Filipino United Methodists defend Lumad sanctuary

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United Methodists were among those who opposed a resolution to close down Haran Mission Center in Davao City, a sanctuary to around 500 displaced Lumads in Mindanao.

Davao del Norte Governor Edwin Jubahib moved for the immediate closure of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines center due to “violations of indigenous people's rights” committed inside the facility, according to the resolution issued by the Davao Regional Peace and Order Council Jan. 15.

Haran Mission Center is a temporary shelter for displaced Lumads from Davao del Norte, Cagayan de Oro, Bukidnon and Cotabato who fled military harassment in their villages. Around 170 families — an estimated 500 individuals, mostly children — are housed at the center.

The Lumads are the largest indigenous group in the Philippines. The word “Lumad” is a Visayan term that means “born of the earth.” 

Ten days after the closure order, the paramilitary group Alamara, which included some Lumad members, raided the compound, according to local news reports. That forced evacuees to take shelter in the main compound.

United Methodist Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan, Davao Area, condemned the closure and raid.

“It is unfortunate that the Lumad ministry at Haran is halted due to the forcible entry of armed men. These are indeed trying moments in the history of our church in our pursuit for peace among the indigenous people in Mindanao.

“I condemn in strictest terms this unlawful entry into the Lumad sanctuary and I call on the military and police to ensure safety in the whole facility. I join the (National Council of Churches in the Philippines) family in praying for the immediate restoration of peace and order in Haran and its ministry to the Lumads.”  

United Methodists have been at the forefront in speaking out and defending the rights of the indigenous peoples, and the church continues its outreach with Lumads.

A United Methodist Board of Global Ministries Nationals in Mission project works with indigenous peoples in the Philippines.

“We have ministries in Makilala town and in Tacol, Magsaysay, Davao Sur and in Managic, Malaybalay, Bukidnon,” Juan said.

“A livelihood project on basket weaving is conducted with our Lumads to enable them to generate extra income. I also sourced out funds for a children's classroom and library for Lumads.”

In a Jan. 24 statement, the Promotion of Church People’s Response in Socsksargen joined with the United Church of Christ of the Philippines in its opposition to the closing of Haran Mission Center. Socsksargen is in central Mindanao. The name is an acronym for the region's four provinces and one of its cities: South Cotabato, Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and General Santos City.

The Promotion of Church People’s Response is a national ecumenical organization of ordained church people and lay, which includes United Methodists, seeking justice for victims of human rights violations. 

The resolution “is a blatant form of harassment intended to abridge the kingly, priestly, and prophetic role of the church,” the statement said. “Tending to those who are in need and speaking for those who cannot speak for themselves is neither a criminal act nor a civil infraction. To restrain the church from doing so is unconscionable. Amidst tribulations, the church will persist to proclaim good news to the poor and denounce evil."

The Lumads remain in sanctuary at Haran Mission Center. Whether they stay at the center or return home still is uncertain. Dialogues have been set to settle the tension and work toward a resolution.

The Rev. Jonathan R. Ulanday, a United Methodist clergy, is chairperson of Promotion of Church People’s Response in Socsksargen.

“Standing for the weak and advocating for the powerless are biblical imperatives that Christians should always bear in mind. These are indispensable in Christian faith,” he said.

To the entire connection of (The United Methodist Church) and the ecumenical body, with the depravity of our political and economic system, there is a need for us to be more prophetic and vigilant in such a way that our voice shall not be dubious and out of tune.”

Mangiduyos is a communicator from the Philippines. 

News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, [email protected] or 615-742-5470. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.

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