Austrian bishops join int’l condemnation of killings in PH

Austrian bishops join int’l condemnation of killings in PH

Students hold a noise barrage in Manila against extrajudicial killings and the proposed revival of the death penalty, March 8, 2017. CLAUDINE ATIOAN/CONTRIBUTOR

MANILA– Austria’s Catholic bishops have joined the international community in condemning the human rights abuses and killings in the Philippines.

Immediately after their general assembly in Vienna on Saturday, the Austrian Catholic Bishops’ Conference urged their political leaders to “commit themselves to the respect of human rights in the Philippines”.

“The Austrian Government and European Institutions are asked to use all political power and diplomatic channels to bring public attention to these human rights violations and help mitigate them,” they said.

In a declaration, the conference currently headed by Cardinal Christoph Schönborn of Vienna, noted the thousands of killings of suspected criminals since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed the presidency.

They also deplored the increasing violence committed against human rights activists, indigenous peoples and journalists.

“Ecclesial leaders, together with national NGOs and international networks, repeatedly call attention to this alarming situation,” the bishops said.

“The lack of condemnation of these human rights violations leads to a culture of impunity,” they added.

They Austrian bishops also joined their Filipino counterparts in opposing the reimposition of the death penalty and the lowering of the age of criminal responsibility.

In response, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, thanked the Austrian Catholic hierarchy for the “encouraging message of solidarity”.

“Indeed, the face of God is mercy, and this teaching is becoming harder and harder to proclaim in a creeping culture of death. We will not be silenced and we will not relent,” Villegas said.

“Please continue to remember us in your prayers as we share with you the humble merits of our sacrifices during this reign of terror in our country,” he told the Austrian bishops.

Rome-based Community of Sant’Egidio (CSE), a global movement of laypeople, has earlier thrown its support behind the CBCP’s campaign against the capital punishment.

Prof. Marco Impagliazzo, CSE President, said that Christian teachings provide no support for the death penalty “in all forms”.

“Therefore we stand at your side and would like to express to you our full availability to any form of support and cooperation you may indicate to us,” he said in a letter to the CBCP.

The CSE is well known and highly respected for its work with the poor and refugees and has earned numerous awards, including a nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. CBCPNews