Albay bishop urges flock: Unite vs EJK
By Mar S. Arguelles LEGAZPI CITY --- As Albay church bells continue to toll every night, Albay Bishop Joel Baylon for the second time issued a pastoral letter urging the public to unite against extrajudicial killing (EJK) in the government’s war against illegal drugs. Baylon in his pastoral letter said, “As pastors, we turn to you, our people, and commit to journeying with you in this time of darkness and bloodshed towards the building of a more just and humane society, with Christ and His Gospel as our guiding light. Let us unite to stop the killings in our communities!” Baylon’s pastoral letter was read during last Sunday’s masses in 47 churches across the province. Baylon said almost a year ago he wrote an open letter to President Duterte asking the latter that extrajudicial killings be stopped, investigated, and those responsible arrested and brought to justice. He, however, said “it seems that our appeal fell on deaf ears and stony hearts. But the recent murders of several youngsters and attempts to restrain the promotion of human rights have awakened the consciences of many.” The pastoral letter said the government’s war on drugs has claimed several thousands of lives; truth has been perverted both in social media and in official government statements. The statement claimed that the democratic institutions have been assaulted and corruption has become even more rampant with the loss of transparency and accountability in government. “Aside from the killings that continue unabated, another grave scandal in our communities is the fact that there are Christians who support the policy of killings and find various justification for them,” the pastoral letter states. “We need to regain our trust in government so we can work together for the good of all, but this can only happen when the rule of law, truth-telling, and accountability have become once again the norm in governance,” Baylon said. Baylon called on parishes, schools, media outlets, social media accounts to be platforms for truth-telling, venues for dialogue. “We shall teach the young to shun illegal drugs, and also to uphold the life and dignity of the human person,” Baylon said. The bishop said that as the church supports efforts for meaningful reform and the fight against corruption and criminality, it also strongly urges government leaders and law enforcement authorities to be transparent and accountable as they carry out these initiatives. The pastoral letter also warned that the church would speak out and mobilize when in the process of change, human rights are trampled upon, the rule of law set aside and democratic institution destroyed. As to the ‘Prayer at Nine’ accompanied by the ringing of church bells at 9:00 o’clock in the evening, the bishop said it will continue as the diocese has joined the nationwide Forty Days of Prayer for the Dead until Nov. 1 this year. “Let us bring back the beautiful penitential tradition call perdon in our parishes in these trying times,” Baylon said.