Negros bishop urges community action as path to peace

May 14, 2024 - 11:51 AM
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Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos. (Diocese of San Carlos)

Amid what he called “persistent unrest” in Negros Island, a Catholic bishop has called for ‘practical steps’ to foster the peacebuilding at the grassroots level.

In a pastoral letter titled “Embracing Our Christian Duty to Work for Integral Peace”, Bishop Gerardo Alminaza of San Carlos outlined a series of actions for parishioners to actively pursue peace and community healing “in these times of turmoil”.

“…The work of peace begins in our homes and radiates outward to the broader community,” Alminaza said.

“We cannot ignore the violence, economic disparity, and social injustices that plague our communities, often hitting the most vulnerable the hardest,” Alminaza said.

These conditions, according to him, “challenge us to respond with a heart full of empathy and a commitment to transformation.”

“Our clergy, religious, and lay faithful stand side by side with the poor, bearing the weight of their suffering. As I visit our parishes, I hear your stories of sorrow and worry, and my heart aches with you,” he added.

The bishop particularly encouraged the parishes and their parishioners to engage in various peacebuilding activities such as facilitating dialogues and community groups to address local tensions.

Other key initiatives, he said, include advocating for policies that protect individuals affected by violence and hunger, and extending support through community service and charitable works.

He also urged the continuation of the nightly ringing of church bells at 8 p.m. as a prayer for peace and for a dialogue among all parties involved in the armed conflict to address the roots of the unrest.

The letter also emphasized the role of Christian values in fostering a compassionate community and highlighted the teachings of Pope Francis on the importance of dialogue and solidarity.

Alminaza concluded his letter with a prayer for peace titled “Peace Prayer of the Icon of ‘Reyna sa Paghidaet’ (Queen of Peace)” which embodies the call for food security, equality, justice, and harmony among different religious and social groups.

The message was read in all Ascension Sunday Masses in all the parishes of the diocese.