HomeNewsIba bishop calls for action-oriented social justice to empower Indigenous communities

Iba bishop calls for action-oriented social justice to empower Indigenous communities

Bishop Bartolome Santos of Iba has urged church leaders to recognize the urgent need for concrete actions that advance social justice and empower Indigenous communities.

In his keynote address at the 41st National Social Action General Assembly last week in the southern Philippine city of Iloilo, the prelate highlighted the Church’s role in addressing the structural inequalities faced by marginalized groups, particularly the Indigenous People. 

“Faith and love for the poor communities demand actions. That is where social justice comes in,” Bishop Santos said. 

He underscored that the Church’s mission should extend beyond charity to involve deep engagement with communities.

“In empowering the poor communities, we must start with evangelizing them, forming deep connections, and understanding their culture and needs,” he said. 

“It is not just the bishop, the priest, the missionaries, or the laity who empower them—it is God whom we worship. Our mission is to ensure that our actions reflect this divine empowerment,” he added. 

Bishop Santos shared personal experiences with the Aetas Indigenous group in Zambales province, describing the significant challenges they face. 

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These include long, dangerous journeys at night to bring their produce to market, often for minimal financial return. He highlighted the unfair trading practices that contribute to their economic hardships.

To address these issues, Bishop Santos proposed creating local markets for Indigenous produce and establishing profit-sharing models to ensure fair compensation. 

He emphasized the importance of long-term empowerment and self-sufficiency rather than just providing immediate aid.

“You can just imagine, five to eight hours of walking at night, crossing rivers and lahar, just to receive 10 pesos per kilo, 15 pesos per kilo in season. They persevere in life because they work together, even in the face of isolation,” he noted. 

The prelate called for social action that goes beyond charity, advocating for structural changes that would empower the poor. 

“To empower the poor communities, where do you begin? Where do you really start to empower poor communities? I hope we really have to start evangelizing them,” he said.

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