[OPINION] Human rights advocacy: An integral part of the Church’s mission
APR 3, 2021 11:00 AM PHT
AMADO L. PICARDAL
‘In spite of these violations of human rights, there seems to be hesitation to speak out on the part of the Church and among religious’
“We pray for those who risk their lives while fighting for fundamental rights under dictatorships, authoritarian regimes, and even in democracies in crisis.”
– Prayer of Pope Francis
In an interview last October 2020, the newly-appointed archbishop of Manila, Cardinal Jose Advincula, asserted that “protecting human rights is neither optional nor secondary but must be at the heart of the Church’s mission…. The Church must see to it that the human dignity and the human rights of the people are respected.”
Is the promotion and defense of human rights really part of the Church mission? This question is relevant at a time when there are gross violations of human rights all over the world even during this time of the pandemic. At the moment, the attention of the world is focused on Myanmar where over 400 peaceful anti-coup protesters have been shot by the police and military. The UN has condemned the gross violation of human rights in Myanmar.
The UN Human Rights Council, the International Criminal Court, and other international organizations have also expressed concern about human rights violations in the Philippines. There are over 33,000 victims of extrajudicial killings perpetrated by the police, military, and death squads. The killings continue even during the pandemic. Many of the victims are poor, accused of pushing or using drugs. Also among the victims are activists, trade union leaders, environmentalists, media people, peasant leaders, leaders of indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, lawyers, priests, and pastors. Those who oppose and criticize the government are “red-tagged.” Opposition politicians and journalists have been imprisoned. Those who violate lockdown restrictions have been imprisoned and some shot to death.