Witness under the
Statement of the Ecumenical
Bishops’ Forum (EBF) on the arrest and detention of Australian
Missionary Sr. Patricia Fox
April 18, 2018
“Be alert and vigilant.
Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for
someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith.” (1 Peter
The Church in the
Philippines lives in perilous times as an increasing number of
clergy, religious and church workers face unspeakable violence and
whose rights are violated by President Rodrigo Duterte’s
administration. Church people who join the pilgrimage of poor
communities and support their struggle for justice, peace and human
dignity suffer state-perpetuated political persecution.
The assault against Sister
Patricia Fox, who is an Australian religious missionary and the
regional superior of the Our Lady of Sion Sisters in the
Philippines, is the most recent blow against church workers and
religious institutions. For the past 27 years, she has immersed
herself in the arms of the toiling Filipino masses and worked
hand-in-hand with farmers, supporting through her prayers and
selfless service their struggle for land and life.
Sr. Pat, as she is known
in the ecumenical community, was illegally arrested by elements of
the Bureau of Immigration at her residence in Quezon City. She was
detained for two days, from April 16 to 17, following allegations of
her participation in political actions against the Philippine
government. The soft-spoken and good-natured missionary nun was
released, following the strong condemnation of faith communities,
the human rights defenders, and members of civil society groups and
The Ecumenical Bishops’ Forum strongly denounces this absurd action
taken by Duterte’s administration against Sr. Pat. We express
outrage at this evil-doing and demand that all politically motivated
harassment against human rights defenders, peace and justice
advocates, political activists, and church workers be put to stop.
We cannot comprehend why
church people become targets of political persecution. When has it
become a crime to accompany the poor and the oppressed in their
struggle? When has it become a crime to preach the words of God and
live-out the works of Christ?
Recent events manifest a
systematic state-sponsored attack on church people. On December 4
last year, Catholic priest Marcelito Paez was killed after
facilitating the release of a political prisoner. On May 11, 2017,
Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop and peace advocate Carlo
Morales was arrested, detained for nearly a year, and was recently
released upon the granting of his bail plea.
We hold the Duterte
government accountable for the many cases, documented or otherwise,
on the persecution of church people. This situation only reveals the
hands of a despotic government that seeks to suppress the Church’s
role as a moral compass of the society.
We vehemently condemn the
mounting cases of political and religious persecution under
Duterte’s tyrannical and dictatorial rule. We demand that this
administration stop the increasing and increasingly hostile attempts
at silencing church people who accompany those that experience far
more greater historical and structural injustices.
The plight of Sr. Pat
sends a chilling message to everyone. The persecution of church
people does not only reveal the sword of a despotic government that
seeks to suppress the Church’s role as a moral compass of society.
It is a demonstration of this administration’s noxious attempts to
criminalize legitimate dissent. This serves as a prelude to more
intensified state perpetuated violence against those who work for
peace, justice and the promotion of human rights.
We, therefore, call upon
all Christians and to all people of good will to boldly resist state
violence and political oppression, and continue to stand up for and
work in solidarity with the poor, deprived and oppressed, so that
justice and peace may reign and life, in all its sanctity and
dignity, can be enjoyed.