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International Peacemaker to share struggles from the Philippines

Jerome Baris says country faces major social injustice challenges

by Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Services

LOUISVILLE – Jerome Canales Baris is an ordained minister with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). For more than 28 years, he has focused on human rights violations, poverty and corruption. This fall, he will be speaking to congregations and organizations in the U.S. as part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program’s 2017 International Peacemakers.

Jerome Canales Baris

“I’ve been actively involved in peace and human rights advocacy; responding to the urgent appeal for assistance to the mission areas by delivering relief, medical, dental and psycho-social services to victims of natural and human-caused calamities,” he said. “I have witnessed and documented the poverty situation here and have been exploring ways to help in the rehabilitation in terms of livelihood.”

Baris currently serves as the national coordinator on the Justice, Peace and Human Rights Program of the UCCP with a focus on providing direct service to victims of human rights violations. He says the reality of social injustice is the biggest challenge to the Filipino people’s struggle for just and lasting peace in the country.

“It is characterized by the worsening hunger and poverty among a majority of Filipinos, the increasing rate of the twin unemployment and under-employment, the rampant violations against people’s political and civil rights as well as cultural, social and economic rights among others,” he said. “There has been widespread corruption in the state’s bureaucracy as well as plundering of natural resources through large-scale logging and mining that has resulted in mass enforced displacement of the indigenous people from their ancestral lands.”

Baris says the church is being challenged to uphold the sanctity of life by bringing about the spirituality of building just and lasting peace. He is addressing the challenges through education, organization and mobilization.

“We need to let our church’s constituents and other sectors of society know and understand the root cause of social unrest in our country. We need to organize our people for collective study and planning for appropriate response to those challenges as a faith imperative,” he said. “We are called to participate in the establishing of a just and compassionate social order, where faith in Jesus Christ is shared, where healing is given to the sick and food is given to the hungry.”

Baris credits the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) for its words and actions in addressing the issues facing the Philippines.

“From prayers to sending pastoral letters or statements, extending financial support especially when we encounter life and death situations, have been a blessing,” he said. “Sending missionaries and/or mission co-workers, as well as youth interns to continue the journey with UCCP have helped us in our struggle for national and global peace based on justice.”

Baris plans to share the struggles as well as the “significant role” the PC(USA) has played in the region during his visit.

Sixteen peacemakers will be visiting churches and institutions across the U.S. between Sept. 22 and Oct. 16. Baris still has availability in his schedule from Sept. 22–29 and Oct. 11–16, according to Carl Horton, coordinator for the Peacemaking Program. Those interested in scheduling Baris can click here for more information.

The International Peacemaking Program is made possible by gifts to the Peace and Global Witness Offering.

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