Hundreds of Filipino children prayed for peace in the midst of the conflict and violence that they are experiencing in their country and are witnessing in other parts of the world.
Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), a Catholic pastoral charity and pontifical foundation, organized the One Million Children Praying the Rosary campaign last October 18, the feast of Saint Luke, the Evangelist. The international campaign calls for children, ages 5 to 12, to say the Rosary on that day for world peace.
In the Philippines, a total of 40 dioceses, close to 1,300 parishes and 800 schools participated in this year’s celebration in solidarity with other children from some 80 countries.
Different schools organized their own special activities to teach children about the importance of the Holy Rosary. In Agusan del Norte province, soldiers joined schoolchildren while praying which served as a powerful and reassuring gesture for the students.
Meanwhile, the main event organized by ACN Philippines was held at the San Jose Academy, a school in Navotas, under the Diocese of Caloocan, that provides scholarship programs for the orphans of those killed by the government’s brutal war against drugs. The Department of Social Welfare and Development estimates that about 18,000 children lost their parents from extrajudicial killings within the first six months of the government’s war on drugs.
Among these orphans is a 12-year old boy, who witnessed how armed men barged into their shanty in Navotas, and dragged his father out of their home in the middle of the night. A few hours later, Joaquin Garbo was found dead from multiple gunshot wounds. “They killed him. They took him while he was asleep,” he shared while weeping.
When asked why ACN chose the orphans of the victims of the drug war to lead the rosary, Jonathan Luciano, National Director of ACN Philippines said, “We wanted the children – these orphans – to be the agents of reconciliation, of unity and peace, so they were the ones who led the Rosary in this prayer campaign.”
Another prayer leader was a Grade 5 student, one of those orphaned by the war on drugs. “I prayed that the killings would stop and justice be given to them and other victims,” she said.
Aside from praying for the victims of the war on drugs, students also prayed with child refugees in Aleppo, Syria, youth groups in Korea, and the displaced children from the war-stricken Marawi City who all joined the event by video.
ACN Philippines also introduced a new component to the prayer campaign called the ”One Peso Solidarity Project.” Participants of the event were encouraged to donate a portion of their allowance to support projects that would alleviate the plight of children experiencing suffering and persecution. Luciano quoted Saint John Paul II who said that the Rosary “is also a prayer for peace because of the fruits of charity which it produces.”
Speaking at the event, Reverend Father Jeronimo Cruz, school administrator of the San Jose Academy, said, “The inspiring picture of one million children praying the rosary and sharing whatever they have for those who are suffering and have nothing in life teaches us that peace and unity among peoples are possible only if we have the heart of a child – humble and trusting in the goodness of persons and the love and mercy of God.“
Father Jeronimo Cruz, who is also the vicar general of the Diocese of Caloocan, recognizes the power of a child’s prayer. “The prayer of a child’s heart is a powerful force that can change the world. Jesus assured us that to such children belongs the Kingdom of God, and unless we have the heart of a child, we cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven,” he added.
Dorothy Claro, ACN Philippines Volunteer