Not too long ago, Filipinos thronged the streets of Metro Manila and endured stormy weather in typhoon-ravaged Tacloban. They waited for up to several hours in hopes of catching even a glimpse of Pope Francis, who was visiting the Asian bastion of the Roman Catholic faith for the first time.
The selection of the Argentine as pontiff was the best thing to happen in a long while to the Catholic Church. Popular because of his simplicity and common touch, Pope Francis made the Church accessible, winning over even lapsed Catholics. During his visit, millions of Filipinos exuberantly celebrated the virtues of the faith and the inherent goodness of every human being.
From that passionate celebration of life just two years ago, what has happened to the country? On this day of the risen Christ, celebration is difficult for thousands of families. Instead, mourning and fear, and possibly helpless rage pervade their households. While they might recognize the miracle that is the return of Jesus Christ from the dead, which fulfilled the promise of redemption for the sins of mankind, no miracle can bring back the thousands who have died in an unprecedented brutal war on the drug menace.
As troubling as the drug killings is the public’s forbearance for the bloody war. This is hard to reconcile with what the people celebrated during Pope Francis’ visit – values that are supposed to be held inviolable in a democratic, predominantly Christian country. Today, compassion, charity and humanity seem to be in short supply in Philippine society.
And yet hope is another virtue that runs strong in this country. On Easter Sunday, those celebrating the miracle of the Resurrection can commit to stop the nation’s descent into a culture of death. Easter should inspire a reawakening of mercy and the belief that everyone deserves a second chance.
A blessed Easter to all!