Faith and Spirituality

Filipina deaconess wins peace award from World Methodist Council

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Filipina deaconess wins peace award from World Methodist Council

DEACONESS. Norma Dollaga, a Filipina United Methodist deaconess, is the 2024 recipient of the World Methodist Peace Award.

World Methodist Council

United Methodist deaconess Norma Dollaga, recipient of the 2024 World Methodist Peace Award, is one of the founders of a group against drug war killings in the Philippines

MANILA, Philippines – Filipina deaconess Norma Dollaga, known for defending drug war victims in the Philippines, is the 2024 recipient of the peace award from the World Methodist Council.

In its First Friday Letter on Friday, April 5, the World Methodist Council announced that Dollaga received its 2024 Peace Award. The council described her as “a United Methodist deaconess in the Philippines, who for decades has struggled heroically to forge the justice that makes for peace in her conflict-ridden homeland.”

The council said Dollaga “became an outspoken advocate for the right of the poor not to be killed” during the previous administration’s war on drugs. “She and other courageous faith leaders refused to be intimidated by then-president Rodrigo Duterte and other government officials who villainized church leaders and others who spoke up for the poor,” said the group, citing how she organized prayer vigils and memorial services for drug war victims.

Dollaga was one of the founders of the Rise Up for Life and Rights, a group of families of drug war victims. In 2018, Rise Up submitted a 50-page complaint to then-International Criminal Court prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to “call for an end to madness” in Duterte’s anti-drug campaign.

Established in 1881, the World Methodist Council is an association of 80 Methodist, Wesleyan, and other churches with over 80 million members across nearly 140 countries, including the Philippines.

The council has handed out the World Methodist Peace Award since 1976 to recognize men and women of courage, creativity, and consistency, as recipients are given a gilt medallion, a citation, and a cash prize of $1,000. Prominent awardees include former South African president Nelson Mandela (2000) and former United Nations secretary-general Kofi Annan (1998).

In its citation for Dollaga, the World Methodist Council noted how United Methodist deaconesses in the Philippines “are an amazing group of women,” but their contributions inside and outside the church “are often unrecognized by male church leaders.”

According to the United Methodist Church, a deaconess is a laywoman who engages in a “full-time vocation in ministries of love, justice, and service.” Part of their work, following the example of Jesus Christ, is to “eradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity.”

“Frustrated with low pay and outright discrimination, it’s not surprising that many have abandoned their official deaconess status for better pay or more effective work unrelated to the church. Deaconesses have left the church to become pastors, social workers, government officials, and guerrilla insurgents,” the council said.

“Despite the myriad challenges, Dollaga has stayed true to her calling and appointment as a deaconess, and has become an inspiring model for younger deaconesses interested in deepening their Wesleyan witness to personal and social holiness within the Philippines,” the World Methodist Council added. –

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email