Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Churches call for investigation into Philippines killings

Churches call for investigation into Philippines killings -11/10/05

Church and development groups from around the world are calling on Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to investigate the killings of more than 30 human rights activists, including clergy members, in the course of this year, reports Maurice Malanes for Ecumenical News International.

"We are deeply concerned at the killings of 34 activists in the Philippines so far in the year 2005," the groups said in letters last week to President Arroyo and to army chief of staff Lt Gen Generoso S. Senga, released by the Geneva-based Ecumenical Advocacy Alliance.

The more than 30 signatories included the World Council of Churches (WCC), the Lutheran World Federation, World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Franciscans International and the Young Women's Christian Association. They demanded "immediate and impartial investigations into all recent extrajudicial executions".

The signatories cited three recent killings by suspected military agents: Diosdado Fortuna was shot in the back on 22 September in Laguna Province, south of Manila; this followed the death on 4 September of the Rev Raul Domingo of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, two weeks after being shot in Puerto Princesa in the island of Palawan; Norman Bocar was shot in the head on 1 September in Borongan, Eastern Samar in central Philippines.

"We mourn each of those killed and we deplore the ongoing violence and killing," the signatories said. "We stand in solidarity with the struggle of the Filipino people to achieve their civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights."

They referred to the report of a delegation sent in July 2005 to the Philippines by the WCC and the Christian Conference of Asia. This had noted increasing numbers of activists, including church workers, being murdered, and the intimidation, illegal detention and torture of peasants working on farms for rich landlords.

The WCC wrote at the end of March 2005 to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, calling on her to set up an independent investigation into the atrocities being committed and to bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice. The CCA wrote to the President on 23 May raising similar concerns.

The October letter urges the Arroyo government to promote agrarian and land rights reform to enable rural people to have more access to their natural resources. It also calls for the repeal of legislation, including the Mining Act of 1995, which "puts corporate profit before the interests of people and the environment".

Sarah Ford of US-based Lutheran World Relief, one of the signatories to the letter, said: "We are concerned with the increasing threats to religious leaders and civil society representatives struggling for their land, property, and cultural rights. We call upon the Government of the Philippines to work with churches and NGO leaders to bring an end to the violence."

In February 2005, the general secretary of the National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), Sharon Rose Joy Ruiz-Duremdes, asked for prayer, solidarity and understanding from Christians in Britain and Ireland towards the churches in her country. She highlighted the struggle for justice, the quest for authentic witness and the plight of national minorities as among the major concerns of NCCP.

[Adapted from an ENI article. Ecumenical News International is jointly sponsored by the World Council of Churches, the Lutheran World Federation, the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, and the Conference of European Churches.]

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