Faith or Religious Fanaticism? The Case of the Feast of the Black Nazarene

Faith or Religious Fanaticism? The Case of the Feast of the Black Nazarene
By Marlon B. Raquel

The annual celebration of the Feast of the Most Holy Black Nazarene claimed two lives as Filipino devotees participated in a procession barefooted yesterday in Quiapo, Manila. In 2006 and 2008, two people have also died in each year.

I've witnessed firsthand last year's celebration. I was in Carriedo Station that time and I took photos from my phone. Thick crowds filled the streets of Quiapo. People were wearing purple shirts with the image of the Black Nazarene printed on it. I actually saw a group of people yelling each other, including a pregnant woman. There was a rumble. It was good that no one died last year, but unfortunately, two people died this year.

I understand the religious fervor my fellow Filipinos have for the statue of Jesus Christ. But at the same time, this leads me to doubt whether their devotion is authentic and is accepted by Jesus Christ Himself. The Philippines is pre-dominantly a Catholic nation. We have been colonized by the Spaniards for more than 300 years, who first brought Christianity, specifically Roman Catholicism, to the islands.

The image of the Black Nazarene is a life-sized, dark-colored, wooden sculpture of Jesus which is carried in the streets of Quiapo for a public procession in a Caroza. It is considered to be miraculous by many Filipinos, the very reason why the feast has attracted thousands of people from all walks of life. If you will the procession, you will notice that people are wiping their handkerchiefs to the image with the hope that this would heal their diseases. In recent years, about two million people continue to flock to Quiapo for their panata.

I wonder if Jesus Christ Himself is happy seeing people hurting each other while on the procession. The feast has been celebrated for 403 years now and it became part of the Roman Catholic Church tradition, in this sense, became part of the Filipino society. For sure, Filipinos have faith in God. The Black Nazarene symbolizes their daily struggles and sufferings. But we must also remember that being religious doesn't mean God's favor will be upon us. Religious extremism is dangerous. I always believe that the grace of the Lord is unmerited, that's why it's called grace.
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