Philippine churches again assist victims of Mindanao war
3/26/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
NOTE: Photographs are available with this report.
By Paul Jeffrey*DAVAO,
Philippines (UMNS) - Even before the Philippine military renewed its
attacks on rebel forces on the southern island of Mindanao early this
year, churches in the region began providing support to families
affected by the brewing violence.
"Several pastors and priests in
Mindanao informed us in January of troop movements in the area, and
people started evacuating from rural communities" said Minnie Anne
Calub, coordinator of relief and rehabilitation programs for the
National Council of Churches of the Philippines.
"Once they see
people in uniforms moving through the area, they know the clashes are
coming, and they start moving to safer places. Many local churches
opened their doors once again to evacuees, and we started providing
assistance where we could."
The church council is a member of
Action by Churches Together, the international coalition of church-based
relief organizations that includes the United Methodist Committee on
With government forces waging open war against insurgent
groups by mid-February, NCCP/ACT began offering support to some 8,000
families, most of them in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao.
assistance has been provided through local congregations of the United
Church of Christ in the Philippines, the United Methodist Church, the
Independent Church of the Philippines and the Episcopal Church, as well
as through the Southern Christian College in Midsayap.
is coordinating its relief operations with government agencies and other
nongovernmental organizations in the area in order to avoid duplication
of services to displaced families, according to Calub.
includes emergency food, blankets, sleeping mats, and medical and
psychological care especially targeted to children and women traumatized
by the violence. When the displaced families are able to return to
their communities of origin, NCCP/ACT will provide rehabilitation
assistance, including seeds and tools that will allow families to
restart their lives.
NCCP/ACT and its member churches in the
region will also continue to support formal dialogue between Muslims,
Christians, and indigenous peoples as a way of lessening the potential
for violence, according to Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, the
organization's chief executive.
According to Ruiz-Duremdes,
religious tensions in the region had been manipulated by those favoring
war. She added that international factors were also contributing to the
conflict, with the U.S. war on terrorism and invasion of Iraq
aggravating anti-Muslim sentiments in the country. She said the NCCP and
its member churches were working to prevent the renewed presence of
U.S. troops in the country.
# # #
*Jeffrey is a United Methodist Missionary and journalist based in Honduras.
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