Philippine Catholic leaders say they are powerless to stop a growing number of extrajudicial killings that have come with President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.
“What I predicted is happening, and the Church is powerless to stop the killings,” said Fr Amado Picardal, head of the Philippine Bishops’ Commission for Basic Ecclesial Communities.
He said the killings were “already unstoppable”, adding that some Church leaders were losing hope.
Fr Picardal, who has linked Duterte to a death squad allegedly responsible for the killings of more than 1,400 people, warned of “dark prospects” for the Philippines.
During his campaign for the presidency, Duterte vowed to stop criminality, especially the illegal drugs trade, and corruption, warning that his administration would be a “bloody” one. Ucanews.com reported estimates of more than 600 people killed since Duterte was elected in May; 211 of those were murdered by unidentified gunmen. Archbishop Socrates Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan, bishops’ conference president, said he was “in utter disbelief”.
“There is a little voice of humanity in us that I believe is disturbed,” the archbishop said in a statement read out in churches. He said the “voice of disturbed humanity is drowned out by the louder voice of revenge or silenced by the sweet privileges of political clout”.
“In our dream to wipe out drug addiction, are we not becoming a ‘killing fields’ nation?” he asked. “From a generation of drug addicts, shall we become a generation of street murderers? [Can] the do-it-yourself justice system assure us of a safer and better future?” he asked.
“The Church cannot do anything now,” said Fr Virgilio Canete of Palo archdiocese. “It had already warned of the consequences. Only those who started these bloodbaths can stop them.”
Bangladeshi Catholic editor flees country after threats
Rosaline Costa heard people tell her “be careful” so often she decided that she had to flee her native Bangladesh for the United States to stay alive.
Costa, 67, a Catholic, edited Hotline Bangladesh for 30 years. The newsletter chronicles corruption, crime, terror and religious violence in the nation.
But she left Bangladesh for New York City last month, following a niece and a nephew. The niece left because a Muslim relative was trying to force her into marrying him, the nephew because he had been taken to a mosque and told to convert to Islam under fear of death. What happened to her family, Costa told the Catholic News Service, reflects what was happening to Christians generally.
“I made several editorials in the newsletter” decrying a surge in religious violence, Costa said. “In the last two-and-a-half months I could not go out of the house.” To get to work she took precautions not to step out of her car except at home and in the garage at the office.
Costa said she had been subject to harassing phone calls. “I went to the police and they did not want to take a report,” she said. “I don’t want to go back” under the current state of affairs, she said.
Pope has lunch with refugees
Pope Francis had a reunion lunch with 21 Syrian refugees at the Vatican last week.
Guests included 12 refugees – three couples and six children – he had brought to Rome from Lesbos, Greece, and another nine Syrian refugees who arrived in Rome in June with Vatican assistance. The Vatican is covering their living costs but they are housed by the Community of Sant’Egidio. The children showed the Pope drawings while he gave them toys and other gifts.