5:00 P.M. EST April 28, 2010
Protesters ask for the release of Dr. Alexis Montes and 42 other medical
caregivers who were arrested Feb. 6 while attending a Community
Medicine Development Foundation training seminar. A UMNS Photo by Juliet
Solis-Aguilar courtesy of Global Ministries.
View in Photo Gallery
United Methodists continue to express concern about human rights
abuses in the Philippines.
During their April 18-23 meeting in Manila, members of the United
Methodist Connectional Table issued a resolution condemning “past,
recent, and ongoing extrajudicial killings” and implications of abuses
by the Philippine National Police and the Philippine Army.
The Connectional Table, a 60-member international body that includes
representatives from the 200,000 members of United Methodist churches
in the Philippines, named a six-person delegation to visit a White
House official for Asia, a U.S. State Department official and a
representative of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to express
concern over violations of human rights in the Philippines.
They will ask the officials to ensure that no U.S. policy supports
the Philippine “policy that exacerbates the violations of human rights
including the killing of church people and human rights activists.” The
text of the Connectional Table statement is available here.
Earlier in the meeting, Ohio East Area Bishop John Hopkins, chair of
the Connectional Table, and retired Bishop David Arichea led a
five-person delegation to meet with the Honorable Leila M. De Lima,
chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights of the Philippines.
Her commission is responding to charges of extrajudicial killing
vigilantism, disappearances, torture and arbitrary arrest and
detention. De Lima said the commission is seeking an enabling act that
empowers the commission to implement its decisions.
In a panel presentation, Edita Burgos, chairperson of The Filipino
Desaparecidos (Philippines–Remembering the Disappeared), told the group
about the 2007 abduction of her son, Jonas, inside a mall in Quezon
City. She links the military to his disappearance, but attempts to
resolve the matter legally were denied by a Court of Appeals and the
Supreme Court. The lower court clarified that its decision did not mean
that Jonas is not in the hands of the military.
Another panelist, Jigs Clamor, an executive with KARPATAN (Alliance
for the Advancement of People’s Rights), said his wife is one of 43
health-care workers currently held in detention. On Feb. 6, she was
engaged in a medical training course in Morong when the Philippine Army
detained them as alleged members of a secret bomb-making group.
The Philippines Commission on Human Rights called on the Army to
justify the arrests and answer allegations that the detainees were
tortured. The Army denies the accusation, and it presented awards to
two soldiers involved in the abduction.
Worship in churches, visit sites
Prior to their meeting, members of the Connectional Table and the
Committee to Study the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church
worshipped in seven different United Methodist churches on April 18.
On Monday, the group visited four different mission sites in the
Manila area. Some members visited Smokey Mountain United Methodist
Church, one of the five poorest places in the world.
The name is derived from a mountain of rotting garbage that often
ignites underground and emits toxic clouds of smoke. Some 1,000 people
make their living by scavenging through garbage looking for items that
can be recycled for money. The average return on a day of ripping
through bags of trash is the equivalent of about $2.
Others visited Baseco, an urban poor community where families of
street children are assisted by social agencies, including the UMCOR
Philippines, and the Kapatiran-Kaunlaran Foundation, a social service
agency sheltering street children and providing vocational skills
training. A fourth group visited Mary Johnston Hospital, a104-year-old
hospital founded by Methodist missionaries.
The site visits were examples of Four Areas of Focus ministry taking
place in the Philippines. Later in the meeting, Erin Hawkins, top
staff executive of the United Methodist Committee on Religion and Race,
presented a report summarizing the work of general agencies in the
Four Areas of Focus.
Meeting with study group
Six members of the Connectional Table serve on the Study Committee
on the Worldwide Nature of The United Methodist Church, a 20-member
international team, chaired by Kansas Area Bishop Scott Jones.
The study committee met at the same time
in the same location, and the two groups spent an entire day together.
Jones said his group will collaborate with other study groups, and it
will sponsor additional listening posts following their meeting with
Filipino laity, clergy and bishops.
The committee is also monitoring the voting on the 23 constitutional
amendments related to the worldwide church put before the denomination
by the 2008 General Conference. The Council of Bishops will announce
the results of annual conference balloting in May.
The Connectional Table received a report on the work of the Call to
Action Committee, which is engaged in comprehensive studies to
determine ways in which the denomination can increase the number and
vitality of local churches.
In other business, the group approved a subcommittee report,
“Planting the Seeds – Celebrating the Harvest” that calls local
churches and annual conferences to bring a commitment to the 2012
General Conference for making disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the world through five goals for 2012-2015.
*Peck is a retired clergy member of New York Annual Conference.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or