Editorial: Converting hearts and minds

PRAY the Oratio Imperata to end the killings in Cebu.

Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma pronounced that the obligatory prayer he issued in 2018 will continue to be recited as a post-communion prayer in 2020, reported Jolissa C. Taboada in SunStar Cebu on Jan. 2, 2020.

During the Dec. 31, 2019 mass he celebrated at the Cebu Metropolitan Cathedral, the Cebu prelate urged Roman Catholics to pray, saying he believed prayers helped in the “conversion of hearts” of believers, the victims’ families and the perpetrators of the crimes.

Praying is not the only thing that the Church must do to oppose and uproot the culture of death and impunity.

By the time Archbishop Palma celebrated the New Year’s Eve Mass, Cebu’s record of unsolved killings in 2019 embraced public figures and private citizens.

Many of these deaths are linked to the illegal drug trade. Many of the suspects remain at large.

Some of those killed were reported by the police as resisting arrest or trying to escape. On June 18, former Medellin mayor Ricardo Ramirez was on hospital arrest when 10 armed men entered his hospital room and shot him dead. On Oct. 25, Clarin Mayor David Navarro was escorted by a three-vehicle convoy to the Cebu City Prosecutor’s Office to undergo an inquest proceeding when they were ambushed; the mayor was killed by at least 10 armed men.

The vulnerability of prominent victims to violent death and the frustration of their families’ calls for justice shake to the core every citizen’s sense of security and trust in the rule of law. Acceptance of the inevitable link between drugs and power reduces the individual and powerless to apathy and submission.

At worst, seeing how power works in the world and benefits those manipulating such for personal gain creates new disciples who aspire to enter that select world of the immoral and the inhumane. What can the Church do to renew in the faithful a clear-eyed understanding of and unwavering belief in human rights, long distorted by lies, deceptions and misinformation that conflate these with Communist/Red-baiting?

In his 1995 encyclical letter “The Gospel of Life (Evangelium Vitae),” Pope John Paul II upheld the “incomparable worth of the human person.” He believed that “every human community and the political community itself are founded” on these: the “sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end” and “the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree.”

Representing great power in a nation that is predominantly Catholic, the Church must speak out for the voiceless and bring succor to victims as concrete affirmations of its responsibility to spread what Pope John Paul II calls as the “Gospel of Life,” even to those who are not part of the Church and those who profess to be believers but perpetuate violence and abuse other people.

In the same encyclical letter, St. Pope John Paul II quoted the Second Vatican Council’s definition of human rights: “Whatever is opposed to life itself, such as any type of murder, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, or willful self-destruction, whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, torments inflicted on body or mind, attempts to coerce the will itself; whatever insults human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery, prostitution, the selling of women and children; as well as disgraceful working conditions, where people are treated as mere instruments of gain rather than as free and responsible persons; all these things and others like them are infamies indeed. They poison human society and they do more harm to those who practise them than to those who suffer from the injury. Moreover, they are a supreme dishonour to the Creator.”

People who bow their heads and keep silent when confronted with the bodies of victims and the anguish of survivors are very much part of the culture of death poisoning society.

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