01/23/2010, 00.00
PHILIPPINES
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Manila, drug lords abandon crime thanks to Gospel

by Santosh Digal
A priest and a group of catechists helping over 150 drug dealers and their families to find an alternative to poverty.

Manila (AsiaNews) - In the district of Quiapo (Manila), over 150 drug lords have abandoned the criminal activity and are finding an alternative life for their families. All this thanks to a program of training and work placement arranged by a priest and faithful of the Archdiocese of Manila.

"Nobody has ever dared to help these people rebuild their lives - said Fr Suarez priest and director of Catechism for the Archdiocese - for years they have fled from themselves. Above all they need the Word of God. "

The Quiapo district is one of the most central and most populated of Manila. It houses the Church of the Nazarene, one of the most important places of worship in the Philippines. But degradation, a high population density and the passage of tourists make it a fertile ground for trade in stolen goods and drugs, the only means of survival for families. Of these approximately 50 families linked to drug trafficking in the district have accepted the help of Fr Suarez, who six months ago began to visit them once a week.

"Thanks to the visits of these months, we managed to gain their trust - said Fr Suarez - and we started to teach them the basics of the catechism and Christian values. " Together with a group of catechists, psychologists and social workers, the priest has begun to identify and train leaders of the various families. This is to create a community able to lead initiatives and other work programs. "We are organizing various activities, especially for young people and married people – he adds - in order to avoid a return to the path of drugs and crime in future."

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