Faith-based social development network urges the faithful to make alive the prophetic mission of proclaiming the good news to the poor, challenging the wrong and making it right
Quezon City, Philippines – The Philippine Misereor Partnership, Inc. (PMPI), laments the death of another missionary, human rights defender and prophet of God, Fr. Mark Ventura who was shot in cold blood by riding-in-tandem suspects after celebrating a Mass.
“We are saddened that until now we are clueless as to the reason for the killing. Reports from CBCP said that Fr. Mark is known for his anti-mining and indigenous people’s (IP) rights advocacies in the Cagayan Region. His work mostly challenges those in power. He is among the priests who heeded the challenge of Pope Francis to go the fringes and be with the poor when he took this missionary assignment”, Fr. Edu Gariguez, PMPI Co-Convenor and Executive Secretary of CBCP-NASSA/Caritas Filipinas.
“This killing is senseless. To kill a priest who have chosen to live a life with simple people, in distant and forgotten places to make up for the lack of government presence in the area is preposterous,” Yoly Esguerra, National Coordinator of PMPI said.
But regardless of one’s beliefs or advocacies, no life should be snatched away so boldly and without shame. The brazenness of the killings – in a broad daylight, inside a church, after a holy mass, still in his priestly cloak and in front of children – is in every way repulsive.” Esguerra added.
Fr Mark’s death, reminds us of Fr. Marcelito. “Tito” Paez who was killed in December 2017. Just like Fr. Mark, he was shot mercilessly on the road after visiting jail to help free a political prisoner. Just recently, Sr. Pat Fox was illegally arrested from her missionary home and is now undergoing deportation process over accusation that she engaged in political activities and not missionary work.
These series of killings of human rights defenders have been a source of our deep concern. We can’t help but ask, is this a way to silence critical voices of a sector that can potentially challenge and oppose the rules and policies of those in power? The church despite many internal odds and challenges, have been a consistent moral compass for past leaders and governments.
“We are afraid that Fr. Mark will become just another number in the statistics. For almost two years now, deaths of human rights defenders (HRDs) under this regime has been increasing. But no case has been resolved and no perpetrators have been convicted or imprisoned. The Philippines is the second deadliest country for activists in 2017, according to the Global Witness, a London-based NGO.” Fr Gariguez said.
Local NGOs in Cagayan Region 2, and members of PMPI Northern Luzon cluster are likewise disturbed.
“We are saddened by the death of Fr. Mark; the IPs have lost another ally in their struggle against giant mining companies that from our experience destroy lives and livelihoods of people. This kind of targeted killings sends a very chilling message to people who work with the communities.” Marietta Paragas, Chief Executive Officer of SHONTOUG Foundation said.
“We, the Indigenous peoples, treasure solidarity actions from the church and other NGOs. We will continue to endure the struggle. But it becomes less of a burden when people lends a hand, like the missionary sisters and priests. We will pursue our dreams for our people so that the life lived like that of Fr. Mark will not be in vain.” Roselle Bahni, Executive Director of IGOROTA and Point Person of PMPI Northern Luzon Cluster said.
We demand that the government immediately conduct a thorough investigation on the killing of Fr. Mark and to hold the perpetrators accountable. We demand that government investigate all cases of harassments and killings of HRDs and give justice to the grieving families of victims by sending all those accountable to jail!
Amid series of extrajudicial killings of HRDs, we ask the people to remain steadfast and continue seeking truth. We ask the rights advocates not to be afraid being on the side of the poor and the powerless. We pray and continue to work for miracles in this seeming sea of social chaos. Let not the critical voices perish. Make alive the prophetic mission of proclaiming the good news to the poor, challenging the wrong and making things right.