Members of church and civil society groups light candles on Aug. 31 to protest against a spate of drug-related killings in the Philippines. (Photo by Angie de Silva)
Prayers were offered for the souls of those who have died in the Philippines' all-out war against narcotics as the predominantly Catholic country observed on Sept. 1 the "World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation."
The growing death toll in the government's anti-narcotics war has caused "social alarm that further worsens the culture of impunity in our land," read a joint statement of faith-based and civil society groups.
"Pain and terror reign over families of those killed," said the "Stop the Killings Network," a newly formed group of church people and social activists.
Pope Francis declared Sept. 1 a "Day of Prayer" for Catholics to "reaffirm their personal vocation to be stewards of creation."
"[It is] an opportunity to strengthen the common commitment to safeguard life," said Pope Francis in an address at the Vatican on Aug. 28.
On the eve of the Vatican-declared "Day of Prayer," a #Lightforlife campaign was launched in Manila with simultaneous candle-lighting events.
While stressing that it supports the campaign against illegal drugs, the "Stop the Killings Network" said it stands "firm in upholding due process and dignity of life."
'Day of Prayer for Life'
In Lingayen-Dagupan Archdiocese, north of Manila, Archbishop Socrates Villegas urged Catholics to pray for the victims of the government's anti-narcotics war.
Villegas, who is also president of the bishops’ conference, has declared a "Day of Prayer for Life" on Sept. 14. He urged Catholics "to share our common grief at the deaths that we have been seeing."
He also asked parishes to put up "Thou Shall Not Kill" posters in communities to remind people of their "Christian duty" to observe the Fifth Commandment.
"As we stand up for the dignity of every human person and the sacredness of every human life, let us ask the Lord to win this battle for us," said Archbishop Villegas.
The Philippine National Police has already recorded 1,900 deaths associated with the anti-drug campaign since President Rodrigo Duterte came to power on June 30.
Human Rights Watch described the rising number of casualties in the government’s war on drugs as a "human rights calamity."
"This is nothing less than absolute human rights disaster," Phelim Kine, deputy director for Asia of the New York-based organization.
"The numbers are absolutely shocking … absolutely a disastrous situation because of the number of people killed in such a short period of time," said Kine.