“Working with our brothers behind bars has been both frightening and, at the same time, fulfilling,” priest says. Quezon City Jail is the second largest prison in the Philippines. Built for 800 inmates, it currently holds 3,600.
Manila (AsiaNews) – "God loves each one [prisoner] and is not willing that any should perish," said Fr Raul D. Buen, a Lazarist priest who has headed the Restorative Justice Ministry for 12 years in the Diocese of Cubao, Metro Manila.
One of the activities to which he has dedicated his ministry is the pastoral care of prisoners in Quezon City Jail, the country’s second largest prison in terms of inmates – 3,600 – in a facility built for only 800.
The prison is, to say the least, overcrowded, understaffed and underfunded with “poor living conditions”, Fr Buen told AsiaNews.
“In the spirit of Church’s teaching and Gospel values, we are making efforts to reach out to those incarcerated,” he said. “It is our responsibility to care for their spiritual well-being and help them to love Jesus”.
“Working with our brothers behind bars has been both frightening and, at the same time, fulfilling,” Fr Buen said explained.
“The first time I walked into prison I was really shocked when I saw the situation inside and a little bit scared. There were so many questions and concerns running through my mind such as who are these people? What crime did they commit? Are they really dangerous?” Yet, “through the years of serving in jail, I found that each inmate is unique. And God loves each one.”
“There are moments when some of them said that they are considered as ‘garbage’ by society, but it is inhuman to treat them this way.”
“This is precisely the reason why I and prison ministry volunteers have not grown tired of serving the imprisoned. Even though at times we feel that we are at the losing end, we know that we are part of the missionary effort and that we are doing what needs to be done to support these people”.
“Like other missionaries,” Fr Buen noted, “we do not always see the direct results of our work, but we know that our efforts are helping inmates develop a love for God. We have been converted to the idea that people can change, even in prison”.