Care for the orphans and widows in distress
SVST Statement on the Challenges of our Times
“Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress…” (James 1:27)
15 August 2018
Feast of the Assumption
We, the students, staff and faculty of St. Vincent School of Theology, composed of lay people, religious and clergy, are disturbed and alarmed by certain events that beset our present society.
We condemn and say NO to…
- the thousands of people killed in the “war on drugs” and the government program that implements it. We feel the chilling effect and traumatic impact this program inflicts on their left-behind mothers, orphans and widows. We have journeyed with them and listened to their deep pain and harrowing stories;
- the whole climate of impunity since not one murder is solved to date, no one drug lord is made accountable and the international syndicate still continue to operate in our land unchecked by government agencies;
- the harassment and incarceration the poor people experience as they try to eke out a living on the streets and sidewalks, many of whom were charged for fabricated crimes;
- the militarization of the schools and communities of our lumad brothers and sisters whom we have met in our apostolates and immersion programs;
- the denigration of human rights; the silencing of dissent against those in power and the denial of due process which is the basic right of all;
- the use and approval of violent language in “high places” in our government hierarchy up to the level of the Presidency; the proliferation of fake news and historical revisionism in social media, some of which are paid with the people’s money;
- the inaction against the promised end of contractualization; the inroads of the capitalist agenda – that which Pope Francis calls “the economy that kills” – through mining in protected areas, watersheds and lumad communities;
- the many people who call themselves “Christians” (priests, religious, lay leaders) but who approve of one or all of the above.
All these developments fall contrary to the values of the Gospel and the Church’s Social Teaching. As Christians, we need to say No! This cannot be!
But we also affirm and say “Yes” to…
- the widows, mothers and orphans who struggle to go on with life despite the pain and fight for justice. We feel they are real victims whom the perpetrators want to silence but they resist by their mere resolve to survive;
- the many church people who searched for and take care of the widows and orphans of the war on drugs;
- many conscientious young people who continually seek the truth, resist violence and care for the earth;
- many honest Christians who resist the violation of human rights and of human lives.
The Letter of James (1:27) reminds us that real religion is shown neither in our erudite mastery of doctrine nor in the impeccability of our liturgies but in “taking care of orphans and widows in distress”. Pope Francis, echoing the prophet Isaiah, affirms the same in Gaudete et Exsultate 79: True justice is “shown especially in justice towards those who are most vulnerable: ‘Seek justice, correct oppression; defend the fatherless, plead for the widow’ (Is 1:17).
At the start of this academic year, we the members of the SVST academic community, commit ourselves to be in solidarity with them whom this present society excludes, in whatever way we can, “by the strength of our arms and the sweat of our brow” (St. Vincent de Paul).
Students, Faculty and Staff
St. Vincent School of Theology