Catholic and Protestant Church leaders in the Philippines called for unity in the face of “difficult times” and ahead of this year’s national elections.
“With elections only months away, we must all take courage to work together, honoring life and God’s creation,” read a joint statement released on Tuesday, January 18.
The statement was signed by by Bishop Reuel Norman Marigza of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines and Archbishop Angelito R. Lampon of the Episcopal Commission on Ecumenical Affairs of the Catholic bishops’ conference.
They said the country is in a “Kairos moment” and urged “active citizenship among our people and insist upon servant leadership from those who desire our votes in the May 2022 national polls.”
“In Christian unity, our prophetic voice and firm stand for Christ-like conduct and life-affirming principles will enable us to join with other Filipinos in discerning who should lead the country,” said the bishops.
“In these trying times, we must also guard against the powers of darkness that will seek to defraud, deceive, and destroy God’s intended goodness for the Filipino people,” they added.
“Let us be like ‘city on hill’ that cannot be hidden,” read the statement, quoting the Gospel of Matthew 5:14.
“As a community that evangelizes through active participation in the democratic process, we can lead by example, reflecting Christ’s love and joining in a journey toward our desired future, where justice, righteousness, and peace will take root and God’s Shalom will flourish among us,” said the bishops.
The statement was issued as Christians around the world mark the “Week of Prayer for Christian Unity” from January 18-25, between the feasts of St Peter and St Paul.
The Philippines’ religious leaders reaffirmed that “Christ’s light guides our journey” as they face “days of struggle, hardships, and despair.”
They said that with super typhoon “Odette (Rai)” and the Omicron variant of the coronavirus straining the capacities of local communities and families, “Christians must unite in solidarity with the most vulnerable among us.”
“The Filipino people are in need of accompaniment and aid in these difficult times,” said the bishops.
They said that as a nation, the Philippines is “also challenged to rise against widespread killings and call for accountability for so-called ‘tokhang’ and ‘anti-insurgency’ operations.”
“The very dignity of life has been violated, as many have been extra-judicially killed,” they said.
“Falsehoods and evil peddled through strong-arm governance have not only limited democratic space, but they have led to corruption, scandals and serious shortcomings in social, health, education and other government services,” said the bishops.
They added, however, that “such realities must strengthen our resolve and unite our common concern for the people of this land.”
“Like the Magi of old, we are on a journey towards a better way. The better way is to completely change our old ways and bad habits,” they added.
“Christ is the beacon that summons us to move towards hope. Jesus’ light rises as our guide in a common quest for God’s Shalom, which is Peace based on justice, love, righteousness, freedom, democracy and dignity of life,” said the bishops.
They then reiterated their resolve to “offer ourselves in service to the poor, the marginalized, and to the toiling majority who are striving for more prosperous and peaceful futures.”
“We commit to nurturing ecological integrity, both because this is a right thing to do and because such action can lessen the probability of extreme climate events and dangerous pandemics,” they said.
“Together, we celebrate our Christian unity and affirm our deepest desire to participate in a common journey while working and praying together that will bring us to a place where all creation will sing of God’s goodness and will live in harmony and peace,” said the country’s religious leaders.