Role of nuns, priests in rallies seen to get bigger
LUCENA CITY — Expect more priests and nuns to be at protest rallies against street killings related to the drug war and threats of one-man rule by President Rodrigo Duterte, according to one of the leaders of a group of activist priests that resurfaced after almost two decades.
Fr. Robert Reyes, spokesperson for the group Gomburza, said priests, nuns and lay people were encouraged by the resurgence of activism on the streets shown by protest rallies held on Thursday nationwide against summary executions of drug suspects and threats by Mr. Duterte to place the entire country under martial law.
Reyes said members of Gomburza felt a “surge of fresh idealism and stronger love of God and country” as a result of the protest rallies on Thursday, Sept. 21, the 45th anniversary of Marcos’ martial law.
Gomburza, named after three Filipino priests martyred during the Spanish colonization of the Philippines, was founded on Feb. 17, 1977, at the Loyola House of Studies at Ateneo de Manila University at the height of the Marcos dictatorship.
The group became known as the vanguard of Church activism during martial law and came out of “hibernation” to join protests against summary killings and threats of a new martial law by the Duterte administration.
“Older priests felt young and energetic again while the new recruits were inspired by the experience,” Reyes said in a phone interview.
Reyes said he expected the ultraconservative faction of the Church to frown upon the reemergence of Gomburza. The group had been castigated by Church leaders during martial law.
Signs of the times
Reyes, also known as the “running priest” for initiating marathons to raise public awareness on social and political issues, said more priests were expected to join the ranks of militant protesters.
“Gomburza will try to join and close ranks with protesters in future mass actions,” he said.
Inspired by the work of the late Dutch Catholic priest, Fr. Henri Nouwen, Reyes said: “We need to constantly pray, we need to resist and denounce evil in all its forms and finally, we need to build and strengthen [the] community.”
Reyes said getting involved in antigovernment protests was like déjà vu for him.
“We gathered yesterday as we gathered forty years ago to respond to the Gospel of truth, justice, peace and freedom and to follow Jesus, the way, the truth and the life,” Reyes said.