Love for God, love for our neighbor, love for the Creation: Our United Witness

(Unity Statement of the NCCP and the CBCP for the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity)

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines mark the 2024 Week of Prayer for Christian Unity through a series of ecumenical observations in regions and provinces including Metro Manila, Negros Occidental, and Rizal from January 18 to 25. These commemorations are united by the theme, “You shall love the Lord your God … and your neighbour as yourself” (Lk 10:27).

The theme, prepared by an ecumenical team from Burkina Faso, West Africa, highlights the call for all Christians to love God and neighbor in the midst of crisis, as exemplified by the story of the Good Samaritan (Lk 10:25-37). In times of fragmentation, it was often understood that the call to love and compassion applies only to one’s own particular faction or interest. The Samaritan in the gospel passage, however, showed that this love and compassion must be extended to all those in need, dismantling any form of barriers. In today’s time of fragmentations, wars, strife, and environmental destruction, this mandate is even extended to the whole created Earth.

Thus, from West Africa to the Philippines, this call unites all Christians to commit themselves into praying and working together for long-lasting peace within and among our kapwa and the entirety of Creation.

In our week of prayer, we are urged to look beyond our walls and comforts, and enlarge the space of our tent (cf. Is 54:2) as a space of communion, a place of participation, and a foundation for ecumenical mission. And thus, leading those in need to the “inn” of God (cf. Lk 10:34) to tend to their wounds and free them from the grip of oppression, poverty, and vulnerability to disasters and calamities.

In our united discernment, we are moved to place love at the center of our quest for peace and reconciliation. In the context of our nation, this quest leads us to stand for truth in times of misinformation, firm conviction in times of corruption, shared sense of humanity in times of hunger and economic strife, peace based on justice and reconciliation in times of war, and compassion for our threatened environment. Faced with these realities, the imperative to witness to the love of God becomes even more pressing.

Inspired by the example of God’s inclusive love, we will continue to seek lasting peace in our nation in every opportunity that may arise. Thus, we convey high hopes that barriers to peace in our country be resolved through dialogues and negotiations. We also echo the words of Pope Francis “to leave behind our divisions and unite our forces” in the midst of the climate crisis and environmental devastation in order to “turn our common future into the dawn of a new and radiant day.”

Just as the Samaritan brought the wounded man to the inn, we welcome the year with a renewed commitment to extend love and reconciliation to our wounded kapwa and to our inang kalikasan, to tend to their brokenness, and help restore them to peace.