A guest blog from our associate USPG
The Philippines is rich in mineral deposits, but over 40,000 indigenous people have been forcibly displaced from their ancestral lands and over 1,000 students and teachers have experienced violence and harassment. The Church in the Philippines is refusing to stay silent and instead is publicly calling for their government to engage fully in peace talks. But this outspokenness has a cost.
The following abridged letter comes from the Most Reverend Rhee Timbang, Obispo Maximo from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (part of the Anglican Communion and the second biggest church in the Philippines)…
“Church people working for justice, peace and integrity of creation and advocating for the defence of human dignity, human rights and civil liberties, national sovereignty and independence have fallen as victims, either thrown to prisons, involuntarily disappeared or summarily executed. At present, this situation of harassment, threats and incarcerations persists and engulfs the whole country and creates a climate of fear that aims to deter church people from exercising faithfully their calling as disciples of the Risen Lord.”
“….In standing with and in advocating for the legitimate causes of our people, we in the IFI have clergy and lay workers who were subjected to undue situations of harassments, death threats, intimidation, incarceration and even death….Four church leaders were mercilessly and summarily executed to death because of their ministry to the workers and peasants….Bro. Meliton Catampongan and Bro. Erning Aykid were also publicly murdered because of their advocacy for social justice and environment; we have Bp. Carlo Morales who was incarcerated in prison for almost a year for trumped-up charges because of his engagement with the peace process. Just two weeks ago, two of our priests, Fr. Randy Manicap and Fr. Arvin Mangrubang, both serving in the Diocese of Laoag, came into the open that they were subjected to surveillance and receiving death threats from agents suspected to belong, like in the earlier cases, to state security forces. The two priests are environmental activists and members of the People’s Solidarity Against Large Scale Mining in Ilocos Norte (PSALM-IN) and members of the Council of Leaders of Ilocos Network for Environment (DEFEND-Ilocos).
“… We believe that these constitute acts of persecutions against the IFI and is a deliberate attempt to silence our clergy and lay who are involved in empowering communities and defending the country’s patrimony. Indeed, we are now in worrying times that need the essential and critical witnessing of our faith. As we pray for our clergy and lay for their safety and call to end the senseless harassment against militant and progressive members of our society, our faith as disciples of the Lord Jesus and our history as a Church compels us to steadfastly stand against the schemes of devils.”
To discover how you can creatively show your solidarity with those in the Philippines and find out what it means to be a peacemaker come and hear Father Chris Ablon from the Iglesia Filipina Independiente Church speaking at Greenbelt on Saturday afternoon.