, January 5, 2005
(STAR) By Marichu Villanueva  -  President Arroyo needs the prayers of the faithful to exorcise the "demons of skepticism" from the country.

Mrs. Arroyo made her appeal for spiritual support during the Evangelical Leaders’ Prayer Gathering she hosted at Malacañang yesterday for some 270 bishops and pastors of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC).

"I ask you to help me pray to the Lord that He will send away, banish the demons of skepticism that are stalking the country," she said.

The inspiration for Mrs. Arroyo’s appeal was the "Message of Hope" read before her by Bishop Efraim Tendero, national director of the PCEC.

In his message, Tendero noted that the past year was a "truly challenging and crucial year" for Filipinos.

"It was another time in our history when we experienced an alarming degree of disunity brought about by one of the most bitterly contested elections and when our faith in God and resilience as a people were stretched and severely tested as we suffered serious threats to political and economic stability and a series of lethal typhoons that ravaged our nation and crushed our spirit," he said.

Part of the message appeared to be directed at the "many doomsayers" that add to the "sense of hopelessness."

"Let us refuse to be defeated. Let us not succumb to hopelessness and cynicism," Tendero said.

To the loud "Amens" of the PCEC members present, Tendero urged Mrs. Arroyo to continue reaching out to all Filipinos, especially her erstwhile political foes, to help reunite the nation.

"Let us labor together towards reuniting the Filipino people. Upholding our bayanihan (community) spirit and our faith in the Almighty God, let us work hand-in-hand with everyone in rebuilding our nation," he said.

But Tendero’s group brought more than the promise of spiritual support to their prayer meeting with the President.

Tendero told Mrs. Arroyo that his congregation was also donating 270 units of low cost housing — dubbed "houses of hope" — to some of the 40,000 families that lost their homes in the typhoons that devastated Luzon near the end of 2004.

The houses, described as "modest," reportedly cost a mere P25,000.

A devout Catholic, Mrs. Arroyo expressed her gratitude to the PCEC for their spiritual and material contribution to her administration.

"Thank your for your support and prayers for me. I’d like to continue to ask you to pray that I will have the ‘wisdom of Solomon’ to govern rightly," she said. "I need your prayers to allow me to discern the perfect will of God for our country."

The highlight of the prayer gathering was a "pray over" for Mrs. Arroyo led by Bishop Fred Magbanua, vice chair of the PCEC.

In his prayer, Magbanua appealed for the President to be "anointed with the wisdom, courage and political will to stand up to what is right and to do what is best for the interest of the people."

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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