Israel-Hamas war

Filipino Christian churches score Israel over ‘lopsided’ war with Palestine

Paterno R. Esmaquel II

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Filipino Christian churches score Israel over ‘lopsided’ war with Palestine

KILLED. Palestinians react next to the body of a person killed in Israeli strikes, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in the central Gaza Strip, November 5, 2023.

Mohammed Salem/Reuters

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines points out the ‘very complex historical background’ involving Israel and Palestine, forcing Palestinians to live 'deplorable' lives 'for years already'

MANILA, Philippines – The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) scored Israel over its “lopsided” war with Palestine, as the decades-old Christian group called for a ceasefire and prayers for a “just peace.”

“While the National Council of Churches in the Philippines is saddened by the violence that each side has wrought on each other’s people, the war between Israel and Palestine is clearly a lopsided one,” said the group in a statement sent via email Sunday evening, November 5.

“Israel’s response to the attack of Hamas, which should be scrutinized for violations of International Humanitarian Law, exacerbates the already deplorable conditions of Palestinians, who have been living under a situation likened to ‘apartheid’ for years already. Israel went as far as cutting off water, electricity, supplies, and even humanitarian aid to Gaza,” said the NCCP.

The NCCP is a 60-year-old Christian council that describes itself as “an ecumenical fellowship of non-Roman Catholic denominations in the Philippines working for unity in faith and order.” The council is known to be outspoken on social issues, as when it condemned the killings in Rodrigo Duterte’s anti-drug campaign in 2017. 

One of its members is the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, commonly known as the Aglipayan Church, a church founded to resist Spanish Catholic friars in the late 1800s and is now known for its activist stance on social issues. IFI also spoke out against extrajudicial killings while its bishops were among those red-tagged during Duterte’s watch.

The NCCP lists the following as its members:

  • Apostolic Catholic Church (founded in 1992)
  • Convention of Philippine Baptist Churches (1935)
  • Episcopal Church in the Philippines (1901)
  • Iglesia Evangelica Metodista En Las Islas Filipinas (1909)
  • Iglesia Filipina Independiente (1902)
  • Iglesia Unida Ekyumenikal (1995)
  • Lutheran Church in the Philippines (1946)
  • The Salvation Army (1937)
  • United Church of Christ in the Philippines (1948)
  • The United Methodist Church (1898)

Unlike the NCCP, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines – the coordinating body of Catholic bishops in the country – has not released a collective statement on Israel and Palestine.

In its statement on Sunday evening, the NCCP noted the “very complex historical background” involved – that “the modern state of Israel was created through what Palestinians call the nakba (meaning catastrophe in Arabic), which refers to the mass displacement and dispossession of Palestinians during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war.”

Using its military might and the support of many Western countries, Israel “has forcibly occupied additional Palestinian territories through the years,” the council said. (Watch the Rappler explainer below.)

Filipino Christian churches score Israel over ‘lopsided’ war with Palestine

The NCCP statement comes as religion plays a significant role in discussions by Filipinos on Israel and Palestine. According to a Rappler investigation conducted with data consultancy TheNerve, religious posts took up over a third of the Israel-Palestine social media discussion in the Philippines. 

Melba Maggay, president of the Institute for Studies in Asian Church and Culture, said religious narratives on the conflict are seen worldwide, but are “more pronounced in the Philippines because we call ourselves a Christian country, even if it’s not entirely true.”

[EDITORIAL] Kailangan ng isang ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ sa Gaza

[EDITORIAL] Kailangan ng isang ‘humanitarian ceasefire’ sa Gaza

At least 9,061 people, mostly women and children, have been killed after nearly four weeks of Israeli bombardment against the Gaza Strip in retaliation for deadly attacks by Hamas gunmen in southern Israel. – Rappler.com

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Paterno R. Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He finished MA Journalism in Ateneo and MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email pat.esmaquel@rappler.com