02/17/2010, 00.00
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Lent: money saved by fasting to aid poor Filipinos

by Santosh Digal
The bishops urge the population to support during Lent the Hagap-Asa (Hope), to help more than 120 thousand poor children and their families. In 2008, three out of ten children have gone hungry. In some areas of the country's poverty rate reaches 30%.

Manila (AsiaNews) - During Lent, the Filipino bishops are calling on the faithful to fast and give the money saved to the poor. And this through Hagap-Asa (Hope), a charity group which aims to support in a year about 120 thousand malnourished children and their families. "We ask you to support the Hagap-Asa in its activities to help hungry children of our parishes - says card. Gaudencio Rosales, archbishop of Manila - and we encourage you to donate the savings from your fast. The prelate said that under 20 euros a month would ensure each child a meal every day.

According to data from the 2008 National Nutrition Service in the Philippines, three in 10 children suffer from hunger, and in many areas of the country, the poverty rate reaches 30%. Groups most affected are the fishermen, farmers and children. To these are added the 250 thousand homeless families victims of typhoons Ketsana and Parma, which struck Manila and the northern parts of the archipelago last autumn. The program Hagap-Asa has been launched by the Church in 2002, and to date has helped over 500 thousand poor with donations to national and local campaigns conducted within the parishes.  

"The high poverty rate is mainly due to growing unemployment - says sr. Celia C. Vinos of St. Thomas Catholic University of Manila - the routes of poverty and hunger are economic and corruption in this country discourages foreign investment and reduces the possibility of opening new businesses or retain existing ones".  For the religious all people involved in politics, economics and the Church should focus their efforts to reduce poverty, starting from the fight against corruption.

Corruption has always been one of the key problems in the Philippines and due to a system of "feudal" families who for years have alternated in government both at national and local level. In rural areas, remote from the central powers, the population suffers violence and abuse that increase during election periods. On 10th May, 50 million people will vote to choose: president, vice president, 300 deputies in both houses of Congress and 17,600 local politicians. To help the population to prevent fraud and intimidation, the Church has created the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsable Voting. Over 45 thousand youth volunteers were sent out to the various parishes of the country that are home to polling stations. They will have the task of explaining the different voting procedures, and report the inappropriate behaviour of candidates.
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