Huge Iglesia event seen to draw 1.6M
MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) – To help the poor and to attract more followers, the influential Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) on Monday, October 14, holds a medical mission in the National Capital Region (NCR) that is seen to draw 1.6 million people.
The medical mission, called “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” (My Countrymen, My Brethren), is part of the religious group's countdown to its centennial in 2014.
“'Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko' (My Countrymen, My Brethren) is a reinvigorated initiative of the present Church Administration to carry out the Church’s two-fold mission of edifying its flock and evangelizing the world,” the INC said in the official website of the outreach program.
“Helping others has always been a priority of the Iglesia ni Cristo,” the religious group added.
Speaking to the INC-run Net 25, INC minister Bro Edwil Zabala denied speculations that the event was the INC's show of force.
"Hindi po. Sa tuwing ang Iglesia ni Cristo po ay magsasagawa ng Lingap sa Mamamayan, nagbibigay tayo ng serbisyong medikal-dental, at maging ng relief goods sa mga kababayan. Pagkatapos po noon, ang pinakatampok po, paghahayag ng Salita ng Diyos. Wala pong bahid 'yan ng, gaya po ng binabanggit ng iba, show of force. Ito po ay bilang pagsunod sa kalooban ng Diyos na nasa Bibliya," Zabala said.
(No. Whenever the Iglesia ni Cristo holds the Lingap sa Mamamayan, we provide medical and dental services, and even relief goods to our countrymen. Then, after this, the main event is the preaching of the Word of God. That doesn't have a trace of what others call a show of force. This is done to follow the will of God that is in the Bible.)
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He added that the residents of Manila requested the event. "Sila ay nangangailangan ng tulong, ng kalinga, at 'yun nga po ang tinutupad ngayon ng Iglesia ni Cristo bilang pag-ibig sa ating kapwa." (They need help, care, and that's what the Iglesia ni Cristo fulfills as a form of love for others.)
On the traffic congestion that the event caused, Zabala said: "Patuloy tayong humihingi ng paumanhin at pang-unawa po sa mga kababayan natin na naapektuhan." (We continue to apologize and appeal for understanding from our countrymen affected by the event.)
The City of Manila expects 1.6 million people to attend Monday's event, though it is unclear if this includes non-INC members.
In a press conference on Monday, Zabala said the INC has held 19 such medical missions since April 13, when the program was launched a day after the INC founder's 50th death anniversary.
The minister said 15 million people have attended the different Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko events.
The biggest Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko event drew 2.5 million people in Davao City, Zabala said.
The INC achieves two objectives through the event.
On the medical mission's website, the INC said their primary objective is “to express love and compassion to their fellowmen by extending help especially in time of need.”
Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko involves distributing free medicines, providing free medical and dental check-ups, and handing out relief goods.
It also involves preaching. INC members distribute religious pamphlets, for instance, while participants listen to Bible study sessions onstage.
Photos on the program's Facebook page show people of all faiths, including Muslims, attending the event.
“The Iglesia ni Cristo's help for our countrymen extends to our Muslim friends, who, even (if they) have (a) far different faith from us, were convinced by our brothers and sisters to listen to Iglesia ni Cristo's doctrines of true words of God,” the organizers said in a post last August 7.
Similar events have drawn politicians as well.
A post on the program's official Facebook page, dated August 3, shows Cavite Gov Jonvic Remulla attending the Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko. “Joining the other Caviteños, they attentively listen to the Bible study which is one of the church's missionary activities.”
Politicians have wooed the 2.25-million-strong INC, which engages in bloc voting. READ: INFOGRAPHIC: What you should know about the Iglesia ni Cristo.
The INC endorsed President Benigno Aquino III, who was elected in 2010.
It also backed the candidacy of Joseph Estrada, who won a landslide victory in 1998. Estrada is now the mayor of Manila, which is hosting Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko on Monday.
Up to 1.37 million voters belong to the INC, based on estimates in 2013. This is almost the same number of registered voters in the provinces of Rizal (1.38 million) and Nueva Ecija (1.36 million).
A former Catholic, the late Felix Manalo founded the INC on July 27, 1914 after he became dissatisfied with Catholicism. The group has since gained a national and even worldwide following. – Rappler.com