IGLESIA NI CRISTO Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo poses with US Ambassador Sung Kim who called on him at the INC central after President Duterte appointed Manalo as special envoy for OFW concerns.
By FRED GABOT
QUEZON CITY – The local religious group Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) is on a roll as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the opening of its first church in the United States which has grown since to 300 congregations all over the US alone.
Not only that, INC’s influence expanded further with its purchase of two towns already in the US — Scenic town, a 46-acre property acquired by the INC in 2011 for $800,000 in South Dakota, and Johnsonville in East Haddam, Connecticut which was bought by the INC for $1.85 million, widening its coverage in the state where there are already INC churches in Bristol, Stamford and Windham.
The first INC church overseas was established in Hawaii on July 27, 1968, 54 years after the founding of INC in the Philippines on the same day in 1914. The Hawaii congregation was followed later by another church in California where the INC now has the biggest influence through churches in all over the state like the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego and in 50 other states.
In recognition of its role in the world today – INC has churches in 142 countries with two million members – President Rodrigo Duterte appointed INC’s leader, Executive Minister Eduardo Manalo as a special envoy on concerns of the overseas Filipinos.
Following the appointment, US Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim called on Manalo in what the INC described as “perfect timing.”
Ironically, another homegrown religious group, the Kingdom of God based in Davao City encountered some problems in the United States when its leader, Pastor Apollo Quiboloy, was held at the Honolulu International Airport together with his business manager Felicidad Salinas, a Filipino American based in Hawaii, when federal agents found $350,000 in undeclared cash in the plane. The plane was reportedly also seized by federal authorities.
Aside from the visit acknowledging the positive presence of the INC in the US mainland, the US envoy’s visit also gave added significance to the church’s forthcoming 104th
anniversary this year and 50th year in US.
“The timing is perfect as the Church is celebrating its 50th anniversary in the West and has grown to around 300 congregations in the US alone,” said INC protocol officer, Joel San Pedro, referring to the meeting between Kim and Manalo.
In the US mainland alone, San Pedro said the INC today maintains 300 congregations, which are part of the 6,000 congregations and missions in 142 countries it has so far established in almost all parts of the globe and comprising 133 ethnic groups and nationalities.
San Pedro also pointed out that the courtesy call at the INC central office by the envoy of
the most powerful country in the world “is one of many conducted by international diplomats to the Executive Minister of the INC.”
Ambassador Kim’s visit also came just a day before Malacañang made public Manalo’s
appointment as President Rodrigo Duterte’s “special envoy” for overseas Filipino workers’ concerns, which, the Palace stressed, is “not a political payback” for the INC’s support for the presidential candidacy of the then Davao City mayor.
In a news briefing, presidential spokesman Atty. Harry Roque stressed the “urgency” of
seeking the INC’s global presence “and proven capability of its organization to care for the welfare of our countrymen.”
The appointment of Manalo was also welcome news to Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III.
Bello said the INC leader’s “stature” and his being known as an “advocate of human rights,” makes him “most welcome” to join the government.
“Considering his stature, religious leader, worldwide known advocate of human rights, he is a welcome, very much welcome to the bureaucracy,” Bello said in an interview.
Bello noted that Manalo would be great help in the effort of the Duterte administration’s to protect the welfare of overseas Filipinos workers (OFWs).
“Malaking bagay, madami silang congregation. (It’s great. They have many congregations.) He would be a great help to our effort to provide protection to our OFWs,” he said.
The DOLE chief added that the reputation of the newly-appointed government official of taking care of his flock would be a big thing if he will also extend it to Filipinos working abroad.
“He is very much welcome, if he wants us to work with him I will just be too glad to work and coordinate with him,” Bello said. (email@example.com)