In a world characterized by what seems to be an irreconcilable conflict between rulers and ruled, between rich and poor, between oppressor and oppressed, the Blessed Virgin Mary’s prayer remains relevant as ever. In the Philippines, the month of May is an occasion for children to offer flowers to the Virgin Mary in a tradition called the "Flores de Mayo," or Flowers of May. It is a month-long daily celebration. It can be noted too that Mothers' Day is also celebrated during the month. This year, the centenary of the apparition of Our Lady of Fatima was also celebrated in May. Pope Francis canonized two children who claimed to have seen the Virgin Mary, bringing together Catholics from around the world to Rome. The Virgin Mary continues to be at the center of the Catholic faith, especially for many Filipinos who have a profound devotion to the Mother of Jesus whom the faithful trust to intercede for them. The significance of Mary in the lives of Filipinos brings us back to the Magnificat.
As a hymn and a recitation of praise, Mary’s prayer remains as relevant as ever. In the Philippines, as in many Asian countries, the status of women in society remains generally low. While they are labeled as biological co-creators of humanity, they are unjustly treated and bereft of opportunities that men enjoy. According to the United Nations, only 50 percent of women of working age are in the labor force. Added to this, women are the targets of sexual violence. In India for instance, marital rape is not regarded as rape. The international community looked upon India with critical eyes during the Third Cycle of the Universal Periodic Review in the U.N., when other countries noted gender violence as among issues confronting the Asian nation. In the Catholic Philippines, women whose husbands became victims of killings and enforced disappearances bear the brunt of the devastation caused by the government's attempt to negate life’s sanctity especially in its war against drugs. A recent sharing of experiences of women family members of victims of drug-related killings and those whose loved ones disappeared during the years of martial law surfaced common pains that generated solidarity among families of victims. Like the grieving Mary embracing her dead son after the crucifixion, these women also lost their husbands and sons. And like Mary who turned grief into hope and courage, these grieving women can only imitate her faith and strength, albeit difficult amidst the political situation in the country. The apparition of the Virgin Mary a hundred years ago to the children in Fatima showed her option for the poor. Poor Filipino women who are widowed and the children orphaned by drug-related killings, need to make the Blessed Mother's intercession real in their lives. With the sorry state of human rights in the country, where the value of human life is reduced to nothing, the Filipino people need some kind of miracle like what happened in Fatima a hundred years ago. The Blessed Virgin’s Magnificat
declaring that the Lord will "put down the mighty from their thrones" and "exalt the lowly" is as relevant as ever in the context of the despicable violations of human rights in the Philippines in these days of killings. Mary Aileen Bacalso is secretary-general of the Asian Federation Against Involuntary Disappearances. For her commitment to the cause of the disappeared, the government of Argentina awarded her the Emilio Mignone International Human Rights Prize in 2013.
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