Filipino Church leaders: Pray for Middle East peace

THE United States-Iran tension that could break into an all-out war in the Middle East where several Filipinos are working has led Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma to urge the faithful to pray for peace.

Pray for world leaders, too, said the prelate.

“We have learned a lesson in the past and war is a useless approach to dealing with our problems,” Palma said on Thursday, Jan. 9, 2020.

During the predawn Mass before the procession of the Black Nazarene in Manila on the same day, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle urged the devotees to pray with him for the Middle East peace and the safety of its people, including many Filipino expatriate workers.

“Let us pray ... that the desire to retaliate eases,” Tagle said.

Avenging the American assassination of Iran’s most powerful military general Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Republic launched missiles on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020, hitting two bases in northern Iraq that house American soldiers. No casualties were reported.

Palma urged the youth to advocate world peace by using technology in forging good relations with other people.

The archbishop said world leaders should sit together for a dialogue and solve problems.

He described the use of weapons, including bombs, to kill people and destroy heritage as a “madman’s approach.”

The Philippine government reacted by evacuating Filipinos in Iraq and Iran. On Wednesday, the Department of Labor and Employment said it had set aside an initial P600 million for the immediate repatriation and assistance to overseas Filipino workers who would be brought home from the crisis-stricken Middle East.

Repatriated Filipinos would be provided livelihood assistance, offered training under the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority, and encouraged to apply for jobs in other countries such as Russia, Japan and Canada.Mandaue City Mayor Jonas Cortes said his office would extend financial assistance to the repatriated Mandauehanons.

US President Donald Trump had threatened to bomb dozens of cultural sites in Iran, one of the oldest civilizations, if the Middle East nation would hit back at American soldiers and interests in the volatile region.

Washington’s top military officials later ruled out striking Iran’s cultural sites, contradicting Trump.

The decades-long conflict between the US and Iran brewed again when Trump unilaterally withdrew from the 2015 nuclear accord with Iran in 2018. The deal includes putting limits to Iran’s uranium enrichment.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei described the missile strikes as a “slap” to the Americans, and “not sufficient” for revenge. (WBS & KFD with AP reports )