Church’s drug programme in Manila is a “balm”
by Santosh Digal

Sanlakbay is a response to the government’s violent war on drugs, providing addicts with counselling, spiritual training, and job opportunities. Parish communities are involved in the healing process. Pope Francis likes the programme.

Manila (AsiaNews) – Sanlakbay is a "balm" for drug victims, this according to Michael Soriano, a 43-year-old former drug addict who joined the Catholic Church's drug rehab programme.

"It is timely that Church began this rehabilitation programme for the country’s drug addicts,” Soriano told AsiaNews. “It has a soothing effect. It is antithesis to the government's ongoing war on drugs, which has claimed hundreds of lives.”

Established in response to the government’s violent war on drugs, the Church's initiative provides counselling, spiritual training, and even job opportunities to drug addicts.

The parish-based programme includes counselling, spiritual training, and job opportunities for recovering drug addicts. It consists of a faith-based approach aimed at healing and reintegration into society.

Soriano, who is trying to get out of a five-year addiction, says: "I feel my life is getting a fresh start. I now have a new lease on life. I am convinced that there is always another opportunity to begin life for oneself and one’s family."

In his old life, "I was almost dying, on the verge of collapse. With the rehabilitation programme, I am able to recover gradually. With God’s grace and with others’ help, understanding and guidance, I will go back to life, family and society, to live my life without drugs. "

Pope Francis has expressed his support for the work of the Filipino Church in the area of drug addiction. Mentioning his recent meeting with the pontiff at the Vatican, Card Tagle said he laid out the programme for Francis.

“When he heard about it, with a twinkle in his eyes, he said, ‘that’s the way to go,” the prelate said in his homily during Mass at the San Sebastian Church on Saturday to mark the programme’s first anniversary.

Archbishop Pablo Virgilio David, bishop of Caloocan, is one of the staunchest critics of the government’s drugs policy. "Church leaders,” he said, “have urged the faithful across the country to support Sanlakbay and show their compassion and solidarity towards drug addicts, thus contributing to their healing."