Tagle on refugees: Don’t play blind, deaf, mute

Paterno Esmaquel II
Filipinos should ‘return the favor’ because other countries also welcome migrant workers from the Philippines, another bishop says

WAKE-UP CALL. Images of 3-year-old Aylan Kurdi, a toddler who died along with other refugees, stir emotions around the world. Photo courtesy of EPA

MANILA, Philippines – Manila Archbishop Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle said Catholics should not play “blind, deaf, and mute” to the needs of refugees, as Pope Francis urged his flock to help in addressing Europe’s refugee crisis.

In a recent homily, Tagle pointed out that refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Libya have fled to Europe to escape their conflict-stricken countries – only for many of their boats to sink.

Lumulubog, pero maraming parang walang naririnig, walang nakikita, walang sinasalita, hanggang napukaw ang imahinasyon ng mundo doon sa larawan ng bata,” Tagle said in the homily, part of which was quoted by church-run Radyo Veritas on Monday, September 7.

(They’re sinking, but many people played deaf, blind, and mute, until the world’s imagination was stirred by the image of the child.)

Tagle was referring to the heart-rending pictures of the lifeless body of Aylan Kurdi, 3, who is believed to be one of at least 12 Syrians who died when their boats sank trying to reach Greece. 

The images of Kurdi, lying face down in the surf at one of Turkey’s main tourist resorts, has once more put a human face to the dangers faced by tens of thousands of desperate people who risk life and limb to seek a new life in Europe.

Referring to Kurdi’s father, Tagle said: “Ang sabi ng kanyang ama, ‘Ano pa ang saysay ng buhay ko wala na ang aking buong pamilya?’ Salamat na lamang sa larawan na ‘yun, maraming naantig.” 

(His father said, “What’s the use of my life now that I’ve lost my entire family?” Thanks to that picture, many people were touched.)

‘We return the favor’ 

Tagle – also the president of Caritas Internationalis, the world’s biggest network of Catholic charities – added that he was “very happy” when he learned that the former prime minister of Hungary was trying to help. 

Hungary’s former prime minister, Ferenc Gyurcsány, and his family have taken in “groups of refugees who spend a night or two at his home,” the BBC reported.

‘Yung kanyang gobyerno ngayon ay hindi malaman ano ba ang gagawin. Pero siya, nagdesisyon na bubuksan ‘yung kanyang bahay para sa mga refugees. Siya ang nagluto, dinala niya sa doktor ‘yung isang batang maysakit,” Tagle said.

(His government now doesn’t know what to do. But he decided to open his own house for the refugees. He was the one who cooked, and he also brought to the doctor a child who was sick.)

The cardinal continued, “Kaya pala naman natigilan na ang pagiging bingi, bulag, at pipi.” (This is why playing deaf, blind, and mute has stopped.)

Tagle issued this message as the Pope on Sunday, September 6, called on every Catholic parish in Europe to take in a refugee family. 

Balanga Bishop Ruperto Santos, who heads the migrants’ ministry of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), responded to the Pope’s call by urging Filipinos to donate to refugees. 

Santos said as quoted by CBCP News: “This is for us to show that Filipinos are caring people and in solidarity with those who are suffering and in need. Let’s help in our own little way.”

Other countries, after all, also welcome the Philippines’ migrant workers. 

“So we reciprocate,” Santos said. “We return the favor. We open our hearts and hands to accept and pray for them. We offer what we can offer.” – with reports from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.