes from a place of complex stories, identities, ideologies, and perspectives. I am an agnostic theist. I am gay. I am highly critical of how your church treats LGBT people and women. I am also highly critical of the Philippine government and of government as a general concept, whether applied to a state or to a religious group.

This is nothing random. I am all of these mostly because of what I have gone through. Just like Jesus, I grew up without a biological father. The difference is, Jesus was raised by Joseph and Mary, while I was single-handedly raised by my mother. The circumstances I was forced into cemented my views about my country’s government. You see, my father was a human rights activist. Just like Jesus, my father was very poor. He had no interest in self-enrichment. All he aspired for was to liberate other people from poverty. But he was taken away from me by the government without justifiable reason. As if to add insult to injury, he was abducted on fathers’ day.

The enforced disappearance of my father effectively turned my family into a “non-traditional family.” And this, given the conservative culture in the Philippines, is not an easy situation for a very young child. My circumstances were further complicated as I grew up trying to come to terms with my sexuality. In many ways, I am farthest from what may be traditionally considered a “good Christian.” There is, therefore, very little incentive for me to communicate with someone like you.

But today, I am writing you simply as a son who grew up without a father, a son of a desaparecido. I am writing you because I acknowledge the influence you hold. I am writing you because I know the phenomenon of enforced disappearance is something your country also struggled with. Finally, I am writing you because I believe you will listen.

My request is simple; please do everything in your power to convince our president to sign and ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons Against Enforced Disappearance (ICPAPED). It is an international treaty which is the fruit of the struggle of organizations like the Madres de Plaza de Mayo, the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo, and similar formations in various countries. It is an international agreement championed by the government of your country.

You have claimed time and again that you are pro-poor. My request, therefore, is aligned with your principles. How? In the Philippines, an overwhelming majority of victims of enforced disappearance come from basic sectors of society. Not only are poor people the most vulnerable to enforced disappearance, poor people are also driven deeper into poverty when a member of their family is forcefully ‘disappeared’ or abducted. Therefore, by helping us take steps towards ratifying the Convention, you are also helping the poor.

If you accommodate this request, I will not suddenly become heterosexual nor will I suddenly convert to Christianity. Besides, I know that your goodwill does not come with corresponding conditions. Yes, there will still be fundamental differences between our principles. I will continue to be critical of the government and the church hierarchy. I will continue to believe the love I celebrate with another man is not sinful. I will continue to be the many things I have always been.

However, I will forever be respectful of you as a fellow human being. I will forever admire your progressive leadership as head of the Roman Catholic Church. And most importantly, I will forever be proud of the fact that you and I have shared a moment in fighting for human rights.

Yours,

Ron de Vera
Country Coordinator for the Philippines
Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances

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[In the news] PH youth urge Pope Francis: ‘Hear our true story’ -RAPPLER

PH youth urge Pope Francis: ‘Hear our true story’

In an open letter to the Catholic leader, a nationwide coalition of youth groups details the challenges faced by Filipino youth, from the peace process and disasters, to corruption in government

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MANILA, Philippines – A day before the arrival of Pope Francis in Manila, a nationwide coalition of youth groups asked the pontiff to listen to the Filipino youth’s story and give guidance in helping solve problems in the country.
In an open letter to the Catholic leader on Wednesday, January 14, the group led by the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines (SCMP) detailed the challenges faced by Filipino youth, from the peace process and disasters, to corruption in government.

“The youth in the countryside and the provinces continually suffer from landlessness and backward agricultural processes, a situation perpetuated by landlords who have remained vastly powerful both politically and economically” the youth groups said.

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[From the web] Children CAGED to keep the streets clean for the Pope: Police round up orphans and chain them in filth during pontiff’s visit to Philippines -MAILONLINE

Children CAGED to keep the streets clean for the Pope: Police round up orphans and chain them in filth during pontiff’s visit to Philippines
By Simon Parry, MAILONLINE
January 14, 2015

MailOnline

Street children as young as five are being caged in brutal detention centres alongside adult criminals in a cynical drive to smarten up the Philippines capital ahead of a visit by Pope Francis this week.

Hundreds of boys and girls have been rounded up from doorways and roadsides by police and officials and put behind bars in recent weeks to make the poverty-racked city more presentable when Pope Francis arrives tomorrow, a MailOnline investigation has found.

In a blatant abuse of the country’s own child protection laws, the terrified children are locked up in filthy detention centres where they sleep on concrete floors and where many of them are beaten or abused by older inmates and adult prisoners and, in some cases, starved and chained to pillars.

Six million people are expected to attend an open air mass conducted by Pope Francis in Manila’s Rizal Park on Sunday, which will watched by a global TV audience and officials appear determined to ensure that urchins are hidden from view.

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[Statement] Joint statement from church advocacy arm and civil society organizations on climate change on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines

Joint statement from church advocacy arm and civil society organizations on climate change on the occasion of the visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines
January 14, 2015

On the occasion of the coming of Pope Francis to the Philippines and his solidarity visit to the typhoon-devastated community, we, in the Church and civil society organizations bring before the Holy Father one important concern that urgently needs Church moral intervention. We refer to the issue of climate change, causing climate-induced disasters and extreme weather events, resulting to catastrophic misery to our people as in the case of super typhoon Haiyan.

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The Philippines tops the list of countries most affected countries by weather-related disasters like storms, floods, and heatwaves. Yearly, extreme weather events claim the lives of people and displace families. Facing hunger, increased mortality due to temperature increase, more destructions from extreme weather events, the Philippines is at the doorstep of all the major threat of climate change.

The impacts of climate change to the poor are also experienced by other countries in Asia. The Catholic Church is alarmed of climate change as an “unprecedented threat to humanity.” The Federation of Asian Bishops Conference (FABC) clearly decries how climate is hurting the developing countries in Asia:

“But tragically, ours is a continent of massive poverty, where few enjoy great progress and prosperity while the many suffer in abject deprivation. And it is the poor and the needy who suffer most from the consequences of climate change. We are experiencing dramatic changes of season, extreme changes of weather, more frequently recurring and stronger typhoons, destructive flooding, drying up of whole areas, decrease in food production and spread of climate change related diseases.”

As early as 1988, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) had already articulated the urgency for our faith to take on the ecological challenge: “At this point in the history of our country it is crucial that people motivated by religious faith develop a deep appreciation for the fragility of our islands’ life system and take steps to defend the earth. It is a matter of life and death.”

Clearly, climate change is a moral issue that we in the Church cannot remain passive bystanders. It is for this reason that the Bishops Conference in Asia categorically admits: “As Church we are challenged by this grave situation, since climate change is an ethical, moral and religious issue.”

As categorically declared by the Holy Father, Pope Francis, in his message to the UN Convention on Climate Change, we believe that: “The effective struggle against global warming will only be possible with a responsible collective answer, that goes beyond particular interests and behavior and is developed free of political and economic pressures. It is only possible with a collective answer that is able to overcome attitudes of mistrust and to promote a culture of solidarity, of encounter and of dialogue able to show the responsibility to protect the planet and the human family.”

Therefore, we appeal to the Holy Father to support us in seeking solidarity and justice for the communities affected by the climate crisis.

We need a global climate deal in Paris that will prevent the world from heading towards a catastrophic warming of 5 degrees. We appeal for the Church to encourage governments and political leaders to work together and commit to a global goal, based on science, of limiting warming to the safest level which is below 2 degrees.

Governments of the North, of rich industrialized countries, should commit to and deliver fully and unequivocally their fair share of the effort to solve climate change and ensure a full repayment of the emissions debt owed to the peoples of the South. On the other hand, governments of the South, of developing countries, should stop following the same path of profit-led, destructive high-carbon growth taken by developed countries that benefit only the elites. They should start taking on their fair share of the global effort, and be unrelenting in claiming climate finance and technology from developed country governments for South countries to undertake mitigation actions over and beyond their own fair share of the global effort.

We appeal the Holy Father to join us in demanding all governments to commit to:
• a greenhouse gas emissions reduction pathway and target without having to resort to potentially devastating geo-engineering, or the deliberate and large-scale intervention in the Earth’s climatic system with the aim of reducing global warming;
• a fair and equitable sharing of the global emissions budget, the appropriation of which would be based on science, historical responsibility and capacity – without loopholes and offsets;
• ensure that the welfare and rights of the people are protected in the face of the impacts of climate crisis;
• putting an end to false solutions, the further expansion of carbon markets, and the corporate denomination of the climate negotiations;
• immediately translate mitigation commitments into concrete policies for transformation of energy systems away from fossil fuel.

We appeal to the Holy Father to support us in seeking an end to investments in fossil fuel and ecologically-destructive projects.

Continued burning of fossil fuel will exacerbate the impacts of the changing climate. Mining and other eco-destructive projects which aggravate the climate crisis must be critically evaluated or shunned altogether.

To have at least a 50 per cent chance of limiting global warming below 2 degrees throughout the twenty-first century, the cumulative carbon emissions between 2011 and 2050 need to be limited to around 1,440 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide (Gt CO2). Unabated burning of fossil fuel reserves will result to missing the 2 degree target.

To prevent catastrophic climate change, most of the fossil fuels must remain in the ground. A recent scientific study posits that gobal reserves corresponding to 33% of oil, 49 % of gas, and 82% coal should be classified as unburnable reserves in order to prevent dangerous climate change of more than 2 degrees.

Investing in fossil fuel companies and in eco-destructive projects is synonymous in supporting the destruction of our future. Divestment provides the means to change this status quo – to shift towards a system that will prioritize the welfare of the people and of nature over the relentless pursuit of profit.

To conclude, we are one with the Church in asserting that climate change is an urgent issue that is clearly related to our Christian responsibility to care for the earth and to care for the poor and vulnerable in our midst. The social teachings of the Church are replete with pastoral exhortations invoking for environmental stewardship, social and inter-generational justice, the use of earth’s resources for common good, authentic development, and service for the poor and the vulnerable. All those principles are at stake of being violated when we do not avert or address the causes of climate change.

It is to this end that we welcome Pope Francis to the Philippines, with the hope that our advocacy for the care of the earth and for genuine development and justice for the poor will be taken up as part of the major agenda for his pastoral visit.

SIGNED by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP)/National Secretariat for Social Action (NASA)/Caritas Philippines and the Philippine Movement for Climate Justice (PMCJ).

CERTIFIED by:

FR. EDWIN A. GARIGUEZ                                                        GERARD ARANCES
Executive Secretary                                                                  National Coordinator
CBCP/NASSA/Caritas Philippines                                              Philippine Movement for Climate Justice

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[People] The message of Pope Francis to the Filipinos by Fr. Shay Cullen Mssc.

The message of Pope Francis to the Filipinos
Fr. Shay Cullen Mssc.

The visit of Pope Francis to the Philippines on 15 January this 2015 is greatly awaited and what his message will be to this most catholic nation in Asia is a matter of intense speculation .

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Of course there will be millions trying to see him and receive his blessing.Most are very poor and they will be praying that his spiritual aura and huge popularity will be influential in spreading virtue,good family values,respect for human rights and social justice in the Philippines.

Indeed despite this being the Asian nation that is 80% catholic ,it is for many a version of Catholicism that is at variance many times with the gospel message of compassion,respect and self-sacrificing service to poor and the downtrodden.

Catholic schools and universities flourish,producing the educated middle class and the ruling elite many of whom are devoted mass goers and good catholics in the sense that they accept without question church teaching and participate in the church rites and rituals.The awareness and commitment to act for social justice is limited to the few.

Its more of a cultural faith tradition than an energizing power to work for a just and honest society.The graduates gravitate to serve the elite and wealthy and corporate interests.They tend to look to heaven and not see the social injustice and cruel suffering and poverty on earth.

Those Catholics that engage in works of mercy,reaching out to the poor,the hungry and work in humanitarian organizations to help the poor, redress injustice and economic inequality and change society are much to few.

In general most adult Filipino catholics are traditional and lead good church going virtuous lives.They are not very empowered to imitate Jesus of Nazareth. They have been spiritually trained to be more docile and subservient than to be on fire with a burning faith in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.They are not faith inspired to challenge and change the crushing injustice and corruption that keeps 100 million poor dominated by 1% of the population.

That one percent is composed of billionaires and millionaires that make up the ruling elite.They dominate congress,the administration,the military,police and the justice system. Government departments packed with their cronies and relatives do their bidding.They pass laws that protect their stolen wealth, privileges and entitlements and thwart and silence their opponents and critics.No wonder that the Philippines has the longest lasting communist guerilla war in Asia.Without justice there cannot be peace,without peace there cannot be prosperity for all.

In 1986 when Cardinal Archbishop Jaime Sin called the faithful to be socially active for human rights and justice and to take to the streets to oppose the dictator Ferdinand Marcos, defy the military did Filipino Catholicism have a bright shining moment.But it soon faded,such social and political engagement was discouraged and criticized by the Vatican.

Today there are those who masquerade as “good catholics”, are seen in church but pursue worldly power, money, are driven by political ambition and the desire for economic domination and despite over the weak and poor and value them only as cheap labor.They are the hypocrites of the ruling elites condemned by Jesus.

Its amazing that a nation of 100 million people just a tiny few can own and control over 70 percent of the wealth,land,property and means of production.They ,so few,have such power and cause such poverty and human rights abuses over so many.

These rich and corrupt people will be trying to get close to the Pope hoping that their proximity to such a famous and holy man will be a sign to the electorate that despite their evil deeds they are approved persons and blessed. May no such corrupt politicians get a seat at the table with Pope Francis.

Pope Francis choose that very name in the Spirit of St.Francis when just as his election was announced Cardinal Claudio Hummes hugged him and whispered into his ear ” Do not forget the poor”. He was determined to champion their cause for equality and human rights and make the social teaching of the Church a living practical reality everywhere.He had to scold the Cardinals in the Curia recently for their 15 “diseases” that are holding back the teaching and practice of the gospel.

For sure Human rights and the rights of children and women will be central to his messages. In this nation of 100 million people five million children are enslaved in some kind of child labor,mostly agricultural and slum survival work.But as many as 100,000 are trafficked into sex slavery which Francis declared,a few weeks ago to be a crime against humanity.

The message of Pope Francis will likely address the great disparity between rich and poor. He may speak out against the death squads that kill priests and church workers and children with impunity.He is the Pope of the poor and the oppressed and is the long awaited man of God to lead the wayward Church leaders out of apathy and arrogance, teach them to reject corrupt ways and instill in them the love of the Gospel message.

This the very message that Jesus died for. We can all be inspired by him and Pope Francis to speak the truth,oppose corrupt rulers and work to lift the poor from poverty by good example and evangelical poverty.

shaycullen@preda.org

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[People] “What are you willing to die for”. By Fr. Shay Cullen, PREDA

“What are you willing to die for”.
Reflections by Fr. Shay Cullen, PREDA

“What are you willing to die for “, It was a very challenging question that Pope Francis presented to the thousands of young people gathered for the beatification of the 130 martyrs in Korea last week. And it is also challenging for all of us who claim to be Catholics and Christians. His message was clear in calling on the youth and people to reject a life selfish gratification based on gross materialism and living for wealth alone and instead to strive for equality and protect the poor and their human rights.

The Pope visited a catholic home for the elderly and embraced some of them showing compassion and love. In Korea as in many wealthy nations there are serious pockets of neglect of the elderly. Although Korea is one of the wealthiest nations in the world half of the old folk live in poverty. Instead of cherishing and respecting them all with a life of dignity and sufficiency like western materialistic societies many of the senior citizens are marginalized and rejected as people of little value.

Many are locked away in retirement homes and some tied to beds and chairs and given tranquilizer drugs that leaves them in a state of semi-conscious stupor that accelerates dementia. New legislation in Belgium and Switzerland ,and the Netherlands allows them to be helped to kill themselves by “assisted suicide”. Where will this trend end? Soon the practice could be for nasty relatives and government care-givers to bully and persuade them to kill themselves and not go on being a financial and medical burden to the rest of us. This is an attitude arising from loveless selfish materialism.

The Pope reminded us that the early catholics of Korea sacrificed themselves for their needy bothers and sisters, “They knew the price of discipleship ..and were willing to make the great sacrifices”. The Pope pointed out that their love and courage and rejection of the strict unbending and unequal social structure of their day is an inspiration for people alive today. Their belief in Jesus of Nazareth and his teaching of a Kingdom of love ,equality and social justice led to their execution. The rich cant stand talk of equality.

Pope Francis’s compassion for the bereaved families of the hundreds of school children that drowned when the ferry boat sunk of South Korea showed through also when he and the organizers of the Mass of Beatification did not allow the authorities to drive away the protestors,one on hunger strike, demanding the truth about the sinking of the ferry. The Pope had met them in private and now embraced them in public. Bishop Kang stated that “to forcibly move people crying for justice in order to celebrate Mass simply could not happen – if it did the Mass would have no meaning”

When Pope Francis comes to visit the Philippines next January he will find many martyrs including priests and pastors,human rights workers ,who gave their lives for the poor and exploited and were executed by death squads run by military and local government officials.

One of the worst suspected and accused military generals,the darling of the previous government of President Gloria Arroyo who herself is in detention for plunder awaiting trial is Retired Army Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan. He was arrested recently after four years on the run from the charges of allegedly running death squads wherever he was assigned around the Philippines and allegedly left a trail of blood of assassinated civilians who dared to criticize the government. Known as “The Butcher” for these alleged crimes he will be put on trial for the disappearance and suspected murder of two student activists.

Like the Korean martyrs we should be ready to give up some comforts of our easy life and defend the abused children and those poor people exploited by the rich 1 % that owns 70% of the Philippines. We need the spiritual commitment and belief in what is right and good and be ready to put aside selfish desires and greed to help others in great need.

This the heart of the Pope’s message. When Francis comes to the Philippines
I hope he will not be feted and manipulated by glory seeking rich elites and publicity seeking politicos. He will, we hope, visit the poor and the victims of abuse and survivors of the greatest typhoon. He will see little reconstruction of homes,schools and public services. Political corruption is still rife and raging wherever there is money to be stolen. His message will be equally challenging for sure and we will do well to heed it and act in solidarity with those in great need wherever they may be. shaycullen@preda.org , http://www.preda.org

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[People] The Meaning of Easter. By Fr.Shay Cullen

The Meaning of Easter.
Fr.Shay Cullen

This is the sacred time of year when we recall the life and death and resurrection of Jesus,the man from Nazareth. His life commitment to goodness and self-sacrifice as a champion of the poor and the oppressed led to his arrest torture and execution at the hands of the unjust and cruel authorities. He and his mission did not die and disappear forever nailed to the cross of the Roman execution squad.

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His person and his mission lives on in people of faith.He rose from the dead and the life giving values he gave the world ; unselfish love,compassion, justice,mercy, human rights and dignity has changed the lives of millions. By his example, his teaching,story telling and wisdom he inspired generations to be his followers. He called everyone to repent,change their lives and become people of God not people of the selfish greedy world. But the powers that ruled were hard of heart,they opposed him,they spied on him,they sought ways to accuse him of heresy or an act of subversion so they could stop his transforming and liberating work.

He had no riches,exercised no power,only that of love and friendship,he challenged the rich and the powerful,he called them to repent,have compassion for the poor, the sick, hungry, dispossessed and downtrodden people. He challenged them to share their wealth, help those striving to reform society, make it into a”Kingdom”,not of selfish pleasure seeking people, but the Kingdom of people that love goodness,justice and the poor. He wanted a complete change of mind and heart and equality for all.

When asked by those seeking his favor and wanting to be named as the most important, he shocked them all when he selected a child from the fringes of the crowd.Children were without status or position and he selected a child and said “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me”(Matthew 18)

The most forgotten and most vulnerable of all were the children and he established their inalienable rights and dignity above all else.
This great truth revealed by Jesus of Nazareth has been downplayed and forgotten throughout history and the rights of the child have been established only in our generation. The Convention on the Rights of the Child and many national and international laws are now protecting them. But not being well implemented. They are much too late for millions of abused and neglected and starving children throughout history and even until today. Not all people or societies respect and implement child protection laws and give them the respect and care they are due.

Pope Francis has made strong statements and actions to apologize on behalf of the church as an institution for the abuse of children and youth by clergy and bishops. He took responsibility for the child abuse crimes of the past and asked forgiveness of the victims and survivors. Asking forgiveness is an admission of guilt but a heavy burden,undeserved, for Pope Francis.

But most victims want justice and strong action against all abusers,whether they be clergy, parents or members of any profession.Hundreds of priests have been fired others jailed in recent years. Guidelines are in place to stop the abuse and church authorities must act quickly to secure the evidence against any alleged abuser and bring him to justice as the evidence so warrants. They must never cover up a crime.

Jesus was clear about this while preaching forgiveness and compassion for the repentant sinner. He also said that the guilty should be given punishment. In the Gospel of Matthew 18; 6 it refers to tying a millstone around the neck of the child abuser proven guilty and thrown into the deepest ocean. I am not advocating the death penalty but the end of impunity for many child abusers especially clergy and those who protect them. Good non-corrupt Investigators,prosecutors and judges can do justice for the children.The corrupt authorities are bribe takers and let them go free to abuse more children.It will be bad for them who cause such injustice against children and the innocent, Jesus said. Hell on earth or in the after life waits them he warned.

Jesus of Nazareth died so that there would be a just society and where protection ,dignity and justice for all and especially the victims of abuse and oppression would be respected and upheld.

The authorities could not accept the truth he spoke that they were oppressing and exploiting the poor and vulnerable people and so they had Jesus falsely accused ,arrested and executed. It was murder arranged by false allegations.Throughout history the corrupt rich are doing the same. Hundreds of human rights advocates and defenders,pastors,priests,social workers,have been assassinated for following the example of Jesus of Nazareth. In the catholic Philippines hundreds including priests have been shot dead for taking a stand for social justice and human rights.

We have to think of these realities of life today when we look on a crucifix.Its not a piece of jewelry but was a cruel instrument of death and is now symbolic of the murder of good people working for justice.Yet just as he overcame death his message lives on so too the death of his followers today will not be forgotten but will inspire many more to step into the gap and continue working for equality, freedom, justice and human rights for all.That’s the meaning of Easter and the resurrection. shaycullen@preda.org ,predainfo@preda.org. http://www.preda.org

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[People] Fair Trade Dried Mangos, a taste of justice By Fr. Shay Cullen

Fair Trade Dried Mangos, a taste of justice
By Fr. Shay Cullen

I was visiting villages where a new group of small farmers had become members of the ever growing Preda Fair Trade partnership. They lived off mixed farming and mango trees. They proudly showed me some of the benefits of the fair trade payments and dividend bonuses they received for their mango fruits.

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Each family had something to show, a new well and hand pumps for clean water, a piggery, a small store, a new metal sheet roof on their small house, and a goat. Their children are going to school and there was no child labor. Simple things, but so important to them. Life had greatly improved because of Preda Fair Trade practices and that is how it should be. With greater social justice in the developing counties, life could be even better for the billion hungry people in the world.

In one village, the Preda fair trade had built a small community center where people could gather and shelter from typhoons and a Preda partner in drying mangos, “Profood”, donated a two-room school.

Junito, a farmer in Mindanao said, “Because of the good price I get from Preda for my mangos, we have better food and my children are going to school. They don’t run off to the town where they would fall into bad influence, even though we are poor, we have a decent life”.

That is one of the important unseen benefits that Preda Fair Trade brings – the prevention of child labor and exploitation. Unfortunately, thousands of teenage children, boys and girls in the Philippine islands where Preda has it projects, are lured away from poor, hungry homes with a promise of good jobs and pay as domestic helpers or in cafes and hotels.

When they arrive at the city with a recruiter or person trafficker, they are frequently sold into a sex bar where they are abused and sold to local or foreign sex tourists. The parents of the children do not know where they have gone or they too have been paid money to allow their children to go find the work. Preda social workers save many of these children and provide a safe home with therapy and education, and reunite them with their parents.

In the Preda Fair Trade partnership, the farmers receive seminars about these dangers and never to allow their children to go with recruiters. Preda has been working in this way since 1975 and implementing agricultural improvement programmes.

Overcoming poverty and hardship is a struggle for the poor and while they work hard to grow the food for the rich and better off people in the towns and cities, they don’t get the just reward for their hard work and skills in producing food that keeps everybody else alive. The goal of Fair Trade is to have a fair, living income for the small farmers. Fair trade advocates are challenging this unjust system, trying to make a more fair global trading system.

In a special way, the fair trade importers like DWP and GEPA in Germany and Libero Mundo in Italy have an alternative system. They buy direct from the farmer cooperatives for coffee or mangos though the Preda Fair Trading organization, then supply the products to the network of world shops all over Europe. The shops are managed and operated by dedicated volunteers who are aware and knowledgeable about the situation of injustice and exploitation in the developing world.

The world shops provide a wide range of beautifully presented, fairly traded products to thousands of concerned customers who want to make this a better and more just world and don’t want to be part of the exploitation and unfair international trading system.

Not only do these products directly help children in the Philippines but also children in the European countries because of the healthy nature and being free of all chemicals and additives. One third of the children in the UK for example suffer obesity due to unhealthy foods.

The fresh mangos are delivered by the small farmers to the food drying station Profood and they are paid the fair price. Then under the highest hygienic standards, the mangos are washed, pealed, sliced and dried in ovens. Then they are packaged and shipped to World Shops and supermarkets mostly in Europe.

After some weeks, the Preda producer development officer goes to the area to visit the farmers and gets the records from the Profood drying stations for the number of kilos each farmer delivered and pays them a bonus dividend. Every transaction is recorded carefully to provide full transparency. There is much we can all do to make this a more fair and just world. Buying Fair Trade products helps this cause.

It’s so encouraging to know there are wonderful people involved in this movement and to hear Pope Francis tell the world that the Catholic Church must focus more on social justice, compassion, peace-making and helping victims and the wounded in this world. We can help bind up the world of injustice by doing justice and supporting Fair Trade. It’s helping heal the exploited children too. (visit http://www.predafairtrade.net, email shaycullen@preda.org)

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[Statement] Urgent Call to Political Candidates: Celebrate Labor Day by Upholding Workers’ Rights and Dignity -VCDG

Urgent Call to Political Candidates:
Celebrate Labor Day by Upholding Workers’ Rights and Dignity

On behalf of the bishops and priests of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group (VCDG), I would like to call on government officials and those running for elective positions to meaningfully celebrate the Feast Day of Saint Joseph the Worker and the International Workers’ Day on May 1, 2013, by enacting laws and implementing programs promoting the human dignity of workers.

We are one with Pope Francis who said in his book On Heaven and Earth, “We have to search for equality of opportunities and rights, to fight for social benefits, a dignified retirement, holidays, rest, freedom for trade unions. All of these issues create social justice. There should be no have-nots and I want to emphasize that the worst wretchedness is not to be able to earn your bread, not to have the dignity of work.”

Recently, workers from the different parts of the Visayas and the whole country have shared with us that their rights as workers have been violated due to the following: unemployment, low wages, contractualization, and union-busting. How can they joyfully celebrate May 1?

While May 1 celebrates the victory of the 1886 workers’ strike for an eight-hour workday, we are appalled that some garment workers in factories in the Mactan Export Processing Zone in Cebu are forced to work for more than 16 hours a day until the quota is reached, else they would be “shot by the guard.”

Pope Francis also said, “We live in the most unequal part of the world, which has grown the most yet reduced misery the least.The unjust distribution of goods persists, creating a situation of social sin that cries out to Heaven and limits the possibilities of a fuller life for so many of our brothers.”

What the Holy Father said is also true in our country where amidst so-called “economic growth”, poverty incidence remained the same since 2006, according to the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB). So many of our workers have become jobless, hungry and homeless.

Last February 2013 in an Election Summit of the Archdiocese of Cebu, workers listed the following as their agenda: 1) Employment through developing domestic industries; 2) Decent and living wage: Support legislated wage increase; 3) Regular jobs: Abolish contractualization of labor; 4) Worker’s rights protected: Abolish the power of the Labor Secretary to assume jurisdiction of labor dispute.
We, the electorate must ask the political candidates to heed the Workers’ Agenda. A candidate’s commitment to the fulfillment of workers’ rights and the promotion of the workers’ dignity must be one of the important considerations in voting for him/her. All of us must do our share to address the workers’ plight, as Pope Francis reminded us that failing to do this “is going against the commandment of God which says that we have to transform the world.”

For reference:

Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, D.D.
Auxiliary Bishop of Jaro/ VCDG Head Convenor
Tel. No. 032-4068079

VISAYAS CLERGY DISCERNMENT GROUP
E-Mail Address: visayasclergydiscernment@yahoo.com

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April 29, 2013

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[People] Rediscovering the heart of faith – Service by Fr. Shay Cullen

REDISCOVERING THE HEART OF FAITH – SERVICE
Fr. Shay Cullen

325-fr-shay-cullenWhen he bent down on his knees in the youth detention jail in Rome last Holy Thursday, washed and kissed the feet of the juvenile prisoners and also a mother and child and a Muslim, Pope Francis sent a message to Catholic Church leaders and to the world. It seems to say, change is here, we have to leave behind the pomposity, clerical child abuse and domination wherever it may be, and be humble servants of the poor and the wretched and give them dignity, justice and hope.

“To wash your feet, this is a symbol, a sign that I am at your service. But it also means that we have to help each other”. He then showed understanding of youthful impetuosity and their quickness to anger.

“It was normal to get mad at others, but let it be, let it be. If that person asks you a favor, do it. Let’s help each other. I do it with my heart because it is my duty as priest and as Bishop; I have to be at your service. It’s a duty that comes from my heart because I love doing this, because this is what the Lord taught me”.

He was of course imitating Jesus of Nazareth who washed the feet of his disciples as would a humble servant. Jesus was a charismatic leader with a passion for justice, equality and sought a spiritual and social revolution. How could the future leaders of the church be credible and teach, guide and expect others to follow moral principles and behavior, if they themselves did not teach by example. That is what Jesus was saying by his actions. Pope Francis seems to be repeating that message.

Blessed are the poor, Jesus said, theirs is the kingdom of God. This is what Pope Francis was saying also in a symbolic way. He sees a Church where humility has been replaced with arrogance and pomp, and privilege has replaced compassion and justice. He knows that abusive priests were allowed by some irresponsible Bishops to continue to abuse children with impunity. He knows that despite past apologies to victims by the previous Popes, church structures have not changed sufficiently to restore the trust and confidence of Catholics in the Church as a reliable, open, transparent, credible institution. Mitered heads may soon roll. Since his installation several years ago, my Bishop has never visited the homes for the juveniles in conflict with the law or the homes for the sexually abuse victims. It’s time to change.

Jesus challenged the religious authorities and infuriated them. Then they plotted his downfall and had him convicted as a political rebel and given the death penalty. They accused him of trying to be a King when in fact that was what he totally repudiated. That is the cruel drama that we reenacted last Holy week. Pope Francis will be walking on a few precious toes before long.

Jesus gave us the example of that special challenging love that drives a person to care for the stranger, and to help the poorest and most exploited and abused of society.

We can clearly see the message of Pope Francis when he was on his knees before the prisoners. He established by his words and action the rights, dignity and the fact that they should have a place in the world. He seems to be signaling to all Catholics to be a servant, a helper and to realize that being a follower of Jesus of Nazareth has duties and obligations that go far beyond attending mass and church ceremonies. This is what Pope Francis said of his mission today.

“I would like it to go out to every house and every family, especially where the suffering is greatest, in hospitals, in prisons. Most of all, I would like it to enter every heart, for it is there that God wants to sow this Good News: Jesus is risen, there is hope for you, you are no longer in the power of sin, of evil! Love has triumphed, mercy has been victorious!”

Well, it’s going to be a troubling future for many a traditional conservative cleric if the Pope expects the clergy to do as he does and skip the scarlet robes, gold braided vestments and privileges and live outside the gilded palaces in small apartments like the Pope himself. Next, he might expect them to take public transport like he did as Bishop and Cardinal in Buenos Aires or even more challenging, to imitate Jesus of Nazareth. http://www.preda.org

Email: shaycullen@preda.org (Fr. Shay’s columns are published in The Manila Times, in publications in Ireland, the UK, Hong Kong, and on-line.)

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