Roceni Bakian to share stories of human rights abuses
By Rick Jones | Presbyterian News Service
LOUISVILLE – Roceni Bakian has a front-row seat to the human rights challenges facing women and children every day. As a full-time pastor with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, she is working with the Regional Ecumenical Council of Churches in the Cordillera region to address the issue and work for change.
Work includes forums, public action, financial support for some victims and providing sanctuary for those who need it.
“Through the partnership between the church and the ecumenical council, we are doing what we can, such as releasing statements against human rights violations, conducting peace forums and organizing peace prayer rallies,” she said. “We also integrate information into our Bible studies and Sunday school programs.”
As she talks and listens to women affected by militarization in her own province, Bakian says she has shared their stories with her congregation.
“The response from the congregation was one of enlightenment. They realized that human rights violations are happening and they want to get involved,” said Bakian. “They want to join prayer rallies and participate through their giving. I could tell it has made an impact on the lives of both victims and the congregation.”
Bakian is one of 10 International Peacemakers who will be visiting the U.S. this fall as part of the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program. Each year, the ministry brings individuals from around the world to share their experiences with Presbyterian churches, presbyteries and other institutions.
Bakian says she has combined pastoral care and advocacy for migrant workers and has counseled families whose spouses work abroad as domestic workers. She has also traveled to Hong Kong to meet with migrant workers from her region who comprise the UCCP congregation of Hong Kong.
She is hopeful that her visit to the U.S. this fall will result in action on the part of churches to get involved.
“I am participating because it is a call and an opportunity to work with peacemakers from different countries and respond to the challenges of peacemaking in our time,” she said. “I hope the visit will not only impart new learning and ideas, but will prepare me to be more vigilant and courageous in my own country.”
Bakian and the remaining nine peacemakers will be in the U.S. from Sept. 21 to Oct. 15. Annual visits by peacemakers have taken place since 1984. Since that time, more than 300 individuals have participated in the program from as many as 57 countries. Approximately 160 Presbyterian mid councils, colleges and theological institutions have hosted the visitors.
The Presbyterian Peacemaking Program is supported by gifts to the Peace & Global Witness Offering.
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