Sr Patricia Fox shares on her mission work in the Philippines

By Sr Louise McKeogh FMA

Sr Patricia Fox shares on her mission work in the Philippines

13 December 2018

Following the denial of her application for a visa extension in the
Philippines in November, Sister Patricia Fox NDS has returned to
Australia to raise awareness about her missionary work.

According to media sources, the 71-year-old Sr Patricia was the subject
of criticism from Filipino president Rodrigo Duterte, who asked she be
investigated for “illegal political activities.”

After using all avenues to prevent her deportation, Sr Patricia left the
Philippines after almost 30 years of service in that country.

Sr Patricia spoke at the 9th International Conference on Human Rights
Education (ICHRE), held at Western Sydney University’s Parramatta campus
in late November.

The conference, entitled “Unleashing the Full Potential of Civil
Society”, coincided with the 70th anniversary of the Universal
Declaration of Human Rights and the 25th anniversary of the
education-oriented Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action.

The participants were eager to hear about Sr Patricia’s grassroots
experience as a missionary in the Philippines, especially her work with
the rural missionaries, the indigenous people of the Philippines, known
as Lumads, and her fact-finding visits to the southern island of Mindanao.

Sr Patricia shared stories from her time on mission, in order to
heighten awareness of bringing dignity to all people. Through a combined
group of religious in the Philippines called the Rural Missionaries, Sr
Patricia worked among some of the most vulnerable indigenous peoples in
the country. As she speaks, her firm belief in the principles of
Catholic social teaching are woven throughout.

I was curious to know about the origins of Sr Patricia’s choice to study
law. She said that before her missionary work in the Philippines, she
also trained as a human rights lawyer.

While she was working in the inner-western suburbs of Melbourne with
street kids, she would often have to accompany the kids or bail them out
when they got caught in the police and juvenile justice systems. By
studying law, she says, it was going to help address their needs before
they ended up in the justice system.

She spoke about what she observed on numerous fact-finding visits to the
Filipino island of Mindanao in the south. She spoke about the human
rights abuses that she witnessed and observed, including one instance
where a school for indigenous young people was burnt down, preventing
their access to education.

“We heard a lot of stories about the intimidation of village leaders and
teachers, killings, people in jail for trumped-up charges, torture,” Sr
Patricia said.

She also spoke about Australian mining companies whose projects she said
were displacing tribal people. Militias were corruptly taking over their
lands providing access to the big mining companies. “They should start
looking at Australian companies, particularly mining companies.”

After her appearance at the human rights conference, Sr Patricia
addressed the congregation at St Aiden’s Parish, Rooty Hill.

Looking back, I appreciate Sr Patricia’s skill and warmth as a story
teller. She is a humble person, aiming to give voice to those at the
centre of these human rights abuses. She left the parishioners with the
message that she is firmly convinced that we are all missionaries
wherever we may be. For Sr Patricia, love of God and love of neighbour
go hand in hand.

Wfter a busy week in Sydney, Sr Patricia is heading off to Canberra. She
will share her experience at the Australian National University, and
then attend a private briefing before the Human Rights Sub-Committee,
chaired by Federal Liberal MP Kevin Andrews at Parliament House.