By MARYA SALAMAT
MANILA — Church leaders and workers nationwide are preparing to gather in a national conference set for the middle of next month in Cebu City. This, they said in a statement, is also in celebration of the 30th anniversary of Blessed John Paul II’s encyclical Laborem Exercens (on Human Work) which was first published on September 14, 1981.
Garry Martinez, chairman of Migrante International, and Bishop Gerardo A. Alminaza, D.D., conveners of the “National Conference of Church People and Workers”, said they aim “to deepen the church people’s understanding of the workers’ plight, to forge wider and stronger unity, and make resolutions for concrete action in advancing workers’ rights.”
This coming together of Church leaders and labor leaders has been dubbed as a Church People-Workers’ Solidarity (CWS), to advance the needs and welfare of “our brothers and sisters– the workers,” said Bishop Alminaza. He explained that doing this is “in honor of Blessed JP II’s Laborem Exercens (LE) which declared that the Church is committed to be in solidarity with the workers, to become truly a Church of the Poor.”
CWS conveners include labor leaders, Roman Catholic Church leaders such as the incoming Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) President Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma, Jaro Auxiliary Bishop Gerardo Alminaza, CBCP National Secretariat for Social Action (NASSA) Director Bishop Broderick Pabillo, and ecumenical church leaders such as Iglesia Filipina Independiente Supreme Bishop Ephraim Fajutagana.
Following God by uniting with the marginalized
CWS conveners said the solidarity group aims to propagate the social teachings of the church on labor, business and the economy as well as contribute “in the quest for the improvement of workers’ conditions.”
CWS Convener Bishop Gerardo Alminaza explained that “God’s supreme commandment is to love God and our neighbor. Thus, uniting with our marginalized brothers and sisters is a Gospel imperative.”
He added that Blessed John Paul II’s Laborem Exercens itself “affirms the dignity of work (based on the dignity of workers as co-creators of God), the priority of labor over capital, and the promotion of workers’ rights over profit.”
Amid the worsening conditions of Filipino workers, the upcoming national conference of leaders from the church and labor is very “timely”, said CWS Convenor Garry Martinez of Migrante. He blamed the “globalization policies such as flexibilization of labor, outsourcing and the labor export policy” for widening the gap between the rich and poor.
“The government has pegged wages at very minimal rates, causing hunger and deepening the misery of the marginalized sectors,” Martinez said.
Also helping to convene the CWS are the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP) Co-Chairs Fr. Quirico Pedregosa Jr., O.P. and Mo. Mary John Mananzan, OSB; National Council of Churches in the Philippines; Fr. Jose Dizon of the Workers Assistance Center; Msgr. Rommel Kintanar, HP of the Visayas Clergy Discernment Group and Msgr. Rey Manuel Monsanto, JCD, HP, of the Archdiocese of Cagayan de Oro.