Two missionaries with the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries were part of a group of five detained briefly Feb. 22 at a police checkpoint in Koronadal City, Philippines.
Adam Shaw, a global missionary from the United States, and Tawanda Chandiwana, a young adult from Zimbabwe and part of the Global Mission Fellow program, are both assigned to Initiative for Peace (InPeace) in Davao City.
The two were traveling as part of an international fact-finding team looking into human rights issues in the Mindanao area when they were detained, said a statement from Thomas Kemper, top executive for Global Ministries. Mindanao currently is under martial law after the end of a siege in Marawi City, the focal point of a battle between the government and Islamic militants.
“While the team members were detained and their travel credentials temporarily seized at a police checkpoint, members were released upon determination that there was no cause to take them into custody,” Kemper’s statement said.
“We are grateful to God that the missionary status of Adam and Tawanda was recognized. We are also thankful for the outpouring of prayer for their safety that came quickly upon social media reports of their detention.”
Davao Episcopal Area Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan — who was in the U.S. but made some contacts on behalf of the team — has provided leadership for the denomination during a difficult period in Mindanao.
Church members have been pooling their resources to provide relief — including prayers, food, medicine, bottled water and clothing — to wounded soldiers and people displaced because of violent conflicts in the country. Many of the displaced are Lumads, an indigenous people.
According to an article in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the team was part of a larger fact-finding mission looking into the deaths of nine Lumads in Lake Sebu last December.
Filipino United Methodists have advocated for better treatment of the Lumads. A small group of Lumads made a solidarity visit to General Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon, where delegates were shown a video about their plight produced by United Methodist Communications. General Conference is the denomination’s top legislative body.
Juan’s predecessor in the region, Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco, and other United Methodists of Spottswood Methodist Mission Center sheltered 4,000 Lumad farmers after an April 1, 2016, protest turned deadly.
Bloom is the assistant news editor for United Methodist News Service and is based in New York.