Manila's poor hold own march to Calvary

'Calvary of the People' highlights suffering of Jesus and parallels to the suffering of the poor
Manila's poor hold own march to Calvary

A woman carries a cross representing the burdens of the poor during the 'Calvary of the People' march in Manila on March 12. (Photo by Mark Saludes) reporter, Manila
April 16, 2019
Residents of urban poor communities in Manila held what they described as a "modern-day march to Calvary" ahead of the traditional Holy Week observance in the predominantly Catholic country.

Carrying crosses labeled "poverty," "dictatorship," "oppression," among others, the protesters walked the streets of the Philippine capital in the fashion of the Way of the Cross.

Youth activists joined the procession carrying banners condemning what they described as the "unprecedented suffering" of the Filipino people under the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a statement, the urban poor group Kadamay said the spate of drug-related killings since Duterte came to power has aggravated the economic condition of the poor.

Human rights groups claim at least 30,000 people, most of whom are from urban poor communities, have been killed in the government's "total war" against illegal drugs since July 2016.

"There is no decent standard of living under a dictator president," said Gloria Arellano, leader of Kadamay.

She said Filipinos will have "a decent life" only if "we combine our strength and faith to oust [Duterte] and pave the way for a better future."

The urban poor leader said the observance of Holy Week "mirrors the situation of the poor that have been carrying the cross of poverty and oppression."

An ecumenical church group working in urban poor communities said the Church should "amplify the cry of the poor" and press the government to address issues affecting the lives of the poor.

Nardy Sabino, secretary-general of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, said the killings, rising prices of goods, and joblessness and landlessness "struck many Filipinos this Lenten season."

"We must raise our voices for every Filipino who is under this disturbing reality," he said, adding that "churches must strongly oppose all policies that further the suffering of the masses."

He said the rising prices of goods and services has affected those earning below the minimum daily wage, which is about US$10 a day.

Father Dionito Cabillas of the Philippine Independent Church said the government’s economic policies had plunged Filipino workers into unemployment. 

Irma Balaba of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines said the government must relieve the people of suffering instead of passing the burden to them.

"Lent is a story of Christ heading towards liberation, not just suffering. His sufferings had liberated the people from sins. That’s what the government should do," said the Protestant pastor.

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The annual "Calvary of the People" highlighted the suffering of Jesus and its parallels to the suffering of the Filipino poor.

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