SISTER Patricia Fox has warned of the rise of populist leaders and called for Christian groups to unite and stand against human rights abuses in the Philippines.
The prominent human rights advocate visited the Border for a public forum hosted at the Sacred Heart Church in Wodonga on Wednesday evening.
After being deported from the Philippines indefinitely in November, Sister Patricia said it was important for all Australians, and particularly Filipino expats, to be aware of what was happening in their home country.
“It's important to know what is happening in our part of the world, that there are massive human rights abuses taking place,” she said.
“I think the response here is mixed – some people are very aware of what's happening, some are not so aware of the reality of it.
“If you don’t look at what is happening on the ground, you can be a bit deceived.”
Sister Patricia shot to prominence after being personally singled out by Philippines president Rodrigo Duterte earlier this year.
The hard-right president ordered an investigation into her status as a missionary after the nun embarked on a fact-finding mission to the island of Mindanao, an area still under martial law.
Berlin Guerrero from the Philippines Australia Solidarity Association Albury-Wodonga, one of several community organisations to have a hand in organising the forum, said the large local Philippines community was very interested in hear Sister Patricia's story.
“We come from a predominantly Christian country, we are affected by people being treated poorly, as Sister Fox Patricia was treated,” he said.
“She is a Catholic nun, a religious person, for her to be treated that way raises a lot of questions about what the government is doing to people of the church who are actually embodying what Christian teaching is all about.
“Of course, although we have one community here, people have different views of what is happening.
“I think many are saddened by what's happening, but maybe through this visit we'll find a way for the community here to advocate for our countrymen.”
The Wodonga Christian Ministers Fellowship, Sacred Heart Church, Anglican, and Uniting Churches, St Stephen's, St John and Emmanuel, Filipino Australian Community of Albury and Wodonga also assisted in organising the forum.