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In Romblon and Mindoros, IFI does ‘diakonia’ amid COVID-19 crisis

The Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) in the Diocese of Romblon and Mindoros (ROOM) has reached over 3,600 households through its relief efforts.

The diocese has provided the much-needed help in different communities through “Diakonia Task Force for COVID-19,” a group of ROOM’s 29 deacons who would conduct relief operations among families living in poverty or whose breadwinners were left jobless when President Duterte on March 16 proclaimed the whole of Luzon under an enhanced community quarantine (ECQ), colloquially called lockdown.

Diakonia is the biblical Greek word for service (from the verb diakonein, to serve). It is known to theologians as one of the five classic marks of the Church, usually referring to ministries that provide services to oppressed and vulnerable sectors. Also coming from the term is modern-day word deacon (diakonos, servant).

“Since our province is isolated from mainland Luzon and we depend on the supply from nearby provinces like Mindoro, Panay and Luzon, the diocese came up with the plan to have relief operations for the poorest of the poor,” said the Bishop, who is based in the Odiongan Cathedral in Romblon.

Soon enough, the project also reached Mindoro island, whose poor and unemployed also faced similar difficulties.

“Ministering to those in need is our witness of faith and our way of life as Christians. Our humanitarian mission gives expression to our mission as a diocese,” Bishop Fabriquier explained. The 2020 diocesan theme of ROOM is: “Feed, Tend and Lead my Sheep to a Greener Pasture (Jn. 21:15-17).

The Bishop said Diakonia Task Force also took inspiration from Luke 4:16-20, a famous passage in which Jesus reads a portion of the scroll of prophet Isaiah (61:1-2) declaring the Year of the Lord’s Favor. The verse, he explained, is among those cited in “Aglipayan Spirituality,” a document describing the life, work and witness of IFI.

Furthermore, said Bishop Fabriquier, ROOM found a compelling example in the early Christians of Macedonia, whose faithful joyfully contributed to the faith movement despite their poverty. While everyone faces hardships due to the ECQ, there are communities who have it harder.

Now, Diakonia Task Force has conducted upwards of 10 relief operations to various villages, during which they provided relief packs and hot meals to at least 3,621 families. In some instances, they had also provided meals for front liners.

Among others, relief efforts reached communities in Alcantra, Santa Fe, Santa Maria and Ferrol, all in Romblon. Carabao Island, where Romblon recorded its first COVID-19 cases, also received relief packs. Even newly established faith communities, such as a fledgling IFI mission in Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro, benefitted from the ROOM effort.

To jumpstart the mission, Bishop Fabriquier explained, “the diocese allocated half of the Humanitarian Fund 2020 and the deacons of the church solicited for cash and in-kind donations. Likewise, big parishes are being mobilized to do the same as part of incarnating the program of the diocese.”

Faith communities in Calatrava, San Andres, Libertad, Romblon, Limon Norte, Looc, Roxas, Alcantara, Santo Nino, Guinbirayan and San Jose, among others, contributed to the efforts in Romblon. Meanwhile, the church in Roxas, Oriental Mindoro, provided support in Mindoro island.
The Ramento Project for Rights Defenders also contributed to ROOM’s relief efforts.

The diocesan COVID-19 response went beyond the relief efforts. According to the Bishop, they had also used social media to continue evangelizing while Church gatherings are prohibited during the lockdown.

“We have inspirational video clips being uploaded every day through the diocese’s Facebook page to give strength and hope to our members here and abroad,” said Bishop Fabriquier. “Livestreaming of our church services is being done and connected to our local cable channel and even radio network.”

While the relief efforts are underway, ROOM will also begin locally advocating a refocus on medical solutions to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bishop explained. “We will coordinate with the Department of Health, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the local government units for the total eradication of COVID-19 by advocating free mass testing and being very critical of anti-people policies of the government when it comes to health.”

“It is our advocacy,” the Bishop said of the Diakonia Task Force, explaining that ROOM is already looking to institutionalize the program even beyond the COVID-19 pandemic. For now, he noted, all hands are on deck to provide support for families who, by their rights as citizens of the country, deserve help to live a life amid a medical issue never before seen in history.

Those who would like to send support may send to Philippine National Bank Account: “Iglesia Filipina Independiente” (PNB-Odiongan Branch)-241-3100-3960.

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