Advocate for the rights of indigenous people

AMDG      The Blood of the Martyrs is the Seed of the Church… (Tertullian)

Father Fausto Tentorio was killed yesterday morning, just minutes after celebrating Mass in Mindanao, Southern Philippines, as he was leaving to meet with the other priests of the diocese, at the bishop’s house. According to eyewitnesses, his murderer, with the sense of security that belongs to those who have powerful patrons, approached him and shot him twice in the head. Then he calmly left on his motorcycle, his face covered by a helmet. An autopsy report said he was shot eight times.

According to Asia News – he was a priest commited and loved by his parishoners.  Long pastoral visits by motorbike, by car or on horseback to visit the most isolated tribal groups, sleeping on a mat on the floor, eating the poor things of the natives to build a church where being foreign or local does not create unfair exclusion or differences; also a commitment to the education of children and adults.

Mindanao has long been an active area of both radical Muslim groups and the rump of the Communist groups that fought Marcos.  Kidnappings are common here.  However in this case there is no evidence that Fausto was killed by either groups, in fact the The Moro Islamic Liberation Front condemned the killing, calling it a sign of degeneration of morality and spirituality in the country. News agency UCA News reported town councilor Leonardo Reovoca  said Father Tentorio had been an active law and order campaigner in Arakan and recently was appointed as head of a civilian anti-crime task force in the town. “I am a witness to Father Tentorio’s strong stance against mining and other projects which are not sustainable and would harm and affect the indigenous peoples, in particular,” he said.

I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan

Yesterday we also remembered the 15th anniversary of the death of Richie Fernando.  A young Filipino Jesuit working in Cambodia as a teacher in a technical school for the handicapped, often landmine victims. Among Richie’s students was Sarom, a sixteen-year-old boy who was a victim of a landmine.  He wanted to finish his studies there but he was asked to leave by the school authorities for his disruptive attitude. According to Richie, Sarom was tricky but he still had a place for him in his heart. On October 17, 1996, Sarom came to the school for a meeting. Angered, he suddenly reached into a bag he was carrying, pulled out a grenade, and began to move towards a classroom full of students. Richie came up behind Sarom and grabbed him, he accidentally dropped the grenade and in a flash, Richie was dead.

Four days before he died, Richie wrote to a friend in the Philippines, “I know where my heart is, It is with Jesus Christ, who gave his all for the poor, the sick, the orphan …I am confident that God never forgets his people: our disabled brothers and sisters. And I am glad that God has been using me to make sure that our brothers and sisters know this fact. I am convinced that this is my vocation.” Shocked by what he had caused, Sarom sat in his jail cell and mourned too. In March 1997, Mr. and Mrs. Fernando wrote to Cambodia’s King Sihanouk, asking for pardon for Sarom; somehow, someone had to stop the violence. Sarom had not wanted to kill Richie. “Richie ate rice with me,” he said. “He was my friend.”