Hundreds of students and faculty of Ateneo de Iloilo-Santa Maria Catholic School wore white shirts and lit their candles Friday night, February 24, to show support to the campaign for life, and to demonstrate opposition to death penalty, extrajudicial killings (EJKs), and other forms of social injustice.
The prayer vigil, aptly held at the eve of the 31st year commemoration of EDSA Revolution, was organized by the High School Student Council. It started in the school gym with a lecture-discussion on human rights facilitated in by representatives from Amnesty International, the world’s biggest human rights organization. This was followed by a prayer service, led by the school chaplain Fr. Ruben Orbeta, SJ, that culminated through rosary prayer march, candle lighting rites and community singing at the school rotunda grounds in front of the statue of St. Ignatius of Loyola.
“Today we hold our lighted candles and pray that God will set our hearts on fire to stand for light, to stand for the truth, to stand for justice, and to stand for life,” Fr. Orbeta said, adding, “there is in our land a cry for vengeance and a move to fill up death rows and kill offenders, but disguised as a call for justice; let true and lasting justice spring forth, and let peace prevail.”
Fr. Orbeta added: “We are also standing against historical revisionism as this insults our intelligence as Ateneans and as Filipinos. Our history defines us as to who we are. To know our history is not to allow it (the wrongs of the past) to happen again.”
The Jesuit father also encouraged students, teachers, staff, administrators, and parents in attendance “to be vigilant and to be on fire with passion and zeal to stand up against all forms of social injustices; this is a kind of fire that is worth spreading.”
The vigil ended up with the community singing of EDSA and religious songs “Magkaisa” led by freshman Joeren Karl Tabuada, “Lord Give Me Hope” led by Senior High School (SHS) student Elizabeth Pajemolin, SHS math teacher Faye Margaret Fantilanan and formation officer Memorlin Torrato, and “Handog ng Pilipino sa Mundo” led by the Atenean high school teachers, administrators, and staff.
Meanwhile, 50 high school students also attended the Caravan for Life of the Archdiocese of Jaro in the afternoon of February 24. The students also showed their support to the campaign of the Catholic Church against EJKs and the planned return of death penalty in the country.
Together with other sectors and students from other schools, the caravan started at St. Vincent Ferrer seminary and eventually went around the main thoroughfares of Iloilo City. It all culminated at the Jaro Cathedral for the closing rites.
“As children of God, our mission is to be persons for and with others; this means love and compassion, not violence and vengeance, truth and honesty, not lies and decadence,” Atenean junior Chelsea Lagon said in her speech at the Jaro Cathedral.
“The Ateneo community is one with the Catholic Church in its campaign for life; we will never cease to find solutions that protect the dignity of all people and bring about true reconciliation; we must always remind ourselves about this as this is a concrete manifestation of our faith response as young Christians,” Lagon added. (Article by Herman Lagon; pictures by Johna Belle Agramon and Herman Lagon)