Comfort to the People of God

Comfort to the People of God

As our the nation and world continue to grapple with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we, the members of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, raise our collective prophetic voice to give comfort to the people of God (Is. 40:1) who have been weighed down by the darkness of fear and uncertainty in these trying times.

We especially pray for:

• the front liners who willingly sacrifice their lives daily to assist those who are stricken by the Corona virus. You are truly the modern-day Good Samaritans.

• the Civil Society Organizations (CSOs), People’s Organizations (POs), Faith-Based Organizations (FBOs), and individuals who, in their own capacities and generous hearts, continue to help their neighbors and other vulnerable communities and families. May the Good Lord reward you for your generosity.

• all our government officials and uniformed personnel, who are tasked to secure the safety and well-being of the Filipino people. May the Holy Spirit enlighten them to perform their tasks justly, humbly, imbued with mercy, charity and compassion.

• people of all faiths and non-believers too. We pray for more patience, understanding and tolerance in this hour of darkness. We as a people will get through this with love and care for one another.

• those who despair because they may have lost their livelihood, are separated from their loved ones, and suffering from the effects of the pandemic. You are not alone. We are with you. The Lord our God is ever watchful and will guide us through.

• the poor and marginalized who have been dehumanized even more because they are unable to eke out a living, are confined in makeshift hovels built under bridges or on the sidewalks bearing the intolerable heat. May God’s presence through the religious brothers and sisters find you and give you comfort.

Oftentimes, we have been asked “Where is the Church in the midst of this chaos?”

As consecrated women and men of the Church, we are proud to say that many of us have always answered the challenges of the “signs of the times,” responding bravely, working quietly, to the best of our abilities despite the limited resources and personnel of our respective congregations.

• Many of the member-congregations of the AMRSP provide assistance to our vulnerable sisters and brothers affected by the ECQ through various efforts, including relief distribution to various communities and sectors, delivery of cooked food for the front liners in the hospitals and personnel manning the checkpoints, making face masks and PPEs for the front liners in the hospitals and other medical personnel.

• Many congregations have opened their facilities to house the homeless and provide temporary shelter to medical front liners and workers who cannot go home.

• Congregations whose charisms are intertwined with the medical service are also working in the hospitals and other medical institutions. There are also some religious who are engaged in medical research in order to find a cure for the COVID-19 virus.

• Most importantly, all religious women and men are storming the heavens to appeal for God’s mercy on all the suffering people, especially those who passed on to eternal life. We must “always keep on praying for the Lord’s people” (Eph. 6:18).

AMRSP responds to this pandemic and all human crisis as witnesses and bearers of the Lord’s mercy and compassion, collaborating with the active church workers of the dioceses and partnering with the private sectors and the local government units.

We are all Filipinos. We sincerely believe that in order to provide the best services possible to the people, we need the widest possible collaboration and cooperation of the above mentioned groups.

At the same time, we are saddened by the continuing non-involvement of many of our fellow Church ministers and other private institutions in the national government’s efforts to contain the pandemic. We continue to uphold and respect the constitutional mandate of the Separation of Church and State, yet, the government in times of national crisis must maximize all the support that it can get in order to generate the best responses for the peoples’ wellbeing.

Again, collaboration, cooperation, coordination and synodality are most needed now from all sectors of our society. Government must lead this effort. AMRSP will embrace any initiative that will help our fellow human beings.

Here we also want to express the following concerns:

• Some government officials view efforts by some religious individuals or groups with suspicion or hostility. For example, Fr. Flaviano Villanueva, SVD the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation coordinator of the SVD Philippine Central Province, has for some five years now run KALINGA Center, a feeding and wholistic program for the homeless and street dwellers.

Reports state that on March 19, 2020, police men and village officials (barangay captain and barangay tanods) came to the center and dispersed about a hundred hungry street dwellers lined up outside the Kalinga Center of the SVD, despite observing the policy on “social distancing”.

• We also received a report of a relief operation of a certain group being blocked at a checkpoint and its members arrested. They have been red-tagged and accused of carrying subversive materials.

• We are appalled by the reports of abuses and excesses of the use of force and human rights violations committed by some uniformed personnel and other government officials. Some label those who raise their concerns over the implementation of the Emergency Community Quarantine as enemies of the state and silenced, either by online harassment, or by filing of cases against them.

Now is not the time to cast doubts on the meaningful efforts of all to help the most needy — be they big or small. We believe our compassionate God works through us all.

In this critical time of a health pandemic, our common enemy is the Covid19 virus and not the people.

We, in the AMRSP, pledge our commitment to uphold our Christian mission to serve people and country. As spiritual leaders, we ask our fellow Christians and citizens of our country to take comfort in the words of Jesus, to wit:

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free… and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord.”Luke 4:18-10