29 May 2016
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    » 06/05/2013, 00.00

    PHILIPPINES

    Filipino bishops against gun-toting priests and missionaries



    Signed into law on 29 May, the new Act is designed to check the illegal arms trade, especially on the island of Mindanao. For the prelates, carrying guns is incompatible with the Christian faith and the Church's religious mission.

    Zamboanga (AsiaNews) - Filipino bishops have criticised the new government decree authorising priests and religious, especially in high-risk areas, to carry guns and rifles. For the prelates "going around with weapons, even in self-defence, is incompatible with the Christian faith."

    "The missionaries are by definition non-violent and are protected by holy angels, not weapons," said Mgr Arturo Bastes, bishop of Sorgoson. Mgr Honesto Ongtioco, bishop of Cubao (Quezon City), agrees. "As priests," he explained, "our vocation and our role in the transformation of society are different from those of secular activists. We must be concerned about our mission among the faithful, not for our own safety."

    Signed by the president on 29 May, the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act makes it easier for activists, journalists, doctors and religious leaders to carry weapons. The latter are often the victims of kidnapping, summary executions and robberies by groups of terrorists or criminals.

    The decree applies only to some parts of the country, most notably Sulu and Basilan provinces (Mindanao), which are strongholds of the Islamic extremist group Abu-Sayyaf.

    Sources in Mindanao told AsiaNews that the law "is designed primarily to check the illegal arms trade, which has the island as one of its hubs." Adding the religious to the list is a way of inviting all those who operate in those areas to travel with caution. However, "it is a sign of insecurity that prevails in some areas of the country, where not even priests, who work for peace, are spared the violence of criminal groups."

    For several years, the authorities have tried to get bishops and foreign missionaries working in Mindanao to accept armed escorts when they receive threats from extremist groups or criminals.

    Religious have tended to turn down the offer because "Travelling with armed soldiers limits their testimony amid the people who face such dangers every day as a result of more than 40 years of war between the Filipino army and Islamic rebels," sources told AsiaNews, confirming what Filipino bishops said.

    In recent years, several priests and religious have been murdered or abducted by criminal gangs or terrorist groups.

    The most recent case was that of Fr Fausto Tentorio, 59, a missionary with the Pontifical Institute for Foreign Missions (PIME) in Arakan Valley (Mindanao), who was gunned down on 17 October 2011.

    He was the third PIME missionary murdered in the Philippines. The other martyrs were Fr Tullio Favalli killed in 1985 in the Diocese of Kidapawan, and Fr Salvatore Carzedda, who was involved in talks with Muslims, murdered in 1992 in Zamboanga. (S.C.)

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    See also

    16/01/2009 PHILIPPINES
    MILF condemns humanitarian workers abduction as no one claims responsibility
    The Moro Islamic Liberation Front offers to help in getting the release of the kidnap victims. Abu Sayyaf has not claimed responsibility for the action and local sources exclude politics or religion were involved. Police is investigating the possible involvement of an employee working at a prison the three workers had just visited.

    21/12/2007 PHILIPPINES
    Muslim patrols to protect churches in Mindanao
    In the predominantly Muslim island of Mindanao in the southern Philippines ordinary citizens have started nightly patrols in the streets around churches to allow Catholics to celebrate “dawn masses” until Christmas.

    21/07/2007 PHILIPPINES
    Claretian missionaries promoting a programme of collaboration and development
    The ZABIDA project is the result of co-operation with a foreign government and NGOs. It is meant to promote and dialogue and collaboration between various religions and bring concrete help to the population.

    04/05/2009 PHILIPPINES
    UN-backed report says Philippines had highest number of newly displaced people in 2008
    Fighting between the Filipino army and rebels forces 600,000 people to flee their homes. Muslim Moros and indigenous people are the most affected by the violence. Children suffer the most from malnutrition and human trafficking. Sudan has the largest number of refugees, 4.9 million.

    09/04/2016 18:32:00 PHILIPPINES
    PIME missionaries happy for Del Torchio’s release

    The former priest was moved this morning from Zamboanga to Manila. “We hope that he will get better soon, because we were told that he was not doing well,” said Fr Giovanni Re, regional superior of the Philippines. From the start, “we were cautiously optimistic.” Yesterday, Fr Sebastiano D'Ambra tried to visit him; “Unfortunately, they did not let us in.”





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