Albay Bishop Baylon reiterates call vs EJKs
LEGAZPI CITY — The head of the Diocese of Legazpi reiterated on Sunday his call for the Catholic faithful to unite against extrajudicial killings (EJKs) in the government’s war on drugs after his appeal against the violence in an open letter last year to President Duterte was “ignored.”
For the second time, Bishop Joel Baylon issued a pastoral letter against EJKs that was read during Sunday masses in 47 churches across the province of Albay.
“Let us unite to stop the killings in our communities!,” Baylon said in his pastoral letter titled “Stop the Killings, Start the Healing: A Call to Action.”
Baylon said almost a year ago, he wrote an open letter to Mr. Duterte asking him to order that these extrajudicial killings be stopped, investigated, and those responsible arrested and brought to justice.
Deaf ears, stony hearts
“It seems that our appeal fell on deaf ears and stony hearts,” Baylon said, adding that the recent murders of several youngsters and attempts to restrain the promotion of human rights have awakened the consciences of many.
“As pastors, we turn to you, our people, and commit to journeying with you in this time of darkness and bloodshed toward the building of a more just and humane society, with Christ and His Gospel as our guiding light,” Baylon said.
The pastoral letter said the government’s war on drugs had claimed several thousands of lives.
“Truth has been perverted both in social media and in official government statements,” it added.
The statement claimed that the democratic institutions have been assaulted far more than the promise of reform, corruption has become even more rampant with the loss of transparency and accountability in government.
“Aside from the killings that continue unabated, another grave scandal in our communities is the fact that there are Christians who support the policy of killings and find various justification for them,” the pastoral letter stated.
“We need to regain our trust in government so we can work together for the good of all, but this can only happen when the rule of law, truth-telling and accountability have become once again the norm in governance,” Baylon said.
Baylon said the diocese called on their parishes, schools, media outlets and social media accounts to be platforms for truth-telling, venues for dialogue.
“We shall teach the young to shun illegal drugs, and also to uphold the life and dignity of the human person,” Baylon said.
The pastoral letter also warned that the church would speak out and mobilize when in the process of change, human rights are trampled upon, the rule of law set aside and democratic institution destroyed.
The Prayer at Nine, accompanied by the ringing of church bells at 9 p.m., would continue as the Diocese of Legazpi joined the nationwide 40 Days of Prayer for the Dead that started on Sunday until Nov. 1 this year.
Church bells in Albay have been tolling every 9 p.m. since December last year, demonstrating the appeal to Mr. Duterte to take action in putting a stop to the alleged killing of people in the government’s war against illegal drugs. —With a report from Tina G. Santos
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