July 27, 2019 marks the 105th anniversary of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).
Established in 1914 by Felix Manalo, the church faced its biggest controversy in 2015 as internal conflict among the church leadership and the siblings of executive minister Eduardo Manalo went public. (READ: Revolt in the Iglesia ni Cristo)
Amid accusations of corruption and violence, the INC has not faltered in conducting charitable activities under its Lingap sa Mamamayan program.
What is it and how far has it reached? Here's what you need to know:
The INC launched its Lingap sa Mamamayan (Aid to Humanity) in 1981. It serves as the main humanitarian program of the church.
Since then, the activity has drawn thousands of beneficiaries and donors alike. These programs offer medical, dental, and livelihood services to communities.
The Senate in 2018 adopted a resolution commending the INC’s role in "extending assistance through outreach missions which provide aid and services such as the Lingap sa Mamamayan or Aid for Humanity Program and Worldwide Walk To Fight Poverty, to name a few.”
In 2016, INC spokesperson Edwil Zabala said that the church’s outreach programs are a way to promote understanding and are aligned with the teachings of the Bible.
“Through this we are able to teach first of all the members of the church itself to abide by that biblical doctrine that we must extend assistance to our fellow men in need. Second, it promotes understanding among different faith groups,” he said, citing the INC’s medical and dental mission in a Muslim community in Quezon City.
INC’s outreach programs do not only focus on areas within the Philippines.
In recent years, Lingap sa Mamamayan was conducted in various countries, including the United States, Australia, Canada, Japan, and several key cities in the Middle East and Africa.
In fact, in 2018, the INC extended assistance to 33,000 people in Naoribi, Kenya, and Malawi, according to a Manila Bulletin report.
Tthroughout the years, the church’s outreach program has become a fixture in the Guinness World Records.
Its 2012 Lingap broke 3 records, according to a Philippine Daily Inquirer report, including the world record for the largest dental health check (4,128), biggest number of blood pressure readings (8,026), and biggest number of blood glucose level tests (5,217) – all within 8 hours.
In October 2017, the INC conducted its widest outreach program yet. According to Eagle News, the church offered free services to 104 areas across the country and distributed 400,000 goods for the “historic outreach activity.”
Photo from Iglesia ni Cristo News and Updates on Facebook
Lingap is far from being the only charitable activity of the 105-year-old church. The INC also conducts several fund-raising activities for its beneficiaries.
One fundraiser is the Worldwide Walk to Fight Poverty, which consistently draws large crowds whenever it is conducted. In 2018, more than a million people joined it, resulting in a new Guinness record for the largest human sentence. (READ: 1.2 million Filipinos join Iglesia ni Cristo walk vs poverty)
In February 2014, a Philippine Daily Inquirer report said that around a million people joined a walkathon that aimed to raise funds for the victims of Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) which struck the Eastern Visayas in 2013.
In 2018, the INC donated relief packs to Typhoon Ompong (Mangkhut) victims.
"Members and nonmembers alike were thankful for the help they received as the recent typhoon severely affected their families and their livelihood," the INC said in a Facebook post.
Zabala told Rappler in 2016 that the church also provides assistance to communities that request aid. For example, in November 2015, the INC established an eco-farming community for Kabihug families in Camarines Norte.
“We purchased about 300 hectares [of land] and built 300 houses for the Kabihug community in Camarines Norte. We built a school house for them [and] a training center for livelihood skills,” he said. – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.