Priests and nuns belonging to the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines led a march in the capital Manila on Nov. 5 to condemn alleged “attacks” against government critics.
The candle-lit march in the suburb of Quezon City followed the celebration of the Holy Eucharist for the intention of “victims of social injustices.”
The religious leaders said the demonstration aimed to make the public aware of the “crusade against tyranny and oppression.”
Franciscan priest Angel Cortez, spokesman of the association, said the government is “too desperate in its attempt to silence its critics.”
He said people have to stand together and speak up despite intimidations and harassments “because we cannot allow injustice to rule our land.”
Authorities have earlier filed charges of sedition, libel, and obstruction of justice against several opposition leaders, including three priests and four Catholic bishops for their alleged involvement in a plot to undermine the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.
Father Cortez said a “solidarity Mass” was also offered for the victims of the government’s anti-narcotics “war” that human rights groups say has claimed the lives of about 30,000 people in the past three years.
“Let us not forget the reason why the Church and church people are being persecuted now,” he said. “It is because we stand for victims of injustices,” added the priest.
“Activists and church people have one thing in common. We both serve the poor, the oppressed, and we amplify the voice of the most abandoned,” he said. “The government doesn’t want that,” said Father Cortez.
He called on all Christian churches in the country “to work together to defend the sanctity of life and defend the defenders of the faith.”
“I think we must strengthen our ecumenical relations and dialogue with other Christian denominations, especially in these dark times,” he said.
In a hearing at the House of Representatives on Nov. 5, military officials presented a list of 18 groups tagged as “communist fronts,” including the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.
In a statement, the Protestant organization described it as “malicious and careless tagging” and an “attack to the Christian faith and tradition.”
“We will remain resolute in our prophetic witness and service to the people even in the midst of shrinking democratic space and the rising impunity,” read the group’s statement.
Sister Evelyn Jose of the Missionary Sisters Servant of the Holy Spirit said the country is already under an undeclared martial law that she said was worse than the 1970s declaration of martial law.
“The level of impunity and violence is terrifying,” said the nun.
The association of religious superiors announced that it will be holding another “solidarity Mass” on Dec. 10 to mark the observance of the International Human Rights Day.