May 26, 2017

A Call for Prayers and Vigilance for the Philippines

“All those gathered here will know that it is not by sword or spear that the our God saves.” (1 Samuel 17:47)

The Cal-Pac Philippines Task Force expresses grave concern over the undue haste in declaring Martial Law on the whole island of Mindanao, Philippines.

We call on fellow peace loving peoples, Filipino and non-Filipino alike to offer prayers for the victims and unfolding situation in Marawi, Mindanao, Philippines and throughout the whole island of Mindanao. We pray that the situation is resolved as quickly and peacefully as possible with the protection of all civilians’ human rights.

We deeply condemn the burning of Dansalan College, a United Church of Christ-Philippines college that welcomes people of all faiths. The student body is made up of approximately 95% Muslim students, while the staff is 80% Christian. We further condemn all assaults on institutions serving the public, and remember the right of families of all backgrounds and religions to safely access education and healthcare.

We call for deeper investigations on the incidents that have happened in Marawi. We know dependable reports are hard to come by, and ask that everyone pay attention to not further fear by sharing unverified information. Let us not also fall into the trap of portraying these tragic events as a religious war. This will only increase tensions, and may further fan the flames of Islamophobia. The Maute Group, responsible for this attack, must be held accountable.

Our United Methodist Social Principles state under section 162 III the Social community “We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights.”

It is with these social principles that we are greatly concerned upon hearing in a radio interview Secretary of National Defense Delfin Lorenzana justify the imposition of Martial Law across the region by stating that there are other groups, like the New People’s Army, that need to be dealt with as well. By making reference to their ‘extortion activities’ across the region, Secretary Lorenzana appears to extend his justification beyond the acts of rebellion upon which the declaration of Martial Law must be based. It must be remembered that this is the same Secretary who immediately issued an all-out-war, without even waiting for the President to announce such a shift in policy.

This decision and the move to escalate the conflict to Martial law and all-out war is another attempt at seeking a military solution, which we have seen fail time and time again. This approach does not resolve the root causes of the conflict. Martial law and all-out war will not resolve the historical problems in Mindanao nor throughout the whole country. It is in addressing the root causes of poverty, landlessness, oppression of national minorities including our Moro brothers and sisters, and other fundamental problems that the path towards a just and lasting peace can be paved.

In partnership with community organizations and our Filipino United Methodist brothers and sisters, our members have visited communities throughout Mindanao yearly since 2012 and have seen firsthand the oppressive socio-economic policies that affect the communities. In solidarity with all the people we met, we call on President Duterte to lift Martial law and seek to address the root causes not through the all-out war but through peaceful means. We believe a peaceful resolution that achieves justice while respecting everyone’s human rights is not just possible but imperative.

UMC Missionary Adam Shaw, serving in Mindanao, shares “I am thankful that the California Pacific United Methodist Conference and the Cal-Pac Taskforce on the Philippines is supporting us and praying for us, especially for Marawi. I also ask you to remain vigilant. Do not let martial law be a legitimate solution to terrorism. Under Marcos, martial law institutionalized terrorism especially in Mindanao. We must work together for peace and now more than ever it is important to raise our voices as people of faith and be heard in our own civil sectors and at your government representatives. “

Let us pray that the government and the military will not use Martial Law as a reason to undermine the ongoing peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front or the National Democratic Front of the Philippines.

We stand with those preparing for talks in the Netherlands in the coming week as the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP negotiate towards greater economic justice and equity for all. We stand with our brothers and sisters of the Bangsamoro as they resist the pull of violent extremism and move towards lasting peace in the implementation of their agreement through the Bangsamoro Basic Law.
We stand with all our Muslims sisters and brothers, who adhere to Islam as a faith of peace, as they enter the holy month of Ramadan.

“We call on United Methodists along with justice and peace loving people everywhere, to not just remain in prayer but to stay vigilant in what is going on in Mindanao as to the protection of everyone’s human rights and monitor them in case human rights violations begin. We continue to work closely with our United Methodist and community partners on the ground to monitor the situation and offer our support and solidarity,” says Joy Prim, Chairperson.