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Filipinos turn to Mary as drug war killings soar

Two Order of Carmelite parishes adopt Marian image to highlight suffering of families of people slain

Filipinos turn to Mary as drug war killings soar

The Sagrada Familia and San Isidro Labrador Parishes in Quezon City launched the icon of Mother of Life during a Taize prayer on Aug. 26. The icon was created by Augustinian Recollect Brother Jaazeal Jacosalem to protest killings linked to President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war. (Photo by Mark Saludes)

Mark Saludes, Manila

August 31, 2017

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Two parishes run by the Order of Carmelite in Manila Archdiocese have adopted an image of Mother Mary to highlight the suffering of families of the more than 12,000 persons killed in President Rodrigo Duterte's drug war.

The Sagrada Familia and San Isidro Labrador parishes in Quezon City displayed the icon of "the Mother of Life" on Aug. 26, after a week-long blitz by police killed more than 80 people in Manila and nearby cities.

Both parishes are part of Bagong Silangan village where more than 40 residents have been shot dead in the last year.

Mary's story "complements the suffering" of Philippine drug-war victims' families, said Carmelite Father Gilbert Billena, San Isidro Labrador parish priest. 

The order asks Catholics to seek her intercession to stop the bloodbath of people slain without due process, Father Billena added. "The icon illustrates the Mother of Life who reminds us that no one has the right to take life.

Augustinian Recollect Brother Jaazeal Jacosalem drew the icon in August 2016 "as a way of protest against the state-sanctioned killings" in the anti-narcotics war. 

Ancient Filipino script on the upper right and left part of the image reads "Mother of Life." The center shows a silhouette of a person in a target, a depiction of victims of human rights violations.

The icon was shown to the public during the two parishes "Taize prayer" service, which focuses on songs, prayers and meditation instead of preaching.

Fifty young Christians attended the ecumenical prayer service on the night of the funeral of 17-year-old Kian Loyd Delos Santos, killed by police on Aug. 23. 

"We want to make the icon of the Mother of Life known to our youth because they are the future of this society," said Sagrada Familia parish priest Father Arnulfo Alindayu. 

"The youth are the most affected sector of our society in this bloody war on drugs," the priest added. 

According to the Children's Legal Rights and Development Center, at least 31 children have been killed in either police anti-drug operation or vigilante-style killings since Duterte assumed power.

Father Billena, who is the spokesperson of rights group Rise Up, said they would endorse the icon to the Catholic bishops' conference. 

"If this image illustrates the church's stand on the extra-judicial killings in the country, then we must put the icon in every household," said the priest. 

He added that the Mother of Life icon not only represents victims of the drug war but "all people who have been denied of life, rights, and due process of law."

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