In less than four days, the police killed 32 alleged drug dealers at Bulacan and another 49 in Manila. Card. Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, invites the government to dialogue: "The drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal problem. It is a humanitarian issue that affects us all. " "Remember the words that God said to Cain, who had killed his brother Abel: Your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil (Genesis 4:10)."
Manila (AsiaNews) - Card. Luis Antonio Tagle, Archbishop of Manila, invites Catholics of his diocese to reflect, pray and act on the intensification of the war against illegal drugs led by the Philippine government.
In a pastoral letter, read yesterday during all the masses, he states: " On August 12-17, 2017, I participated in the meeting of Caritas Latin America held in El Salvador, a country where many people had been killed in a civil war. Until now it still contends with armed groups. In El Salvador, I heard news of the increase of killings in our own country due to an intensified war against illegal drugs. I am inviting you to reflect, pray and act. "
The past few weeks have become a milestone in drug-fighting led by President Rodrigo Duterte. In less than four days, starting August 15, police anti-drug teams killed 32 alleged drug dealers in Bulacan and another 49 in the Manila metropolitan area for a total of 81 deaths.
Card. Tagle, president of Caritas Internationalis, states: " The menace of illegal drugs is real and destructive. We must face and act upon together, as one people. Unfortunately, it has divided us. Given the complexity of the issues, no single individual, group or institution could claim to have the only right response. We need one other. We cannot disregard each other. Let us invite families, national government agencies, local government units, people's organizations, schools, faith-based communities, the medical profession, the police and military, recovering addicts to come together, listen to each other and chart a common path. The illegal drug problem should not be reduced to a political or criminal issue. It is a humanitarian concern that affects all of us. The Archdiocese of Manila would be willing to host such multi-sectoral dialogue. "
" To understand the situation better, one needs not only statistics but also human stories. Families with members who have been destroyed by illegal drugs must tell their stories. Families with members who have been killed in the drug-war, especially the innocent ones, must be allowed to tell their stories. Drug addicts who have recovered must tell their stories of hope. Let their stories be told, let their human faces be revealed, "the cardinal reiterates.
" We knock on the consciences of those manufacturing and selling illegal drugs to stop this activity. We knock on the consciences of those who kill even the helpless, especially those who cover their faces with bonnets, to stop wasting human lives. Recall the words of God to Cain who killed his brother Abel, "Your brother's blood cries out to me from the soil" (Genesis 4:10). Those with sorrowful hearts and awakened consciences may come to your pastors to tell your stories and we will document them for the wider society. I call on all the parishes in the Archdiocese of Manila to mark the nine days from August 21 (Memorial of St. Pope Pius X) to August 29 (Beheading of St. John the Baptist) as time to offer prayers at all masses for the repose of those who have died in this war, for the strength of their families, for the perseverance of those recovering from addiction and the conversion of killers. "
The Archbishop of Manila invites everyone to conquer evil with good (Romans 12:21) and save the lives of people most vulnerable to drug addiction: young people, the poor and the unemployed. The words of solidarity with no tears and acts of compassion are inexpensive. He exhorts all priests and Catholics to renew their commitment to the Manila Archdiocesan Drug Rehabilitation Program, called "Sanlakbay", and in collaboration with local government and police. Sanlakbay is a rehabilitation program based on the parish community that encourages drug addicts to surrender, tackle rehabilitation and give themselves another chance to start a new life.
After winning the presidency in July last year, President Duterte launched an unprecedented war on illegal narcotics with the promise to kill tens of thousands of criminals. The Catholic Church is among the few voices that denounce the deaths, in spite of the polls that reveal the popularity of the Philippine president. In response to criticisms of extrajudicial killings, Duterte has repeatedly launched strong attacks on bishops and priests.
During the 14 months of his administration, some 8,000 suspected drug users or drug dealers have lost their lives during security operations. The police confirmed the killing of over 3,500 people, insisting on having acted in self-defense. More than 2,000 people have been killed in drug crimes and thousands are still murdered under unexplained circumstances, according to police data. This week, numbers saw a sudden increase. Duterte praised the officers who caused 32 victims in Bulacan and urged them to kill more. Following the statements of the president, at least 44 people were killed in several cities. Among them there is also a 17-year-old boy, whose death last August 17, sparked outrage and anger across the nation.