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Missionary group calls for response to Philippines violence

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Bishop Leo Soriano
Aug. 18, 2006

By United Methodist News Service*

About 60 mostly retired United Methodist missionaries and colleagues who served in the Philippines are urging the heads of the U.S. and Philippine governments to address the ongoing violence against church workers and others in the Asian country.

Church employees and people who work with poor and marginalized Filipinos have been subjected to detentions, beatings and killings since 2001. The statement by the United Methodist Philippine Reunion came as news broke about a United Methodist local pastor being shot to death in the Philippines.

“We call upon the Philippine government to investigate the extrajudicial killings and illegal detentions immediately, seriously, and impartially; to avoid labeling those working for economic justice, particularly among the poor, as ‘subversives’; and to expose the linkages between the current abuses and the police or the military,” the United Methodists stated.

The letter was addressed to the presidents of the Republic of the Philippines and the United States, as well as to the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries and Board of Church and Society. It was written and adopted by the United Methodist Philippine Reunion during its Aug. 4-7 gathering at Lake Junaluska, N.C.

“We call upon the United States government to bring pressure to bear upon authorities in the Philippines to respect civil liberties and human rights and to enforce effective policing and judicial process,” the group said. It also called on the U.S. government “to use its influence to prevent the imposition of martial rule or other severe means which would hinder democratic process in addressing abuses.”

“We wonder to what extent arms, ammunition, training, and encouragement given in our name and with our tax money are exacerbating this crisis,” the group added.

Earlier this month, Isaias Santa Rosa became the 21st victim in the series of killings that began in 2001, according to the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. His body was found Aug. 3 in Malabago, Daraga, Albay, after he was abducted by masked gunmen who broke into his home, according to news reports. Sta. Rosa, in his mid-40s, was a United Methodist local pastor, freelance writer and project consultant for nongovernmental organizations and a member of Legazpi City United Methodist Church.

United Methodist Bishop Leo A. Soriano, who leads the church’s Davao Area, condemned the killing and urged civil and military authorities to bring the guilty parties to justice. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines also issued a statement Aug. 7 calling for an end to the killings, an independent investigation and “a thorough inquiry by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Council and other international courts of justice to ferret out the truth and to hold accountable those responsible for such wrongdoings.”

United Methodist executives with the Board of Global Ministries and the Board of Church and Society have denounced the violence and called for action by the international community.

In its statement, the United Methodist Philippine Reunion also called on the church’s general agencies, including those two boards, to make the violence a priority concern and to use their resources in addressing it.

The group expressed appreciation “for the courageous Filipino church leaders who continue to speak prophetically to this tragic crisis at great personal risk. We pledge to them our advocacy and our prayers.”

On Aug. 15, Amnesty International said the Philippine government “has failed to protect individuals.” The human rights group said the number of political killings in the country increased for a second year, “with at least 51 killings in the first six months of 2006 compared to 66 collated by Amnesty International in the whole of 2005.” The killings have occurred “in the context of an intensified counter-insurgency operation,” the London-based group said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has been quoted in news stories as vowing to end such killings.

News media contact: Tim Tanton, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470, or

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