08/25/2019 Philippines (International Christian Concern) – Like many other church workers in the central Philippine province of Negros, Zara Alvarez could potentially lost her life for standing alongside poor farmers. Yet, the threat of death will not stop her from doing her work.
According to UCA News, Zara works for the Church-Workers Solidarity group in San Carlos Diocese, which brings her to the peripheries where farmers who fight a daily struggle to survive live in a place that can only be described as hell on earth.
Many of the 87 farmers and human rights activists killed by gunmen in the province over the past two years were Zara’s friends. Their death was hard for Zara to swallow. She wanted to question God, but there was so little time to grieve, as she had to pick herself up and assist the families of “extrajudicial killing victims.”
Pain didn’t stop there. Last month, Zara was again hit when she learned at least 20 people were killed in the province known as the country’s sugar bowl for its vast sugarcane plantations.
“Every time my phone rang, I know someone had died,” she said.
And the threat came to her last month. On July 20, an anonymous call informed Zara Alvarez was the next target, and “we’ll get rid of all the members of the National Union of People’s Lawyers,” said the caller, before adding “I just don’t know the specific date, but it will happen this year.”
Despite the threats, Zara said those who work with the farmers cannot just lock themselves away from danger “because the pursuit of justice has to continue.” Receiving death threats has already become one small part of their work.
Bishop Alminaza, who heads the Church-Workers Solidarity group in his diocese, called on church workers and human rights defenders to keep their eyes on their vision or goal despite the threats.
“We cannot allow this persecution and these attacks to deter us from following the Lord,”he said.