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Photo credit: Inday Espina-Varona
“We believe that God is at work, to make each person a new being in Christ and the whole world, God’s kingdom – in which love, justice and peace prevail. The Kingdom of God is present where faith in Jesus Christ is shared, where healing is given to the sick, where food is given to the hungry, where light is given to the blind, and where liberty is given to the captive and the oppressed.” —UCCP Statement of Faith
In the early morning of June 23, 2015, PNP elements in full riot gear, along with a paramilitary group named ALAMARA and with fire trucks and military vehicles began massing outside the UCCP Haran Mission House. They were lead by a certain Col. Marvin Pepino.
Without presenting any warrant or court order even when asked point blank about it, they forcibly entered the Church premises by destroying the gate. This happened as Church officials were facilitating a dialogue between the datus and the representatives from the DSWD and the NCIP. The DSWD Assistant Director Perlita Demaquiling stated that they were ordered by the Office of the President through the DSWD Secretary to get the women and children in the Haran Mission Compound. The datus refused the offer. Rev. Jerome Baris, JPHR Coordinator from the National Office, suggested that the agencies extend their services in the area.
The dialogue has just ended when for unknown reason, a command was given to the PNP to force their way in. Apparently there was no coordination with the local government unit, as the PNP immediately withdrew when Davao Vice-Mayor Paolo Duterte arrived in the scene.
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines strongly condemn the illegal and violent conduct of the Police forces along with ALAMARA, a paramilitary group, by using excessive force to break through the premises of HARAN Mission House. We are outraged at this show of excessive force moreso because the PNP did not have any warrant to enter and search the Church facility, a private property.
HARAN Mission House, owned by UCCP, has long been a Peace Sanctuary for the lost, the last and the least of our people. It is a place purposely created to accommodate individuals or communities that were deprived, neglected, exploited, and suppressed with their civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights.
Our fellow Ata-Manobos sought help and refuge in our Church since 1994, the first of a series of internal displacement due to militarization that happened in the countrysides. Providing them sanctuary in our peace haven is a duty we embrace arising from our own UCCP Declaration of Principles, to wit:
“In accordance with the biblical understanding that all persons are created in the image of God, the Church affirms and upholds the inviolability of the rights of persons as reflected in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights … and those that specifically to refugees, women, youth, children, minority groups and other persons who cannot safeguard their own rights.” (Art II Sec 11, UCCP Consti). “The United Church of Christ in the Philippines affirms its historic faith and its pastoral and prophetic witness in the life and culture of the Filipino people. The Church supports the people’s aspiration for abundant life and holistic redemption from all forms of bondage, in accordance with the vision of the reign of God (Art II Sec 8, UCCP Consti).
The UCCP also in its “Peacemaking: Our Ministry” statement noted that “Intensified military operations designed to eliminate insurgents have wrought havoc on the lives of our brothers and sisters in the countrysides …”
This is why we have declared our churches and church facilities as sanctuaries and zones of peace.
This is why we are also calling on the resumption of peace talks to address the roots of violence and conflict in our land, which often result in the mass displacement of communities. UCCP Haran Mission House has in the past served as a sanctuary and safe haven for the internal refugees.
We ask our constituency to uphold our peacemaking ministry as “an imperative of the faith we profess. The Statement of Faith of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines calls us ‘to participate in the establishment of a meaningful and just social order.’ Hence, the peace we seek should result from our active participation in building structures that promote human development and uphold human dignity” (Peacemaking: Our Ministry, 1986).
We also call on all sectors to denounce the ongoing militarization and human rights violations in Indigenous Peoples community and to strengthen inter-faith and tri-people efforts to build unity, justice and peace.
We continue to implore on our people to pray and work for justice and peace in our land.
BISHOP REUEL NORMAN O. MARIGZA
BISHOP ELORDE SAMBAT
North Luzon Jurisdictional Area
BISHOP JOEL TENDERO
South Luzon Jurisdictional Area
BISHOP ERMEGENCIO PADILLO
Middle Luzon Jurisdictional Area
BISHOP JAIME MORILES
East Visayas Jurisdictional Area
BISHOP JEZER BERTOLDO
West Visayas Jurisdictional Area
BISHOP MELZAR LABUNTOG
Northwest Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
BISHOP HAMUEL TEQUIS
Southeast Mindanao Jurisdictional Area
24 July 2015
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