|Judicial Council hears about violence in Philippines|
Philippines’ Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, a member of
Puno United Methodist Church in Quezon City, opens the Judicial Council
meeting in Manila with devotions. UMNS photos by Neill Caldwell.
By Neill Caldwell*
May 1, 2007 | MANILA, Philippines (UMNS)
Judicial Council President James Holsinger (left) listens as Bishop
Solito K. Toquero reads Scripture before a meeting of The United
Methodist Church's top court.
Human rights violations and violence against both Filipinos and
Westerners remain key problems facing the Philippines, a United
Methodist bishop told members of the denomination’s "supreme court."
"We need justice in the Philippines," said Bishop Solito K. Toquero,
who leads The United Methodist Church’s Manila Area. "Those who speak
out against the government and who work for the poor are being killed."
Toquero spoke to eight members of the Judicial Council who were
attending the court’s April 25-28 meeting, its first outside American
Using Micah 6:8 as his devotional text, Toquero said leaders of The
United Methodist Church and other churches in the Philippines are
seeking to do God’s will by advocating for justice, calling attention to
injustice, poverty and violence, and visiting with prisoners – "even
political detainees, rebels and Muslim detainees to minister to them."
Toquero also mentioned the recent death of Peace Corps volunteer and
freelance journalist Julia Campbell of Fairfax, Va., who was killed
while visiting the country’s famous rice terraces, a popular tourist
"This is what is happening in the Philippines right now," Bishop
Toquero said. "There are places where we must tell Westerners not to go.
"We have met with a group of generals to share our concerns and we
hope that our president (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) will do something
about the growing militarization. We also hope that the United States
will add its pressure on the (Arroyo) government."
Members of the Judicial Council of The United Methodist Church tour Fort
Santiago in Old Manila following the council's historic meeting in the
On a recent trip to Washington, D.C., Bishop Toquero and other
Filipino clergy met with the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on East Asian and
Pacific Affairs, chaired by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to share
Filipino church leaders also met with the United Nations Human Rights
Council in March seeking an investigation into "extra-judicial
killings, enforced disappearances, torture and other forms of violations
of human rights in the Philippines." Seven cases of killings of church
people, including a United Methodist pastor, are among the violations of
human rights documented in "Let the Stones Cry Out," an 85-page report
prepared by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. The
report documents 836 politically motivated killings since 2001 when
Arroyo became president. Among the victims are teachers, students,
journalists, clergy and other religious leaders.
In February, United Methodist Bishop Beverly Shamana and members of
the church’s San Francisco Area made a fact-finding trip to the
Philippines, a nation of 85 million people spread over 7,100 islands,
speaking more than 80 languages or dialects.
Filipino clergy fear that the government’s new "Human Security Act"
will be used to escalate human rights violations in the name of
National Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, a lay member of
Puno United Methodist Church in Quezon City who has spoken out against
human rights violations in the Philippines, opened the Judicial
Council’s historic meeting with a devotion on the topic of Christ’s
"We are becoming a world more prone to violence," Puno told the
council members, "both physical and spiritual violence. There is only
one antidote to hatred and violence, and that is love. Jesus was a
victim of violence, but not once did he nurture hatred in his heart or
use violence to change the status quo. His commandment was love.
"Love is still the greatest and most meaningful force in the world
today," Puno added. "If love has left our hearts, can this be the reason
for mankind’s drift?"
*Caldwell is editor of the Virginia Advocate, the newspaper of the United Methodist Church’s Virginia Annual (regional) Conference.
News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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