Doing Prison Ministry Together: A Dialogue in Action

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A Paper Submitted as a Final Requirement of the
Inter-Faith Dialogue and World Religions Class
Rev. Joas Kahesi
MS 503, 1st Semester, SY 2012-2013

Silliman University
Dumaguete City

Submitted by:

Divinity School, Silliman University


I. Introduction
Since time immemorial, the prison institutions have always existed. In the histories of civil societies, prisons have always been a part of the structure of governance as the enforcement of the rule of law necessitates the existence of prison institutions to incarcerate erring citizens and law breakers.

All throughout the years, the prison institutions continued to exist. However, the reality of these prison institutions has always been that of a picture that portrays a despicable condition, perhaps in order to enforce cruel punishments to those who were imprisoned and to depict a condition that would be a great deterrent for possible law breakers in society, and thus prevent future crimes. In the various Biblical stories, imprisonment was common place, particularly for those who were either captured enemy soldiers or law breakers in the community and revolutionaries.

In the present time, prison institutions continue to exist for more or less the same purposes as in the past. Around the world only a few changes can be observed in the prison systems as well as conditions of prison houses, though some developments have been introduced in order to serve the rehabilitation of those who are imprisoned. However, prison systems continue to be seen as a place where the outcasts and undesirables are held, either to serve a sentence that has been handed down to them by the justice system or for safekeeping while awaiting trial.

It is in this context that quite a number of churches and religious groups have targeted the prison institutions as fertile fields where the seeds of the Gospel can be spread and harvested later on. This is in response to the Biblical challenge to “bring out prisoners from the dungeons, from the prison those who sit in darkness” as Isaiah portrays the Lord’s chosen servant[1], and later, in the New Testament, Jesus’ words himself when he said, “…I was in prison and you came to me.”[2] Furthermore Apostle Paul’s words to the Hebrews continue to inspire the churches to do ministry to the prisoners which says, “Remember those who are in prison, as though in prison with them….”[3]

This zeal is what leads different faiths particularly those from the different Christian groups to troop to these prison institutions to proclaim the Good News, albeit to convert these prisoners to the faith particularly to their group. The message of the Gospel aside, the zeal to convert prisoners to their own denominational groups have become a source of contention among the different groups and thus posed a problem not only to the prison system but more so among these Christian groups and with groups of other faiths.

It is therefore the intention of this paper to look into the ‘whys’ (or reasons) and ways of doing prison ministry together within the various Christian groups and even with other faiths, and understanding “dialogue” as a useful tool in achieving this end. To this end, this paper will also look into the experience of a particular group in Negros Oriental, the Provincial Rehabilitation Commission, in how they were able to actually do dialogue early on in their ministry to the prisoners.

II. Current situation of prison ministries and groups doing prison ministry in the Philippines
A. Government Initiatives in the Philippines
While most of the changes in the way the government dealt with prisoners only started happening in the recent years, particularly during the term of then President Corazon Aquino, it can also be noted that the government administration under...
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