Church group: After Pope’s visit, what now?

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QUEZON City, Jan. 26, 2015— Pope Francis has come and gone, what happens next?

Days after Pope Francis captured the hearts of Catholics and other people of faith, an ecumenical group raises this question, reminding the government of its duty to push for genuine reforms that will improve the lives of the poor.

The Holy Father is greeted by crowds a few hours before departing from Villamor Airbase, Jan. 19, 2015. (Photo: Roderick Cruz)

The Holy Father is greeted by crowds a few hours before departing from Villamor Airbase, Jan. 19, 2015. (Photo: Roderick Cruz)

“Where do we go from here? With approximately 70% of the population coming from the sector of peasants and farm workers who largely comprise the country’s marginalized poor, Pope Francis’ guidance on the centrality of the poor in the Gospel message, sets a clear priority to support and join in solidarity with the landless farmers,” notes Nardy Sabino, executive secretary of Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) in a statement.

Biblical tradition

Quoting the Holy Father, he says: “It bids us break the bonds of injustice and oppression which give rise to glaring, and indeed scandalous, social inequalities.”

According to the pontiff, the great Biblical tradition enjoins everyone to hear the voice of the poor.

Sabino laments landlessness, high usury, and feudal relations to land are realities today’s farmers still grapple with 28 years after the “Mendiola Massacre”, which marked its 28th year recently.

“Thirteen farmers died from gunshot wounds and more than were fifty wounded when protesters aired their legitimate concern for genuine agrarian reform to a landed Pres. Corazon Aquino, who had been propelled into office by a broad, pro-democracy movement. Not a single person faced the bar of justice for [the] horrifying crime, committed with clear lines of accountability pointing to the highest leader of the land,” he says.

‘Climate of impunity’

“To this day,” Sabino continues, “widows, children, family, and supporters continue to fight for justice.”

He points out that amid failed prosecution, harassment of witnesses and families, promotions of suspected perpetrators from the ranks of military and police, and the continuing climate of impunity, the people’s struggle continues to be relevant.

Sabino asserts PCPR has witnessed grave human rights violations against proponents of genuine land reform, especially what he describes as the “stark reality” in Hacienda Luisita, Hacienda Looc, and other land monopolies that allegedly characterize the feudal relations and resource ownership in the country, which run contrary to what the Gospel teaches: service to the poor.

“When justice is served to those afflicted, land is given to the tillers and the fruits of our labor, especially benefits the least of our brothers and sisters. When social justice prevails, human dignity is respected. With this, a national goal of “authentic justice, solidarity and peace,” as Pope Francis puts it, is within reach,” he stresses. (Raymond A. Sebastián/CBCP News)

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