United Church of Christ in the Philippines asks for solidarity from international partners

Forum focuses on human rights violations in the Philippines

by Kathy Melvin | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — In a virtual international solidarity forum on Tuesday, the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) asked its ecumenical partners around the world to enjoin, pray and call for an independent international commission to investigate human rights violations in the Philippines.

The UCCP believes the solidarity of its partners at the national and international levels will strengthen its faith-witness in the struggle against the powers attempting to tarnish its image and harm the Church.

The passing of the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020 has seen an increasing number of killings of human rights workers, advocates, peace negotiators, peasant and labor leaders.

Participants in the forum included representatives from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), the World Council of Churches, the World Communion of Reformed Churches, the United Church of Canada, Global Ministries, the United Evangelical Mission, the Christian Conferences of Asia, the World Student Christian Federation, the Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea, the Uniting Church in Sweden and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

During the forum, UCCP stated:

“The Church has been at the service of people as part of its faith and witness. But scores of Church workers, leaders and ordinary members have been harassed, persecuted, red tagged, faced trumped up criminal charges and, in the extreme, killed. The staunch advocacy of the Church for the protection of human rights, the pursuit of justice and peace have been considered by the State as anti-government stances. This persecution of the Church is intended to stop the Church from its prophetic witness in the midst of intensifying authoritarian regime in the country, even in the midst of the urgent call of the masses for reparation and rehabilitation from the impact of a series of typhoons and the COVID-19 pandemic.”

In January, UCCP’s HARAN House (Home and Altar for Renewal Action and Nurture), which served as a sanctuary for around 500 evacuees who fled their homes due to militarization in the area, was attacked by a paramilitary group, which used fence cutters and other tools to destroy the evacuation center’s gate despite calls from the evacuees to talk peacefully.

In July,  the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group stormed the residence of UCCP Pastor Dan San Andres, 61, chairperson of the human rights watchdog Karapatan in Bicol, who was arrested by for an alleged murder even though he was conducting a worship service in the UCCP parish in South Centro, Sipocot, at the time of event.

In a statement from Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, now referred to as the “Bachelet Report,” the conclusions from a study of the situation in the Philippines mirrored what the church has been saying.

“The findings of the report are very serious. Laws and policies to counter national security threats and illegal drugs have been crafted and implemented in ways that severely impact human rights. They have resulted in thousands of killings, arbitrary detentions and the vilification of those who challenge these severe human rights violations.”

Each of the faith organizations participating prepared a video for the forum. Excerpts were shown, but the full content of the videos is available here and here.

Sara Lisherness, interim director of Presbyterian World Mission, represented the Presbyterian Mission Agency at the forum. In a video she said:

“The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) is aware of the United Nations Human Rights Council report on widespread human rights violations and persistent impunity in the Philippines under the present administration. We stand with the United Nations wherever and whenever injustice raises its ugly head in the world. We are in solidarity with all peace-loving Filipinos who see more opportunities for impunity and violation in the newly adopted Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) joins the efforts of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the ecumenical civil society organizations who demand an independent investigation into the red-tagging of church leaders and human right defenders throughout the Philippines. We will amplify your concerns and raise awareness to our local churches, and to our local, national, and international network of partners, until the light of justice and the rays of peace radiate across your beautiful country.”

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines is the oldest and most visible sign of ecumenical and church unity in the country born from the missionary movement to build one evangelical church. UCCP was created in 1948 by the merger of the United Evangelical Church, the evangelical Church of the Philippines, the Philippine Methodist Church and other smaller churches. The UCCP therefore is the fusion of various church polities.

The UCCP Council of Bishops asks for its international partners to “call on the government of President Rodrigo Duterte and the responsible state agencies to stop harassing and persecuting the church; repeal the Anti-Terrorism Law of 2020; channel precious resources budgeted to NTFELCAC (National Task Force to End Local Communist Armed Conflict) to relief and rehabilitation of devastated communities of typhoon Quinta, Rolly, and Ulysses; and provide sustainable economic support for the economically displaced workers.”

More information is available on social media channels including, #UCCPCryOut,  https://www.facebook.com/uccphilippines and www.uccpchurch.com.


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