Manila shrugging off foreign prophets of May 21 doomsday

MANILA Thu May 12, 2011 5:00am EDT

MANILA (Reuters) - A U.S.-based Christian group took to the streets of Manila earlier this week to preach that the end of the world is fast approaching -- on May 21 at sunset, to be precise.

Volunteers from the religious group Family Radio, a Christian radio network in the United States, donned neon-coloured t-shirts and walked along Manila's main thoroughfares, handing out pamphlets to passerby with warnings of impending Judgement Day.

The designation of May 21 came from Family Radio president Harold Camping, who predicted that date through a series of mathematical calculations and the unravelling of codes behind the Bible story of the great flood.

He was convinced that God gave hints of doomsday in the scriptures and that it was their job to decode them.

One volunteer, Kenji Hoffman, left his family and his successful job as a mechanic in the U.S to join the Family Radio crusade around the world, used his savings to get to the Philippines.

He said he believed God had left clear signs that the world was coming to an end.

"He gave Abraham warning, he gave Noah warning, he gave Lot warning and he gave Ninevites warning, and so he's giving us warning that he is about to come," Hoffman said.

Camping had also predicted that the world would end in September 1994, following previous calculations. After this prediction failed, he said his prediction for 2011 would definitely come true.

But few people in this majority Catholic country appeared to be paying much attention to the warnings.

"It might really happen since there's a lot of sin in the world. It will happen, but not in the way they were predicting," said bus inspector Rico Almasan.

"Judgement Day can't happen on May 21."

Gerardo Lanuza, a professor at the University of the Philippines specialising in the Sociology of Religion, said that Judgement Day groups had increased in recent years due to the unstable political and economic climate around the world.

"They want to offer people some kind of security, a type of security amidst an insecure world. It's like okay, the end of the world is coming, what do we do?" he said.

"It's like they're saying we have to convince people that they have to change their way of life."

Despite the sceptical response, members of Family Radio -- which was founded in 1959 -- remained unfazed.

"The world is temporal. We are seeking for an eternal one, eternal things," said Leo Arenas, a recent convert.

(Editing by Elaine Lies)