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United Methodists sponsor Filipino women at U.N. forum

 


United Methodists sponsor Filipino women at U.N. forum

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose

A Filipino woman balances a basket of produce on her head.
June 1, 2005

By Linda Bloom*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — A young Muslim woman and a Roman Catholic nun, both from the Philippines, were able to network at the United Nations with others involved with indigenous issues because of assistance from the United Methodist Church.

Both women were among the 1,500 participants at the Fourth Session of the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues May 16-27 at the United Nations. The forum examined various situations faced by indigenous, or native, peoples around the world, with a particular focus on the Millennium Development's goals to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger and to achieve universal primary education.

Another United Methodist participant was the Rev. Yngvar Ruud, a pastor from Norway.

"I feel that we are partners in promoting justice and peace," said Sister Celine Cajanding, a member of the Religious of the Good Shepherd (RGS), about her sponsorship by the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and Board of Church and Society in Washington.

Zaynab Ampatuan also expressed appreciation for the opportunity provided by the United Methodists and added that such interfaith work can help erase prejudices and biases.

Liberato Bautista, a Church and Society executive, said the sponsorship is in response to a conference he and Mia Adjali, an executive with the Women's Division of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, attended late last year in Davao City, Philippines.

The event, "First People's Forum on Peace for Life," had a focus of Christians acting in solidarity with Muslims and "called for an interfaith collaboration in addressing issues of justice and peace," Bautista said.

Both Ampatuan and Cajanding are involved with InPeace Mindanao, a grassroots movement linking Muslims, indigenous peoples and Christians in actions for peace and justice on Mindanao, the second-largest island in the Philippines.

According to InPeace Mindanao, "Mindanao has been recently thrust into political turbulence with the recent spate of bombings that have rocked major cities, the on-again/off-again peace talks between the government of the Republic of the Philippines and the NDFP (National Democratic Front of the Philippines) and MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front), the all-out war and militarism that has victimized civilians and displaced hundreds of thousands, especially in Moro-dominated areas, the development aggression against indigenous peoples and the escalation of violations of human rights in both urban and rural areas."

Ampatuan, who is the spokesperson for the League of Moro Youth and active in the United Voice of the Moro People, said there is a long history of struggles on the island.

The losers in the Mindanao situation are the indigenous peoples and other farmers and their access to land, according to Cajanding, who runs a center for Filipino migrant workers and their families.

"It is the intention of the transnational corporations, with the permission of the government, to exploit the remaining lands," she explained.

The current Filipino government has basically instituted "undeclared marshal law," according to Ampatuan. Deregulation has caused economic turmoil and the number of human rights violations has intensified since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Those violations include the illegal arrests or abductions of Maro people and others, the "massive militarization" of communities and the outright killings of activists and journalists.

As the two women learned through their experience at the United Nations, indigenous peoples in other countries have similar concerns. "It's very evident that we all share the same common problems," Ampatuan said.

Those problems include ownership of land, constant violations of human rights, and the encroachment of multinational corporations. In many countries, indigenous peoples are asking for the right to self-determination, she added.

A common thread among indigenous peoples "is the effect of the World Bank and IMF (International Monetary Fund) projects on their lives," Cajanding said. In her opinion, despite the participation of the World Bank in the Philippines for the past 40 years, "we are worse off than before."

Both women said they were pleased to have the opportunity to present the situation in Mindanao in a forum at the United Nations. As a networking tool, the forum was "an avenue to widen our links and networking with other organizations," Cajanding added.

Ampatuan also noted that she now has a better understanding of international laws that could be used to help protect people in Mindanao.

On May 27, at the conclusion of its session, the Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues recommended that the United Nations, its member states and other intergovernmental organizations ensure the participation of indigenous peoples in the design, implementation and monitoring of strategies to reduce poverty.

Those strategies also should clearly identify rights to indigenous land, forest, marine and other natural resources, the forum said. Food security and water protection also are needed for indigenous peoples.

In terms of education, states should guarantee access to free primary quality education for indigenous children and develop bilingual and culturally sensitive education to reduce dropout rates, the forum document said.

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or newsdesk@umcom.org

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