A plainclothes policeman stands guard as he asks male residents to step out of their homes as police serve a search warrant to a resident in relation to drugs at an informal settler house in Pasig City, suburban Manila on Sept. 5. (Photo by AFP)
The Philippine government's war against illegal drugs has become a challenge to Filipino Catholics, not only to church leaders but to "the people of God" who believe in the sacredness of life and in mercy and compassion.
God's people need to take a stand with those in need of healing, care, and help. Like the parable of the Good Samaritan on the road to Jericho, the drug dependents are stripped of clothing, beaten, and left half dead alongside the road. They need Good Samaritans to care for them.
Few can doubt the dedication and commitment of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte to rid the country of the drug menace.
A U.S. State Department report says the Philippines has one of the highest number of users of illegal drugs in Asia. The Philippines' Dangerous Drugs Board estimated that there are 1.7 million illegal drug dependents in the country.
True believers of Jesus and his teachings of justice, mercy, repentance, and forgiveness must think of the moral issues in Duterte's anti-narcotics war.
The president's war, which has already killed some 3,500 drug addicts and peddlers, has become a call on the conscience and the integrity of Philippine Catholic Church leaders.
"Thou shall not kill," reads the placards displayed outside some churches. Some Catholics have already decided to act and speak to protect life, practice love and mercy, and to heal the wounded.
The teaching of Jesus to protect life has become a challenge in the midst of the killings. Filipino Catholics are called by their faith to take a stand on the issue of justice and due process and the right of people to live and not be shot on the mere suspicion of being a drug addict.
Surveys, however, show that Duterte continues to be popular among the predominantly Catholic Filipinos.
Are Filipinos accepting that the only way to fight drugs is to kill the users and the pushers?
Church leaders have already made a statement.
"Although death is a twin sister born with us on the same day we were born, death by terror and violence, death in the hands of our fellowmen is a sin that cries to heaven for vengeance," read a statement by Archbishop Socrates Villegas, president of the bishops' conference.
Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani, among other Philippine church leaders, appealed to the conscience of authorities to refrain from killing suspected drug users and peddlers.
Taking a stand and speaking out for justice, for what is just and right, for what is true and good is the challenge Filipino Catholics now face.
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.