Dear Pope Francis,
As you made your journey back to Rome, you left us Filipinos with rejuvenated faith and hope, including me. On behalf of the families of the 491 political prisoners in the Philippines, I humbly thank you.
We wished to meet you in person to hand in the letters of hope written by our unjustly imprisoned fathers, mothers, sons and daughters, but your message of solidarity to the poor Filipinos and the challenge you posed to our nation’s leaders are enough to renew our strength and will to fight. We know we are not alone.
[quote_center]We tried to line up along your route from Malacañang to Manila Cathedral, holding banners of gratitude and pleas, but we were blocked by policemen holding truncheons and clubs[/quote_center]
The journey of bringing our cries for justice to your attention and to the public is rejuvenating in itself. We were challenged, questioned and stopped several times. For instance, we tried to line up along your route from Malacañang to Manila Cathedral, holding banners of gratitude and pleas, but we were blocked by policemen holding truncheons and clubs. Those men cannot give us any reason for blocking us aside from their grim faces of suppression. They continuously questioned us whenever they see us holding our banners and even pictures of our loved ones with the word “Free” written on it, as if we were holding an instrument of potential harm. We were not disheartened, for we saw in the eyes of others waiting for you a light of interest and sympathy.
Your Holiness, all 491 political prisoners were on hunger strike, held fast and lit candles to welcome you and enjoin you in their pleas for freedom. The authorities tried to keep their voices from being heard, while you were here, but their voices reverberated beyond the walls of these jails, enough to keep us strengthened.
Dear Pope, my father and all of the political prisoners are not criminals. They are men and women who believe that a better society can exist, beyond the “injustice,” “oppression” and “scandalous inequalities.” How can that be a crime, I asked the courts, the government agencies and even the President? Yet, they do not seem to mind my anguished cries.
[quote_center]Dear Pope, my father and all of the political prisoners are not criminals.[/quote_center]
In the last four days, we have witnessed once again how faith can pull this country together. More importantly, we saw and heard from you how faith can be a powerful instrument of solidarity, of unity. You have inspired us more and hopefully, others who got the chance to listen to you.
“Reality is superior than ideas.” May your strong words of challenge be a unifying ground for all of us. May this pronouncement move our Church and nation’s leaders and, most importantly, every Filipino, to resolutely uproot the causes of poverty and despair. May the value and prime importance of social justice and human dignity be decisively brought to the farthest corners of the most neglected communities.
We welcome and sincerely appreciate Archbishop Antonio Cardinal Tagle’s commitment to bring authenticity to the lessons of this four-day journey with you. Heeding your calls, the church people who are the missionaries for the light of Jesus as Cardinal Tagle called them, will be warmly welcomed to the humble huts of peasants, to the factories of workers, to the slums of the urban poor, to the cramped jails of my father’s and other political prisoners, to the peripheries where we can find the struggling people.
We are encouraged by the efforts of Obispo Maximo Efraim Fajutagana of the Philippine Independent Church and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines to bring to you the letters of political prisoners and their loved ones, the messages of the families of the disappeared and of those who were felled by the military. We hope that you can read them, dear Pope, as they convey our stories ofesperanza, our pained cries, and our longing for a just and lasting peace. It is our fervent wish that one day, we can share these stories with you in person.
We will gladly wait for those affected by your wisdom and enthusiastically carry on our fight until we see that society of authentic justice, solidarity and peace.
Thank you again and we pray as we await your next encounter with the Filipino people!
Nicolette ‘Nikki’ Gamara