(A Pastoral Statement on the occasion of the CBCP-NASSA and
the Sustainable Agriculture Network’s 3rd Farmers’ Day)
Dear Beloved People of God:
Our Lord Jesus Christ has a great compassion for the poor. He became poor so that we might become rich with His graces. This preferential option for the poor is greatly manifested in the New Testament. He asked his disciples to Love one another and reminded them that “Whatever you do to the least of my brethren, you do it to me.”
Today, we commemorate the Third Farmers’ Day, a national day of celebration and homage of the Philippine Catholic Church to our Filipino farmers. This day is also the feast of St. Isidore of Labrador, the patron saint of the farmers.
The Filipino farmers who are predominantly poor are the most oppressed and marginalized sector in Philippine society. They work hard all day to provide us with food. The present Philippine situation does not reflect their sacrifices for the country’s economy. They still suffer from feudalism, landlessness, unfair trade practices, usury, and unsafe modern agricultural practices.
On this occasion, Let us remind all the faithful to fervently promote reconciliation and solidarity through societal healing. Let us uphold justice and peace above everything and concentrate on empowering the poor thru equal distribution of wealth and opportunities in our land.
This year’s celebration is even more significant as the United Nations (UN) declared 2004 as the International Year of Rice. The celebration “reflects the importance of rice as primary food source, and is drawn from an understanding that rice-based systems are essential for food security, poverty alleviation and improved livelihoods.”
Around the world, more than one billion farmers are involved in rice production. Most of these farmers live in rural areas of developing countries, and almost three fourths of these are small scale farmers. These farmers share God’s productive activity, by receiving their vocation to work and till the land. They are the good soil in the Parable of the Seed who work tirelessly to make the world a true home for humanity. In the Philippines alone, 2.5 million people are directly involved in rice production, and this figure does not include the people involved in post harvest operations like transporting and marketing the products.
We call on everyone especially the faithful to be vigilant to the plight of our farmers. We must ensure the use of productive property for the common good, and perform our duty to preserve the environment and responsibly use the natural resources with which the Lord has endowed to us. Let us review policies and laws that are anti-poor and oppressive to our farmers. Let us give life back to them. Let us be compassionate about their current situation, and help them achieve full freedom and sustainability. After all their future is also our own.
For the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines:
FERNANDO R. CAPALLA, D.D.
Archbishop of Davao
15 May 2004
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