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Gunmen kill United Methodist local pastor in Philippines

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Bishop Leo Soriano
Aug. 8, 2006

By United Methodist News Service

A United Methodist in the Philippines who had served as a local pastor was shot dead by gunmen outside his home.

According to a story in the Aug. 6 edition of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Isaias Sta. Rosa was found dead in Malabago, Daraga, Albay, on Aug. 3. He was near a creek, alongside another dead man with gunshot wounds who was identified as an army corporal, according to the newspaper.

Police said that soldier was believed to be one of about 10 masked gunmen who forced their way into the pastor’s home, and neighbors of Sta. Rosa speculated that the corporal might have been killed by mistake and his body left with the pastor’s to make it appear that the slaying was the work of a rebel group, according to the Manila Bulletin Online.

Sta. Rosa’s brother’s home nearby also had been entered and the case was listed by police as a “robbery with homicide.” The brother, Jonathan Rosa, said he had been asked where Isaias was and ordered to knock at the door of his house. He said Isaias was beaten up and taken from the house to the creek.

Sta. Rosa, in his mid-40s, was a 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.

“While we grieve and express sympathy to the bereaved family, we also express outrage over this diabolical act,” the bishop said. “Therefore, I urge all United Methodists and all God-fearing people to be vigilant and fight all forms of injustice, and condemn these acts in the strongest possible term.”

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines issued a statement Aug. 7, noting that Sta. Rosa was the 21st church worker killed since May 2001.

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The Rev. R. Randy Day

“ Sta. Rosa’s killing came after three activists were killed in a span of 24 hours in the regions of Northern and Central Luzon and Sorsogon province,” the statement said. “One of those killed, Rei Mon Guran, spokesperson of (the) League of Filipino Students in Aquinas University in Legazpi City, was also an active member of the Christian Youth Fellowship of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.

“ It is interesting to note that these murders continue even after the announcement by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of a 10-week deadline to investigate the spate of extra-judicial killings among activists and journalists?

“ Clearly the situation is getting worse every day. The impunity of how these killings are carried out is an affront to God’s gift of life.”

The statement — signed by Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, the council’s chief executive — calls 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.”

The Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive, United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, said he supported her call for an inquiry by the United Nations, noting that any real investigation by the Philippine government is clearly not being done. “I really think the international community is going to have to weigh in more vigorously than we have,” he told United Methodist News Service.

In an Aug. 8 letter of condolence to Soriano, Day called the murder “senseless” and “diabolical.”

“The directors and staff of the General Board of Global Ministries join you in standing firm against the unjust policies of the current government in the Philippines,” he said. “I fully support your demand that the killers of Mr. Sta. Rosa be brought to justice. I have also joined my voice to that of those calling for a full investigation in the ongoing murders of Christians working for better futures for the rural poor in the Philippines.”

The Manila Bulletin Online noted that the first person to die in the series of slayings since 2001 was another United Methodist minister, Marcelino de la Cruz of Central Luzon. He was shot to death May 28, 2001.

Jim Winkler, top staff executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society, said his agency has been monitoring the situation in the Philippines closely and is in contact with church leaders there.

“ We are deeply concerned that the human rights conditions there are spiraling out of control,” he said. “There has frequently been evidence of Filipino military involvement in the assassination of pastors and church workers. I urge United Methodists throughout the world to pray for the safety of Filipinos of all faiths.

“ Since the United States has great influence in the Philippines, United Methodists here can play a role in ending this violence by contacting their members of Congress and President Bush to ask that all U.S. influence be brought to bear on the government of the Philippines,” Winkler added. “The the persecution and murder of Christians must stop.”

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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