Fr. Herbert F. Fadriquela Jr. is Chaplain to the Filipino Community in the Diocese of Leicester in the Church of England.
Fr Herbert comes from the Philippines and was ordained into the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (Independent Church of the Philippines) where among many roles he was Director of IFI-VIMROD (The IFI Visayan-Mindanao Regional Office for Development) which facilitates the formation of people’s organisations for community development.
Fr Herbert’s immersion in the rural communities gave him a lesson: food insecurity is one of the glaring issues confronting every day the peasants and indigenous peoples. Majority of the peasants do not own sufficient land to produce crops and match their household needs while the ancestral lands of the indigenous people are converted into mining area.
The poor today are confronting us with the issue of justice. The poor now struggle to overcome poverty by challenging the structures of power that keep them poor. Food must be accompanied with dignity and responsibility; which dole-outs cannot give. They have also come to realize that development programs that fail to alter structures of power cannot be sustained in the long run.
Fr Herbert, challenged and inspired by the Letter of James: “If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill’, and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” James 2:15-17, has never turned his back to the least, the lost and the last in the Philippines society. “Since, then I began to get involve and struggle with the landless farmers for genuine land reform and with the indigenous people for their right to self-determined development. This is my participation to the saving act of God to protect life and livelihood and sustain his creation. ”, says Fr Herbert.
The Philippines is a hugely diverse and resource rich country. The huge impact of mining in the Philippines means indigenous farmers cannot access, control or manage their land and resources. The mining industry has led to environmental degradation, the destruction of agricultural farms and the depletion of water sources.
The IFI and other churches in the Philippines are supporting mining-affected communities and lobby for change at both national and international levels.
But being in the front line of defending the environment in the Philippines is very dangerous. The recent report of Global witness put the Philippines as the most dangerous country for environmental activists. (https://www.rappler.com/nation/236604-philippines-deadliest-country-environmental-activists-2018)
In Philippine society today a major issue is the growing number of human rights abuses sanctioned by the government. This worrying situation has reached the United Nations, as “the United Nations Human Rights Council says it will investigate alleged crimes committed during the Philippine government’s war on drugs, and passed a resolution mandating a detailed written report on allegations of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and arbitrary arrests“ (https://www.npr.org/2019/07/11/740894175/u-n-human-rights-council-to-investigate-abuses-in-philippines-antidrug-war?t=1564407960942) of which the Philippine government immediately responded with a resounding “No!”