Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines President Archbishop Socrates Villegas has called on Filipino Catholics to offer prayers and funds to aid people who are suffering in the hands of militant groups in Iraq and Syria.
Archbishop Villegas of Lingayen-Dagupan in a statement posted Aug. 27 on the portal of Manila archdiocese’s Veritas 846 radio said aside from displacing, killing and torturing people, the violence by Islamic State and other militants in Iraq and Syria supposedly to build an Islamic nation, has defaced religion.
He appealed to Filipino Catholics to “counter the defacement of religion” by practising mercy, compassion and love. He also appealed to Philippines bishops to collect money to help victims, assuring that the CBCP will see to their delivery to appropriate Church authorities in Iraq and Iran.
Following is the full text of Archbishop Villegas’ appeal posted on Veritas 846
Before a horrified world, militants, without compunction and in utter mercilessness, beheaded journalist James Foley. He may not have died for the faith, but he certainly died, a person of faith, we are told by those who were with him in his last days. Pope Francis sent his grieving family a personal message of condolence. We join our prayers to those of our Holy Father that James may find solace in the bosom of our Loving Father.
James is one of the thousands who now suffer because of the ruthlessness of ISIS (The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) and militant groups of like persuasion and brutality. We should be particularly appalled that children have not been spared. Among the bodies that the rampaging onslaught has left in its wake are those of hapless infants and children — they who are not deserving of any punishment or suffering at all! Thousands have been displaced and must now live as refugees in often squalid conditions because of those who take it upon themselves to kill and to terrorize in the name of God.
Not only then are helpless and defenseless persons the victims of the brutal imposition of a rigid and unforgiving version of faith. Religion is as much a victim, for those who kill and slaughter, wound and maim, destroy and burn in the name of God send the world the awful message that religion divides, that faith is oppressive, that belief can engender so much unkindness!
In the Philippines, we will do our part, first of all, to counter the defacement of religion. We will live as our Lord and Master has asked us to live: with love for each other, bearing each other’s burdens, ever forgiving and humbly asking to be forgiven, respecting the freedoms of all, particularly the right to religious belief. “By this shall all know that you are my disciples”; by this do we pray to convince the world that faith in a God of love and mercy can still heal our world, as we trust Him who can make all things new!
But that is not enough. I appeal to our Filipino bishops take up a collection for the needs of the suffering Christians in Iraq and Syria. These collections will be sent to the CBCP that will see to their remittance to the ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Syria and Iraq. While we have our own projects in the Philippines, we cannot put these ahead of the suffering of Christians in that troubled part of our world. They have not only been evicted from their homes.
Their places of worship — many of them, thousands of years old — have been razed to the ground by a godless rage with which no genuine religion can ever identify! For many, the food and drink that sustain life are daily issues. They rise from sleep each day to struggle just to keep themselves alive. We must be generous, and the fact that we have our own needs here in the Philippines does not excuse us from the Christian obligation of sharing with our suffering brothers and sisters from our own need.
Finally, let us be ceaseless in prayer, uniting ourselves with our suffering brothers and sisters, commending to the God who offers himself to us as our future their pains, their shattered lives and dreams, their bereavement and their loss. We pray that even as many of them now see no way out of the misery that has been visited on them, the God who opens paths through the sea and ways in the desert, may make a way for them to the future that can only be His gift!
August 27, 2014, Feast of Saint Monica
+ SOCRATES VILLEGAS
Archbishop of Lingayen-Dagupan