Manila (Fides Service) - “At customs they took away my rosary a small cross and prayer book…but what most offended me was that they broke the crucifix in front of me! Mass on Sunday we can’t even talk about it!”. This is the sad tale of Filipino workers for years in inhospitable theocratic countries where their freedom of conscience and right to have a faith were systematically violated.
A Filipino boy told missionaries in Manila about his sad experience of work abroad in a country where religious freedom does not exist: “I was in trouble if they found even the smallest sign of my Christian faith, if I tried to show my faith! Only when I returned to the Philippines I was able at last to enter a church, for five years I had not been to communion. I forgive them although they made me suffer! They pray to their God on Fridays and I pray to my God on Sundays …no longer in hiding …as if it was a crime! For them I was committing a crime! I am afraid for my sister who is still working there!”
Another boy tells his story: “My employer took away my passport…I had to hide to pray! No day of rest, no Sunday! A friend of mine was beaten because he had a rosary and they did not report him to the police only because the old man he was caring for defended him”.
A girl said she found ways to pray: “I made a rosary with small pieces of bread…and sometimes I would hide with friends to pray. I was always terrified: I kept a small knife under my pillow for fear that my employer might rape me during the night! When I went out of the house I had to be covered from head to foot and be accompanied ”.
A friend of hers said “I was shut in and had to work like an animal as many as 15 or 18 hours a day and in the end they paid me less than they promised. Because we were Christians we were nothing! Why is it that here they are free to pray to their God and in their countries Christian workers are denied this freedom?”.
Missionaries in the Philippines have been told many sad stories which reveal the unjust situation of non existent religious freedom for foreign workers in some countries where there is only one recognised religion.
According to 2004 Report on Religious Freedom in the World issued by Aid to the Church in Need, Saudi Arabia is last on the list for respect for religious freedom. Some say that in some large mosques the Imam even foment division and fracture between religions.
(PA) (Agenzia Fides 2/7/2004 lines 45 words 457)