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For what do they live and die for?

Activists all too often pay a deadly price in ther pursuit of a society free from oppression and exploitation

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For what do they live and die for?

Human rights activists hold a demonstration in Manila on June 17 to protest the recent killings of fellow activists and human rights defenders. (Photo by Jire Carreon)

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Many people believe in some kind of "God" that they worship in their own way, a god that people make as their priority in life.

This god can be money, power, property, prestige, drugs, alcohol, pleasure, possession, domination, violence, abuse or control.

These people are not alone. They are members of a fraternity, or a syndicate, a gang, a political clan, a military or police unit.

They obey the code to never break the bond of silence. They seldom spare anyone who stands in their way. Their "God" is first over all others. They have fanatics to help them fulfill their desires.

There are those who desire little, are content with their lot in life, indifferent to social evil. They have no serious purpose in life. They have no goal to serve others beyond themselves and family.

They are the indifferent "godless," who live in a state of apathy. The ruling elite encourages them in their mediocrity and unbelief.

There are those who believe in the "God of wealth and prosperity." They are highly educated and driven to succeed in business or in a profession.

They are driven to pursue success, social status, comfort, and yet without commitment to change society and bring about social justice. They strive to be the elite. Their "God" is themselves.

Then there are those, who like Neptali Morada, believe in purpose. Morada desired goodness, he longed for a just society that would be free from oppression and exploitation.

He believed that change was possible even in a corrupt society ruled by a powerful elite.

He lived in hope and, like many thousands of Filipinos like him, believed in the values of equality, justice and human dignity. He lived a life dedicated to these values.

He was an active, committed Christian. He lived out his belief and trust in Jesus of Nazareth and His teachings for he had found his "God." He believed in the "power of one" united with many more.

I say was because Neptali Morada is now dead. He was assassinated, shot dead by gunmen on June 17 in Naga City on his way to work.

He was a member of the United Evangelical Church of Christ, a former coordinator of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines and chairman of the Federation of Christian Youth in the Philippines.

He was a man of faith. He loved the truth, social justice, and spoke and worked for them. For this he was killed.

The worshipers of other "Gods" could not allow him to live. His life and his "God" was a challenge to their wrongdoing. Their "Gods" were opposed to his.

Nardy Sabino, general secretary of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, said Morada’s murder was allegedly part of a "state-sponsored campaign to silence dissent."

Daniel Kenji Muramatsu, spokesman of the Student Christian Movement of the Philippines, condemned the "senseless killing."

Neptali was not the only human rights worker murdered in June. Ryan Hubilla, 22, and Nelly Bagasala, 69, was shot dead on June 15 in Sorsogon.

They too believed that if you pursue justice and goodness, you must act to help your neighbor to achieve a life of greater equality and peace.

"We have every reason to believe that those who killed them are military death squads," said Cristina Palabay of the human rights group Karapatan.
On June 16, gunmen on motorbikes also shot Nonoy Palma, 57, a member of the Peasant Movement of the Philippines in Bukidnon province on the southern island of Mindanao.

Dennis Sequena, a community worker and labor organizer, was shot dead in Cavite province on June 2.

He believed in the rights of citizens to a life of dignity. He organized exploited workers, taught them their labor rights to get better working conditions and pay. He disturbed the system that rules and controls the poor and uses them to enrich their clan.

Sociologists and researchers say it seems that .0001 percent own 70 percent of the wealth in the Philippines. The rest of the 107 million must scramble for the leftovers.

Many of the poorest of the poor eat pagpag, or leftover food, to survive, the boiled scrapings of the restaurant dinner plates of the rich.

According to 2015 statistics, 21.6 percent of the Philippine population lived below the poverty line. The Asian Development Bank noted the causes as "low economic growth, a weak agricultural sector, increased population rates and a high volume of inequality."

This is changing, but very slowly.

Data shows that about 3.6 million children aged 5-17 years work as child laborers in the Philippines.

Thousands of street children are jailed and abused, ignored by many local authorities (with some exceptions) that support the sex industry and jail children.

Human rights workers are an endangered species. There are many more killings of innocent people in this resource-rich country.

This is the Philippines. If one threatens the corrupt elite, they will eliminate that person. They know the "power of one" that is committed to the righteous "God," for even one who believes in justice and equality can turn the world upside-down.

Irish Father Shay Cullen, SSC, established the Preda Foundation in Olongapo City in 1974 to promote human rights and the rights of children, especially victims of sex abuse.

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