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Iglesia ni Cristo's In-fighting Reveals Our Undesirable Traits

INC's Central Temple in Quezon City, Philippines

ust six months shy of it's 102nd birthday Iglesia ni Cristo (INC), the Church that Felix Manalo cobbled together in 1914 appears to be in a deep ongoing crisis. The religion that claims to be the one true church of Jesus Christ on earth is now being torn by internal strife. In an ongoing saga that is unfolding publicly, Lottie Manalo-Hemedez this week claimed that she was being forced out of her home on No. 36 Tandang Sora Avenue in Quezon City. A home that once belonged to her father and that she claims she has had title to since 1983 when she and her husband were married. According to the INC lawyers however, that house and the entire compound it is in is owned by the church and they want her out.

As you most likely concluded by now, religion is big business in the Philippines, and the INC, when stripped down to its core is really just a money-making endeavor—like any other business. And like most Filipino businesses, when the founders are gone, the children or the grandchildren start squabbling amongst themselves. Such in-fighting not only divides the family, it eventually destroys the business as well. When you think about it, all those large, booming Filipino owned and operated businesses that were around in the fifties and sixties are practically all gone today. Squandered by heirs who knew little about how to run them or cared about them even less.

Once highly profitable concerns, they were passed from one generation to another, with each succeeding generation feeling more entitled, more affluent, and less willing to roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that their forbearers did. Longevity for Filipino owned and controlled businesses has thus always been a problem.

However, because of its sheer size and its ability to continually generate extremely large amounts of money, the INC was thought to be an exception to this rule. Unfortunately, the current squabble between INC's leader Eduardo V. Manalo, and the rest of his family does not bode well for the church. INC Executive Minister Eduardo V. ManaloIn July of last year, Eduardo expelled from the church his two younger brothers Felix Nathaniel “Angel” Manalo and Marco Erano Manalo, his sister Lolita “Lottie” Manalo-Hemedez, and even his mother Cristina “Tenny” Manalo.

An article on the website Politiko (politics.com.ph) surmised that Eduardo's wife, Babylynn might have had a hand in "easing-out" her in-laws from the church. Whatever the real reason may be, the Manalos have shown themselves to be a typical Filipino family. Ironically, we are a country that prides itself with having strong family ties. Yet time and time again, rich and even middle-class families have shown that their strong family ties end where their stronger ties to money begin.

Whether the INC survives this schism remains to be seen. But what the church is currently going through should give us Pinoys pause for reflection on the genuineness of our relationships with family and friends and why many of us seem to have this insatiable desire for money above all else. Maybe tomorrow's Filipinos will be a little different in this regard. Published 1/16/2016

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