National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission Findings – public statement

My previous post detailed my personal experience joining the Colonsabac, Matanao team of the National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission (NIHM.)  Yesterday I went to Ateneo de Davao University to attend the public presentation of overall findings of the NIHM to the four areas:  Marawi City, President Roxas North Cotabato, Maguindanao and Matanao.

I wish to share some of the data.

  1.  The NIHM notes a total of 325,294 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mindanao.  For scale: that is a more of the entire population of NHL champion city Pittsburgh (pop 305,412 -2014 census)  The steady increase of IDPs is a result of the drawn out Marawi siege, the AFP’s love affair with airstrikes that cause massive property destruction and friendly casualties, as well as other aerial bombardments in other parts of mindanao to suppress terrorism.
  2.  The NIHM was only able to provide for 1,222 families.  The IDP situation is made complex by the number of unaccounted home based evacuees who remain un-or underserved.
  3. NIHM medical found the top 10 diseases in the evacuation center served to be Upper Respiratory Tract Infection, Skin Diseases, Pulmonary Tuberculosis suspected (Class III) and active (Class V), Acute Gastroenteritis, Peptic Ulcer Disease/Dyspepsia, Muscoskeletal pain, Hypertension, Headache, Pneumonia, Gyne cases and Pregnancy. Pregnancy isn’t a disease but it does require attention and a more stable environment then say, an evacuation center.  Health services are scarce in the centers and the ones that do exists are stretched thin and overloaded, thereby bringing the quality of healthcare down.
  4. Aside from medical, mental health is a very real concern especially among children:

“as they witnessed heavily armed men, who they referred as ‘ISIS’, occupying their community and engaging in firefight with military elements. They express the same feeling and fear towards government soldiers. They witnessed helicopters hovering above Marawi City and dropping bombs on their communities. Their current temporary shelter in evacuation centers particularly those near Marawi City does not insulate them from the source of their fears as they continue to hear the sound of bombs especially at night time.”

In short, the NIHM finds that

  • Martial Law and the AFP’s indiscriminate aerial bombardment approach has spawned massive human rights violations
  • Martial Law’s adverse and grave impact on the human rights and welfare of civilians demonstrates its lack of effectivity and casts doubt on its appropriateness as a response to a small, armed, and foreign-affiliated terrorist group.
  • Intensified indiscriminate aerial bombardment is the primary character of Martial Law.
  • Martial Law demonstrates an anti-people and anti-insurgency motive, with the Moro and Lumad civilians and communities as its target.
  • Victims call to lift Martial Law, end aerial to aerial bombardment, and stop to militarization.
  • Alarming and condemnable criminal and terrorist acts of local terrorist groups which are reportedly funded, directed, and controlled by ISIS and foreign terrorist organizations
  • Glaring involvement and violation of Philippine sovereignty by US involvement and participation in the Marawi siege and possibly in other “counter-terror” campaigns in Mindanao

 

I’ve taken the liberty of uploading the original document.  I hope you can find it useful. Special thanks to Kalinaw Mindanao for the report and organizing the NIHM, as well as all the volunteers, supporters and donors who made it happen.

Kalinaw Mindanao Mission Statement FINAL

National Interfaith Humanitarian Mission

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 12.29.06 PMNational Interfaith Humanitarian Mission | June 13-16, 2017

Marawi City, Lanao del Sur| President Roxas, North Cotabato | Matan-ao, Davao del Sur

Kalinaw! Peace!

There are currently 235,000 internally displaced persons mostly in house-based settings and others scattered in at least 16 evacuation centers in Lanao del Sur (Bureau of Public Information-ARMM/June 4, 2017). An unaccounted number of people, mostly Maranaos, are feared stranded in conflict zones within the city.

On the other hand, the declaration of Martial Law in Mindanao has unleashed military airstrikes in other parts of the island which has caused the displacement of 1,536 Maguindanaons in President Roxas town, North Cotabato and another 1,200 Blaans in Matan-ao, Davao del Sur. Aerial bombardments have also displaced an undetermined number of Moro civilians in Shariff Saydona, Mustapha, and Mamasapano towns in Maguindanao province.

There is an urgent need to step up our interfaith and humanitarian responses to the crisis in Marawi and the rest of Mindanao.

 May we invite you therefore to the NATIONAL INTERFAITH HUMANITARIAN MISSION led by Kalinaw Mindanao on June 13-16, 2017.

The Mission aims to:

  1. Serve at least 16,000 IDPs in Lanao del Sur and another 2,700 in North Cotabato and Davao del Sur;
  2. Help empower and organize survivors and victims of internal displacements and all-out war;
  3. Document and collate the human rights situation in Marawi and other parts of Mindanao to demand accountability and indemnification;
  4. Express interfaith solidarity and unity with IDPs and other victims of human rights violations;
  5. Call for the release of Fr. Chito Suganob and other civilian hostages in Marawi;
  6. Formulate recommendations on how to address communities impacted by terrorism and Martial Law in Mindanao.

Kalinaw Mindanao has been carrying out interfaith responses to Mindanao crises, including massive displacements caused by the all-out war campaign of the Estrada administration in Central Mindanao in 2000, in Sulu and Basilan by the Arroyo government in 2005, and in Central Mindanao in 2008 following the rejection of the MOA-AD.

This invitation enjoins you to:

ۥ Help generate/contribute relief support to the Mission areas

ۥ Volunteer for psychosocial, medical, and relief services

ۥ Enlist as human rights documentors

ۥ Participate in Duyog Ramadan and interfaith activities

Please inquire or register on or before June 10, 2017. For confirmations and inquiries please contact inpeace.info@yahoo.com or call/fax +63 082 2994964. We look forward to your affirmative response to this invitation.

For interfaith solidarity,

Screen Shot 2017-06-06 at 12.40.28 PM

 

Marawi City, Martial Law and Mindanao

I don’t know what to write about anymore. First the devastating news about Marawi city, and now martial law declared…and worse it is welcomed by many people who should remember the lessons learned under President Dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

I have found myself explaining to Filipinos, people who I think would know better – that martial law is not a solution, and will not be any different under President Duterte than it was under Marcos, as the former said.  In fact, Duterte has since said he thought Marcos’ martial law was great and plans his to be exactly the same and just as harsh.
 
At InPeace, we are used to observing suspicious vehicles watching our offices even before martial law, and we expect this to continue and become more brazen as martial law now legitimizes the surveillance we are under.  As missionaries, myself and the Global Mission Fellows serving here, are to take extra precautions in being observers and strengthening our visible public ties to the Church – and always using a buddy system when going out.  We also implemented our own curfew at the office, but we expect an official curfew to come in the following weeks.  (This means also won’t be teaching as we are not supposed to travel)
 

President Duterte has floated the idea of expanding martial law to the rest of the country, to deal with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines and the New People’s Army. It worries me that martial  law will be used as a staging for operations against legitimate rebel groups, because surely it will be civilians who will be targeted. I just read today that Duterte will ignore Congress and the Supreme Court while carrying out martial law, even though the Philippine Constitution gives those two bodies oversight.  It is truly a troubling time in this nation.

 
Yet it is just as important for all of us to remain witness to what is happening in Mindanao.  We cannot allow the civil sector to be quieted or silenced by martial law. We must bear witness to the increased extra judicial killings, the forced disappearances, the trumped up charges, the illegal detentions and the violation of human rights that will inevitably happen to our colleagues and to peace activists under marshal law.  As long as we can bear witness without jeopardizing our physical safety, I believe it is our responsibility to do so.  We cannot let our Filipinos sisters and brothers bear this alone, and we cannot let our voices and our witness be silent, we cannot be apathetic or rationalize martial law.
 
Please keep all of Mindanao in your prayers, especially the people of Marawi city who are still caught between the extremists fighters and government troops.

Annual Conference Sharing

As promised about 5 minutes ago, below is the written script of my sharing. To listen while watching the video, click here.  Plenary 5 video, at the bottom of the page.  Scroll to 9:48 to listen.

Oh and Cal-Pac Taskƒorce Philippines’ resolutions got adopted! So cheers all around for those who made it happen.

If you are interested in further articles about my time check out this article from Global Ministries

Here are the words I spoke..sort of.  I don’t always follow exactly what I write.

Hello,

My name is Adam Shaw and I am a young adult missionary with Global Ministries. I served 18 months in the Philippines and am currently serving as Mr. Taskforce Philippines as a part of the Justice and Compassion Essential Ministry Team. I have been asked to share a reflection on what it means for me to be part of a church that offers young adults opportunities to serve:

My ministry in the Philippines began by building relationships with tenant rice farmers and urban poor communities by living with them for about 5 weeks.  With the farmers, I helped with the chores, pampered the carabao-the water buffalo and shared meaningful time with their families.  With the urban poor, I watched the children, played cards with the youth, attended organizer meetings, listened to their stories of struggle and laughed at their jokes.  I came a stranger, but I left as ANAK, as a son, as kuya, as brother, I left as family.

I also left tired.  I was so tired from being away from my room for a month, my clothes were so dirty from me trying and failing at washing them in the stream, much to the amusement of the locals.  And so when, 2 days after I got back to Davao Francis, my supervisor, said to me: “Adam, they are inviting you back for a solidarity march.” And I, my naivety on full display asked him, how long of a march?

He said,  93 miles in 5 days.

My feet hurt just thinking about it, I was still tired from my 5 week adventure, my clothes were sort of clean,  I was physically drained, mentally exhausted , my heart was homesick and all I wanted to say was No!

The B’laan Lumad tribes of Tampakan  were asking me to march with them as they publicly demonstrated their peaceful resistance to the land grabbing entry of a large-scale open pit mine in their ancestral land, a march that transverses  what is the affected watershed, the entire far south of Mindanao.

I was called to join the march.  Called, tired as I was, homesick as I was, dirty and smelly as I was.  The first day, it was hot& humid.  the second day was more of the same, plus we got rained on. by the third day I was carrying my shoes in one hand because I had blisters on my heels, and shuffling along in my flip flops because I had also blisters in between of and on the underside of my toes, and it was impossible for me to walk without pain.  By the end of the fourth day, I was utterly exhausted, sleep deprived, suffering from my recurring amoebiasis and unable to walk because of my infected blisters.  Now every night after the day’s march there was a cultural and solidarity night, as more people joined the march every day.  I usually sang.  That night however, I wrote a letter and had a friend translate it, as I read my letter aloud. It was a letter that asked for forgiveness for my state of being, and one that asked for their permission for me to stop and rest before catching up.  It was a letter of shame. I was ashamed. Ashamed because the nanay’s the grandmothers, the children, who I had marched alongside of for 60 miles, they were still going strong, going because they had to, because it was their ancestral land, their HOME that was at stake, because marching was their hope.

Marching into General Santos City, Day 3
Marching into General Santos City, Day 3

In the depths of my shame, the B’laan thanked me, and gave me grace. A Loving Grace for we had walked together, a Humbling Grace, because I could go no further.  An empowering Grace of why they couldn’t also rest.  Inspiring Grace.  Amazing Grace.

On behalf of all young adult missionaries, thank you.  Thank you so much for your love, for your prayers and for your gifts of financial support– that allows us to receive God’s Grace from people with whom we were in ministry with yesterday, and share that Grace, that same amazing grace, to those people with whom we are in ministry today.  Thank you very much.

An Open Letter to President Aquino of the Philippines

CANADA-PHILIPPINES SOLIDARITY FOR HUMAN RIGHTS (CPSHR)
1-5687 West Blvd Vancouver, BC Canada
Email: cps_hr@yahoo.ca

06 March 2013

AN OPEN LETTER to His Excellency Benigno Simeon Aquino III

RE: The extrajudicial killing of Barug Katawhan leader Cristina Morales Jose

Mr. President,

The Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR) joins the
Filipino human rights defenders and international rights groups in
strongly denouncing the callous killing of Cristina Morales Jose,
Barangay Kagawad (District Councillor) and Barug Katawhan (People Rise
Up!) mass leader. She was shot dead by an unidentified
motorcycle-riding assassin around 6:00 pm on Monday, March 4th, 2013.
Cristina Morales Jose was also a leader of Bayan Muna (People First)
and member of Barug Katawhan, an organization of the survivors of
Typhoon Pablo that hit Davao Oriental last December 2012.

We send our deepest condolences to her family and the people she
served with passion, asserting that every human person has the right
to demand from the government to be provided with the basic needs for
survival such as food, and shelter, the right for humanitarian aid in
the context of disaster, without any discrimination due to his or her
race, age, class, gender and political affiliation.

As a District Councillor and community activist, Cristina Morales Jose
had exposed the food blockade and militarization of relief operations
in Sitio Limot, Barangay Binondo by the 67th Infantry Battalion of the
Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Together with other typhoon
survivors from Baganga, she participated in the three-day Kampuhan or
camp-out in front of the Department of Social Welfare and Development
(DSWD) in Davao City on February 25-28, and demanded the release of
relief goods allocated for the starving typhoon survivors. She had
also protested against the blacklisting of Typhoon Pablo victims by
the Army’s 67th Infantry Battalion who was at the protest.

Human rights group Karapatan Southern Mindanao documented that
Cristina Jose and all those who participated in the camp-out at the
DSWD were harassed by the Barangay Captain and by the Army’s 67th
Infantry Battalion when they went home to their communities. Under
Oplan Bayanihan, 21 military battalions from three Infantry Divisions
(ID) of the AFP have been stationed in the region and this heavy
military presence has resulted in rampant cases of human rights
violations and displacement of the peasants and the Lumad people.

With just a couple of days before the International Women’s Day, we
are strongly reminded that women are also in the forefront of the
struggle for justice and human rights in the Philippines, alongside
the peasants, workers, and indigenous peoples, and that their activism
puts them in the military’s firing line. The killing of Cristina
Morales Jose only highlights the fascist hand of the Aquino government
and its military in putting down any critical dissent, any movement
that fights for basic rights and welfare. It is also ironic that at
the rally in front of the DSWD, Cristina Morales Jose was holding a
placard that said “Bigas, hindi bala, ang ipamahagi placard.

Mr. President, as Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the
Philippines, we ask that you order an immediate pull-out of the 67th
Infantry Battalion and stop Operation Plan Bayanihan, which has
declared all-out war against the people.

We further urge your government to:

1. Conduct an impartial investigation of the 67th IBPA, the DSWD and
other government agencies with possible connections to the murder of
Cristina Morales Jose and ensure the immediate prosecution of the
perpetrators.

2. Stop to the militarization of relief and rehabilitation operations
in Typhoon Pablo affected areas. Immediately turn – over relief and
rehabilitation programs to the civilian government.

3. Conduct an independent fact finding mission composed of lawyers,
church people, academe, and other human rights groups to investigate
Jose’s killing and other violations of international humanitarian law.

Justice for Cristina M. Jose!
Stop the militarization of humanitarian operations in Typhoon Pablo Areas!
Stop the Killings!
End impunity now!

Canada-Philippines Solidarity for Human Rights (CPSHR)
http://www.canadaphilippinessolidarity.org/
http://www.facebook.com/pages/Canada-Philippines-Solidarity-for-Human-Rights/

Member: Stop the Killings Network (STKN-Canada)/ International League
of Peoples’ Struggle (ILPS-Canada)/ International Women’s Alliance
(IWA)/ Coalition for Migrant Workers Justice (C4MWJ)/ Mining Justice
Alliance (MJA)
Associate Member:International Migrants’ Alliance (IMA)
Proud Supporter of Bayan-Canada and Migrante-Canada

Manilakbayan 2012

Since November 30th and until December 12th, I’ll be in Manila participating in a series of scheduled events called Manilakbayan Ng. Mindanao. Manilakbayan is a journey of people of the Lumad, Moro and settler backgrounds, people who are being oppressed by government policies and who are constant victims of human rights violations. The 4 goals of Manilakbayan are the following:

1: To stop the Killings of indigenous people and of environmental advocats
2: To influence government policy through lobbying various decision making offices (DENR, DOJ, COM, NCIP)
3: To educate and raise awareness of the issues and gravity of escalating human rights violations in Mindanao by holding forums in schools, churches and other venues
4: To build a network of support by forming relationships with national partners with whom future beneficial and cooperative agendas can be realized.

It’s been pretty hectic and tiring but here are some pictures from the first 4 days of events

https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.4118971379278.2141670.1433070003&type=1&l=50782cfe90

A poignant piece on the Gaza Affair by a dear colleague of mine.

I have been hovering over Gaza coverage all day, hoping to find my starting point. Now that Israel has targeted journalists for the second time, and rumors of a Gazan hospital director’s assassination are filtering through social media, it is high time that I begin writing. When the conflict escalated, I was visiting EAPPI workers in the remote village of Yanoun. These internationals from places like Sweden, Brazil, and the Philippines maintain presence in Yanoun to protect it from the nearby illegal (but IOF protected) settlement. We made a short trip into the Jordan valley to take statements from ranchers whose tents had been demolished for a ‘firing zone’. Strange how the occupying Israeli army put it in a populated part of the West Bank? To me, it is not: displacement tactics for systemic land-theft.

I needed Yanoun’s fresh air and rugged terrain more than I knew. I started volunteering with Wi’am Palestinian Conflict Resolution Center on behalf of the United Methodist Church in August of 2011. I spend every working day next to the section of annexation wall that severed the Jerusalem-Hebron road, killing commerce between Bethlehem and Jerusalem. I have stood on the roof-top while my co-worker explained how his grandparents’ land was taken without restitution and I was with him in Hebron to see the garbage that radical settlers throw at Arab shopkeepers.

I write, copy-edit, take photos, and read articles in anticipation of questions coming from my small group of supporters. I have counted myself as ‘too privileged’ and ‘too safe’; while workers are denied permits to work in Jerusalem, I can use my US passport –though we are all herded through the same dehumanizing machinery at the illegal check-points. While farmers rush for the fields and springs that rightfully belong to them in places like Ni’ilin and Nebi Saleh, I know I represent a partner organization. I have to maintain my visa status: I’m officially not in Bethlehem, let alone charging IOF soldiers.

Yet I am in Bethlehem because I did, indeed, rub against these insane frameworks. After six months here, I spent three months in exile awaiting the mere promise of a return visa. I watched online from a shabby hotel in Jordan while the General Conference of my own church failed to divest from companies that profit from the occupation I fight. It gave me flashbacks to the day, a year before, when I stood before the West Michigan Annual Conference and explained how I knew a young missionary in East Jerusalem and he had seen, clearly, that these displacement practices were wrong. In return, some conference delegates hit me with a barrage of misinformation that had little to do with suffering Jerusalemites and everything to do with orientalist myths from mainstream media outlets.

Furthermore, I forgave them and asked God to give me a firsthand witness. God gave me a powerful witness during my return trip, when the Israeli bureaucracy promised the visa at the Sheikh Hussein bridge—then at the Amman embassy! —then stalled, anyway. On my maverick run to the bridge I was profiled for having a large bag, strip-searched, then intermittently questioned for six and a half hours. They gave me a short visa but my contacts helped me get a long extension. Here I am, five months later, still incredulous at the Israeli government.

I obviously stand with the out-gunned resistance in Gaza, which raises legitimate questions. In the US media, Hamas is cast as tantamount to Al-Queda, not the conservative Islamist movement  which was democratically elected (sorry, Fatah) by a people who want leadership that will challenge their oppressors. At home, I would not vote for Hamas any more than the ‘Tea-Party’ but Gaza has been slowly starving under Israel’s blockade. A Bethlehemite remarked to me that he was behind “anyone who fights for my country of Palestine – Fatah, Hamas, Christian, Muslim: it does not matter.”

I am in a sticky spot, as a staunch pacifist, because I condemn all killings on both sides but as a tactician—the chess-player inside of me— I think that Hamas has to keep resisting the blockade or Netanyahu’s Likud-party government will score the political points they wanted all along. The Israeli government imprisons Palestinians with concrete and bullets but they imprison their own people with fear and hateful thinking. When the regime could not win their stand-off with Iran, they chose Gaza as their ticket booster, rousing Hamas with ‘targeted assassinations’ that amounted to youth killed by drones. Once Ahmed al-Jabari started to negotiate with Egyptian mediators for a long-term solution they blew him to pieces and ignited the asymmetrical conflict that has kept my eyes glued to screens for days. Approval ratings have gone up for the Likud regime. Meanwhile, pro-Gaza protests are erupting across the world. The battle is sure to be lost but the public-relations war continues:  we #protestforGaza

The details of this story can be stitched together from alternative media outlets across the internet because mainstream Western media has yet to soul-search. We as Christians, Muslims, and Jews will have to search our souls first in order to guide them. I am talking not only to my family but to my neighbors: the Muslims who shake my hand on the street and the brave band of Jews who denounce this occupation and will not allow their faith tradition to be used as a shield for land-theft and racist violence. This ‘Israel’ experiment has proven, once and for all, that no one can build a society made of people ‘just like them’. In fact, it was Europe’s experiment with the same that drilled the deep well of cruelty from which this Zionist regime draws its poison. It pains me to hear from friends in Eastern Europe that this xenophobia still exists.

Someday, I want to discuss with my Jewish and Muslim brothers/sisters about God, Worship, and Existence but that day will not come until we are sitting in the same living room, arguing like family members and eating from the same bowl. Until that day comes, what I believe will not matter as much as what I do for Peace. We need to abandon homogeneity projects and become skilled at being a heterogeneous society.

From here, I could tell you what I think is wrong with a state calling itself “Israel” and hiding behind Old Testament rhetoric mixed with democracy for Jews only. I could speculate about the Middle East political landscape, or talk about Egypt’s role, or suggest Iran might make a power-play. I could make overtures to protestors in Ireland, South Africa, Indonesia and across the world. I might explain Israel’s economic choke-hold over the West Bank, purposely making life sub-standard here. I could especially talk about how Israel shooting journalists and medics is unsurprising to me, given what I see in the West Bank, and slowly deconstruct the propaganda and excuses. I could even suggest deficiencies in Israeli (Western?) culture that cultivate a fear of ‘otherness’ and a fundamental self-absorption (if I felt especially cranky). We could do all of that.

Instead, I want to address Christians and encourage them to get ecumenically involved. I know this might come as a surprise, because it did to me, but the World Council of Churches is already aware of the injustices in Gaza and the rest of Palestine. The EAs are sent by the WCC to uphold principles Jesus taught long ago. Palestine’s Christian leaders united to produce a document called “Kairos Palestine”. It’s my favorite piece of theology, available for free athttp://www.kairospalestine.ps/ . Read it. There are a multitude of ways to get educated and get involved today.

As I wrote this piece, I discovered that I did not have so many theological points to make that are not plain. Christians can return to Jesus’s well-worn story of the good Samaritan who helps a man beaten by the side of the road, rather than pretending not to see him (as the priest and Levite did). My boss challenged me to read “Muslim” whenever I saw Samaritan in order to understand who my neighbor is, how he/she might be different, and how to love them. When lawyers inquired of Jesus what the most important commandment was, he said that all the law and prophets hinged upon loving God with our entire being and loving our neighbor like our own body. Without that foundation, all the other instructions in the law ceased to help — even became a curse to humanity.

In closing, I want to share a story. When my boss, Zoughbi Zoughbi, had a short permit we spoke to a group of Methodists in a West Jerusalem hotel. Someone had recruited “balance” for us in the form of a Messianic Jew. Messianic Jews are not a homogenous group. Some helped get supplies into Bethlehem during  a siege but others are like this gentleman. Briefly, he was less than gracious: he took a cheap-shot at Zoughbi for telling a story about his daughter; she demanded chocolate from her cousin after he yelled at her (during the siege of Bethlehem, in fact); it was a cute story about restitution, not mere apologies. But this Messianic Jew said, later, that, “Life is about suffering for the Kingdom—not chocolate.” I glanced at Zoughbi and we both shrugged.

After speeches had been delivered, there was a period of question and answer. Someone mentioned they had visited an orphanage and wondered what the speakers would suggest Christians could do to help these children. But again, this Messianic Jew had tied so much of his identity and energy into being a suffering minority, waiting for the second-coming, that he could not help but say, “Warn them of the coming calamities! God will judge them…” etc. I tapped Zoughbi on the arm and asked if I could answer. The text for my answer was Matthew 25:37 — 40:

“Then these righteous ones will reply, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you? Or thirsty and give you something to drink? Or a stranger and show your hospitality? Or Naked and give you clothing? When did we ever see you sick or in prison and visit you?’

And the King will say, ‘I tell you the truth, when you did it to the least of these, my brothers and sisters, you were doing it to me!’”

Palestinians are in prison: visit them, befriend them, and educate your communities about who they really are. Leave eschatology to God: love your neighbors, now, while they need it most. There are few things sadder than having to apologize for what happened to Indigenous Americans over a century ago. Help now. Find a way. Leave excuses behind.

…and #protestforGaza

John Daniel, MI-Bethlehem

 

 

 

Thanks John Daniel for allowing me to repost your article in my blog.

Environmental & Human Rights

It’s been almost a month since my last blog post.  In this case, no news means tons of news.  As in i’ve been keeping so busy that the thought of blogging for 15 minutes and thinking about which news to share for the other 15 minutes, definitely loses to the thought of just vegetating for 30 minutes, checking my facebook, playing words with friends and contemplating how I’m ever going to finish my newsletter with all the stuff going on. 

Lets see:  Last saturday I returned from a 3 week long absence from Davao where I first went to Cotobato City, South Cotobato to attend a Human Rights Safety Training.  While there I was called upon to create and deliver a lecture about digital security, because the original speaker couldn’t make it.  That was pretty cool, I learned a whole lot about digital security but I think I could definitely add on to that presentation, now that I’ve had time to think about what to say and how much we use the virtual world to communicate these days…especially in light of the new Cyber Crime Prevention Act that is going through the Philippine legislature right now (its already out but due to the number of cases filed against it for violated freedom of speech, its been suspended for a while for ‘review’)

My second week was spend in Western Mindanao as I traveled from parish to parish, and diocese to diocese interviewing church priests, pastors and bishops about the situation of human rights and human rights violations for my piece to the report on the status of human rights under Aquino, to be delivered to the United Nations in a couple weeks.  I’m still busy compiling my report for that, although lately it’s on the backburner with a ton of other stuff going on.

My 3rd week was in Cagayan de Oro where I, along with Laura Wise (the new MI) attended the Mindanao School of Peace 2012: Module 2.  The Panalipdan! environmental activist group was having a council meeting at the same time in the same venue and I had been asked by InPeace and Panalipdan! staff to give a lecture on Tailings Dams Failure Models: and the Environmental and Social Impacts of Tailings Dams Failure.  It wasn’t the first time that my geoscience background has been called upon (one of the seriously cool things about working in the Philippines) but it was the first time I gave a lecture to super important people for an hour.  It was difficult to balance the lecture, as even though all of the council members are engaged activists, they all come from different backgrounds, therefore their basic level of geology knowledge varied greatly. Overall I think I did a good job and I look forward to being called upon for similar tasks in the future. 🙂

This week, Laura and I put together a powerpoint for one of the Human Rights defenders visiting the United Nations in Geneva this week, for the primer on the Mindanao Situation.  We had less than 72 hours to put together a super cool powerpoint that will keep the UN human rights council members engaged with the Mindanao rights situation and hopefully encourage them to read our shadow report later.

Next week is the 1 year anniversary of Fr. Pops’ assassination (see archives.)  There is a big event in Kidapawon, high mass, followed by a tribute concert for Fr. Pops.  I have been asked to perform two of the songs featured on the tribute cd released earlier this summer.  As of right now, I don’t know either of the songs, or have them memorized, but hey, what can you do, that’s the life of a geo-missionary rockstar in Mindanao.

This month is UMC Laity month and I have been asked to speak at church on the 28th.  Still trying to decide what to talk about.  I have an idea that’s been bouncing around my head for the past 6 months or so, so maybe I’ll find time to flesh it out….maybe.

The icing on my busy cake, on top of all that’s going on, is GBGM placement paperwork, liquidation of receipts and just general quarterly evaluations, as well as trying to finish my newsletter and keeping up with my blog.  

 

Which hasn’t been really happening.  Except for just now, the 10 minutes before lunch. Speaking of which….

 

…it’s Lunch Time.

 

God Bless my food.

 

 

 

I am the pen, you are the paper.

To what is the measure of the life we have lived thus far, and what is the measure of that which is to come?  Often from students just graduating from high school or college, or turning over a new leaf with new jobs, locations and relationships, I hear the life story idiom, or a version of it:  My life is an empty book, a clear slate, ready to be filled up with my life experiences.  A popular song by Natasha Bedingfield, Unwritten’s lyrics follows the same theme of a book of blank pages sharing a likeness to our finite lives on earth.

The rest is still unwritten.

All men and women are created equal.  As such, when all stand, all should be about the same height.  In metaphor as well as real life, this is untrue.  Some stand larger than others, due to genes, social status, ancestors, health or citizen status.  People crowd the field and everyone’s ideas, movements and causes get heard equally.  However in a stadium full of 200,000 people with each person talking at a normal voice, standing at the center cannot let a person distinguish any individual voice, let alone the speaker.

There are a few ways to advance an idea.  It can done on the backs of others, through exploitation.  It can be done by convincing a large group of like minded people to move en mass (either with incentives or not), or it can be done by raising up, by letting a person climb on your shoulders.

Revisiting the plight of the lumads in Talaingod as well as in Pantukan helped me refocus my sights on my life, on what is yet unwritten.  Standing in solidarity is moving in the same direction.  With the rest of my blank pages, I choose to dedicate them to the stories, causes and injustices of people who cannot be heard above the masses, but who ought to be.  If you open my book and skip the foreword, you’ll just be reading about the rice farmers all over the Philippines, the plunder of the mineral resources in Mindanao, the struggle of the urban poor, the fisherfolks, the organizers, the human rights defenders and the people who defend those who defend others.  You’ll read about Vanessa delos Reyes, a young woman who is being held as a political prisoner by the Aquino government, about Jimmy Liguyon who was victim of a military hit for refusing to sign away his land to foreign mining companies, about a fil-am Melissa Roxas who was illegally arrested,tortured and abused.  About Mamanwa fleeing their homes to escape bombing operations, about schoolteachers and students under attack and harassment, about Sr. Stella Matutina who is harassed by the military for her stance on environmental protection and accountability, about the Missionary Sisters of Mary and their work to aid the oppressed all over Mindanao, about Atty. Frederico Gapuz the founder of Union of People’s Lawyers in Mindanao, about Fr. Fausto Tentorio and others who gave their up their lives, their trappings of wealth or their desires for personal glory and dedicated themselves to champion the cause of the downtrodden, to serve the Kingdom of God and helping those people in situations less fortunate than the situation of our respective births, to strive for justice and a lasting peace.

Coming away from the past week of the 2012 Interfaith Advocacy and Solidarity mission,  I feel more solid in my foundation, in my conviction to dedicate my life’s book to serving the kingdom of God, to championing the cause of the oppressed and the poor.  I feel daunted by the task ahead, and afraid too.  Yet I cannot help but ask myself that if God wanted me to fill my book up with my stories, why have I been exposed and moved so deeply by all the tales of people here and changed by all the lives of people I have been blessed to meet. I am afraid and daunted, for my life feels like it is short enough without dedicating my pages to something else, or to someone else.

So if in the future you try to search in my book for the pages of my life, search instead for the pages of the people who I raise up, search for where justice reigns, search for peace.  Search for change.

Reflection on Education–SOS July 2012

“Next in importance to freedom and justice is popular education, without which neither freedom nor justice can be maintained.”

James A. Garfield

School is mandatory for all children.  Those were the words reverberating in my mind day in and day out as I woke up early every morning to prepare myself for school no matter where I lived, be it in North America, Europe or Northern Africa.  As a child, going to school was a burden.  School brought many chores and homework and was a large demand on my time.  School also provided me with friends, new books, new (to me) clothes and interaction with teachers who opened my eyes to the world.

It wasn’t until middle school that I started appreciating the education that I was getting, as reading novels became a huge hobby of mine.  Through novels, I progressed to ‘How to’ manuals, philosophy and scientific books that greatly broadened my horizons and exposed me to many ideas in the comfort of my home.  Thus my education became a self-sustaining tool, enabling me to educate myself further…but it would have been extremely difficult without my elementary and high school years to provide a foundation for my life’s learning.

In the Philippines today, I am often reminded by many that current and past administrations hail the farmer as the backbone of the nation, the military as the safe-keepers of the nation, natural resources as the key to the development of the nation and the Lumads as the cultural treasure & heritage of the nation.  As for education, during his campaign, President Aquino stated the following:  “If we fix basic education, we fix the long-term problems of the country. And if we fix the country’s problems, we will build a truly strong society we can proudly call the Philippines.” (Philstar 2011)[1]

If.  If ‘we’ fix basic education…has basic education been fixed?  Basic education starts with funds, just like anything else.  However unlike the other budget allotments, education has a high rate of return.  The more money given, the higher the return benefits.  Despite this truth, a truth only acknowledged locally by parents, teachers and concerned wealthy benefactors, governments continue to short change the education budget.  Do you need to increase military spending?  Do you need money for renovating the presidential vehicles?  Do you need extra funds to deal with calamities?  Search no longer, that’s what the education budget is for, to be cut and spent elsewhere.

The situation of the Mamanwa evacuees in Butuan City, Agusan del Norte and the attacks on Lumad community schools:  A disruption of the school year at best, at worst the long term cessation of the education of isolated communities.  An oft-interrupted education is a poor education indeed.  All of these schools are being attacked by military and paramilitary groups, groups that are operating under the authority of the national government of the Philippines.  A national government whose current figurehead made a vow to fix education…

Mamanwa children participating in psychoanalysis. (Photo credit: Rhai de Castro)

“The real struggle is not between East and West, or capitalism and communism, but between education and propaganda.”

Martin Buber

In my country we have a saying:  You can’t fix what ain’t broke.  The schools under attack are the ones who are making a push for free and fair education.  These schools provide education of the people, by the people and for the people.  To fix the long term problems of the Philippines, the Aquino administration is pulling out the weeds of independent, free, and affordable education of the marginalized, to nurture new generations into a ‘a truly strong society we can proudly call the Philippines,’ a proud nation and society based in the visions of the elite.

“A quality education has the power to transform societies in a single generation, provide children with the protection they need from the hazards of poverty, labor exploitation and disease, and given them the knowledge, skills, and confidence to reach their full potential.”

Audrey Hepburn

 The policies of governments today puzzle me: a willingness to spend billions of dollars on military technologies yet next to none on education; the oppression and silencing of the few educational institutions that are improving the lives of marginalized people; the myriad of promises churned out during election years spurned during office and the unspoken commitments of making the rich richer, and the poor poorer.  Free and compulsory education is a human right stated by the United Nations, but a free and compulsory quality education is the struggle of oppressed peoples in Mindanao and worldwide.

 -Adam Shaw, Missionary, Philippines. United Methodist Church


[1]As a Matter of Fact by Sara Soliven de Guzman. The Philippine Star. March 21, 2011

(http://www.philstar.com)