Filipino Catholics are difficult to convince to help prisoners or the church's prison ministry because of the "stigma" of crime associated with people behind bars, according to a Jesuit priest who works with inmates. "Who would want to give money to those who have killed someone, raped, or robbed?" said Jesuit Father Roseller Atilano of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service. The priest was speaking at the start of the observance of Prison Awareness Week on Oct. 23 in Manila. Father Atilano said the prison ministry is "not an attractive ministry" in the church compared to other social ministries. He said it is easier to convince people to help "cute little orphans," street children, or abandoned members of society than to extend assistance to criminals. "It is easy to forget them," said Father Atilano. "To the minds of the people, people deprived of liberty are criminals and deserve to suffer behind bars," he added. He said that because of the mistakes people in prison committed they are not treated like human beings with dignity. "Because of this reality, they are easily forgotten," added the priest. He said the reason Prison Awareness Week is observed by the church is for Catholics to overcome the stigma and for them to be more generous to the needs of inmates. Father Atilano said his ministry hopes to send the message that those deprived of their liberty because of their offenses can be given a chance to become productive members of society.
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