03/24/2010, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Catholic volunteer on a mission of hope among prisoners

by Santosh Digal
In Philippine jails prisoners live in inhuman conditions and often suffer from diseases and mental disorders. Beatriz Buenavista Evangelista, a catechist for 11 years in prison in Quezon City, relates her experience among inmates and says: "If these people are languishing behind bars, it is our mission is to bring them the love of God and Gospel values."

Manila (AsiaNews) - In the prison in Quezon City, where prisoners live in inhuman conditions, Beatriz Buenavista Evangelist, a Catholic volunteer, has been offering hope to the prisoners for 11 years, teaching them catechism and listening to their problems.

“It is my Christian vocation, which prompted me to bring the Gospel to prisoners - says the woman - in recent years I have listened patiently, sharing their difficult histories and their anxieties".

In addition to religion classes, she teaches inmates to read and write, giving them the opportunity to work once their sentence is served.

Beatriz began her work with the prisoners about 11 ago, when health problems prevented her from entering the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Spirit. The desire to serve God led her to spend her energy teaching catechism in the schools of the missionaries and then to devote herself full time to the care and formation of prison inmates. Over the years she has become a mother for many of them.  

"Prisoners of Quezon City, live in poor conditions - says the woman - but even if they are behind bars they still have their dreams to achieve." "The cells are dirty and overcrowded –she continues - and it is difficult for them to have hope." Beatriz says that without faith, life in prison becomes a test of endurance. "If these people are languishing behind bars - she adds – it is our mission to bring them the love of God and the values of the Gospel."

Most of the jails in the country are in subhuman conditions, and the government spends less than 0.40 euro per month for each prisoner. At the Quezon City Jail, the impact of this severe lack of funds is very clear. The facilities are so cramped, that a cell that is designed for 20 inmates houses around 200 of them at any given time. The inmates use every inch of space they can for sleeping; many of them end up sleeping while squatting on the floor or standing against the wall.  During the period of sentence prisoners risk contracting diseases, from unhealthy food and lack of air in the cells, many of them develop mental disorders.

 

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