MANILA, Philippines – The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) condemned the killing of Lumads or indigenous people in Mindanao, as the Christian churches slammed the “militarization” in the southern Philippine island group.
“We call on authorities to bring to justice the death of our Lumad brothers, the victims of these two horrendous massacres, and permit the conduct of independent fact finding missions,” the NCCP said in a statement on Saturday, September 5.
It was signed by the NCCP’s chairman, Obispo Maximo Ephraim Fajutagana, who heads the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, and NCCP General Secretary Rex Reyes Jr.
Founded in 1963, NCCP describes itself as “the largest non-Catholic church organization in the Philippines.”
The NCCP released its recent statement after two separate incidents that killed Lumad groups in Mindanao.
On September 1, a paramilitary group murdered a school director and two community leaders in Surigao del Sur. Days earlier, a reported clash with the military killed 5 alleged communist guerrillas in Bukidnon.
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In its statement, the NCCP added, “We call to stop the militarization in Mindanao by ending the government anti-insurgency program Oplan Bayanihan, that has been linked to extra-judicial killings, enforced disappearances, trumped up charges, tortures, massacres, and displacement of thousands of individuals.”
The NCCP blamed the 36th Infantry Battalion of the Philippine Army and the Magahat/Bagani paramilitary group for the Lumad massacres.
“We continue our cry for the resumption of formal peace talks between the government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines in order to address the root causes of armed conflict in Mindanao and the rest of the country for a just and lasting peace,” the NCCP said.
It added, “We call on authorities, our churches, and international partners in supporting the victims including displaced individuals and their families through basic necessities such as food, temporary shelter, medical, psychosocial, and spiritual care.”
Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.