United Methodists join protest of priest killings

People gather in the Plaza Miranda in Manila, Philippines, to mourn the death of the Rev. Richmond Nilo, a Catholic priest who was shot and killed June 10 while preparing for Mass in Zaragoza, about 60 miles north of Manila. Photo courtesy of Norma Dollaga.
People gather in the Plaza Miranda in Manila, Philippines, to mourn the death of the Rev. Richmond Nilo, a Catholic priest who was shot and killed June 10 while preparing for Mass in Zaragoza, about 60 miles north of Manila. Photo courtesy of Norma Dollaga.

People of many faiths gathered June 18 for an ecumenical candle lighting and protest marking the June 10 death of the Rev. Richmond Nilo, a Roman Catholic priest.

With placards urging, “Stop the killings! End impunity! Justice for Father Richmond! Justice for all the victims!” participants called for an end to the violence. Afterward, the Most Rev. Broderick S. Pabillo celebrated mass and Holy Communion.

Nilo, from the Diocese of Cabanatuan, was shot by unidentified assailants as he prepared to officiate mass in the chapel of Barangay Mayamot, Zaragoza, Nueva Ecija. 

The June 18 event “was an ecumenical gathering to raise high the prophetic cry to stop the killings,” said Norma Dollaga, a United Methodist deaconess. Protestants have expressed their “sympathy and solidarity” through the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Kalipunan ng Kristianong Kabataan, she said.

Other United Methodists who attended were Hanna Santillan, a youth who works at the National Council of Churches; Ribilyn Litao, a deaconess, and Jonathan Sta Rosa.  

Nilo’s death was just the latest killing among church people under the watch of President Rodrigo Duterte.

The Rev. Lablito Quiñonez of the Guardians of the Truth Church Mission International Inc. was killed in Mindoro in December. The Rev. Marcelito “Tito” Paez was shot by motorcycle-riding gunmen after accompanying a released political prisoner in a car through Sitio Sangalang at Barangay Lambakin in Jaen Town Nueva Ecija.

The Rev. Mark Ventura of the Diocese of Tuguegarao was killed by masked men after saying a mass in Gattaran, Cagayan. Another priest, the Rev. Rey Urmeneta of the Diocese of San Pablo, survived an attempted slaying while on his way to Calamba, Laguna.

Those who gathered June 18 heard a statement that read: “We, from different church groups, continue our call for justice and an end to all these senseless killings and violence as we commemorate today, the ninth day (after) the killing of Father Richmond Nilo. These recent killings of priests, along with the killings of journalists and lawyers in the past two years, expose the vulnerability, even among church people and others of relative high stature, to the prevailing atmosphere of killings and impunity in our country.” 

The statement noted that verbal attacks by Duterte on the church or other critics of his policies “is almost like giving out more license to kill to all those out there spreading unabated violence and terror in our communities.

“We urge the public to join our call for justice and an end to impunity. We pray and encourage the faithful to stand firm, to defend the sanctity of life and basic human rights, and to come to the aid and accompaniment of the many survivor and victims’ families in seeking truth, justice and accountability.” 

Decrying the killings of priests, mourners read from the book of Habakkuk 1:2-4a, NRSV: “O Lord, how long shall I cry for help, and you will not listen? Or cry to you ‘Violence!’ and you will not save? Why do you make me see wrongdoing and look at trouble? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law becomes slack and justice never prevails.”

Mangiduyos is a United Methodist News Service correspondent based in the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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