United Methodists joined an ecumenical Walk for Life to protest Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, which has left thousands dead.
Human rights advocates and the families of victims of drug-related killings participated in the Feb. 24 walk and prayer rally organized by Roman Catholic laity to oppose the killings, the death penalty and the looming resurgence of dictatorship in the Philippines.
“Life is a gift from God, a gift that should not be taken for granted. Bring back our appreciation and respect for life,” said Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Tagle, who led Mass at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila.
As early as 3:30 a.m., people gathered at Rizal Park, raising their collective voice: “Stop the killings. Justice to all victims of drug-related killings,” they chanted.
Ofelia A. Cantor, a laywoman from Village United Methodist Church, said the Walk for Life serves as a reminder to the faithful that life is a gift.
“No one can take away one’s life, whether he or she is a drug addict or not, there is always a way to restore one’s life. To redeem is to give a person a chance to join a caring community and slowly regain the sense of respect and love for oneself,” she said.
Cantor is currently working with the Ecumenical Bishops Forum and the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform, which supports the resumption of peace talks addressing the fundamental root causes of the armed conflict. She said she joined the walk to uphold social justice.
“Once a person is denied of his right to life, that is injustice. Once a person is denied of his basic rights to food (and) shelter, that is economic injustice,” she said.
Cantor said the Walk for Life allows the community to come together for one purpose, regardless of their differences. “That common goal is service to God and God’s people,” she said.
United Methodists are among the leaders of an alliance of human rights lawyers, civic organizations, survivors and families of victims who are speaking out against the drug-related extrajudicial killings in the Philippines.
According to the international watchdog group Human Rights Watch, Duterte’s “war on drugs” has claimed an estimated 12,000 lives of primarily poor urban dwellers, including children.
Norma P. Dollaga, who currently serves as a National in Mission for Justice and Peace for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, also joined the walk.
She relayed the story of a mother’s heartbreak amid the war on drugs. The woman told her, “All my days, I wanted to embrace my son, I wanted to show him how I care … but the war on drugs has killed my son. This war on drugs is denying the mothers of the privilege to love their children.”
Cantor expressed her hopes in the midst of the looming resurgence that the poor, oppressed and deprived will be served.
“Every single day, no matter how lowly or difficult life is, we can extend our hands for those in need, so righteousness and sovereignty of God of peace, love and justice would prevail.”
Mangiduyos is a communicator from the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-742-5470. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.