Mission Leaders Deplore Massacre in the Philippines
by Elliott Wright
New York, NY, December 3, 2009--Mission officials of The United Methodist Church have added their voices to Christian leaders in the Philippines deploring the massacre of 57 citizens and journalists on their way to register a political candidate on the island of Mindanao.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough of West Ohio, president of the General Board of Global Ministries, and Bishop Joel N. Martinez, interim general secretary of the agency, stressed the importance of seeking justice in the murders that took place on November 23.
They strongly commended United Methodist Bishop Leo A. Soriano of the Episcopal Area of Davao for his courage in condemning the atrocities, and in insisting that the government be held accountable for justice.
The 57 persons, including some 27 journalists, were massacred as they walked toward the place where candidates for public office register. The incident took place in the town of Ampatuan in the province Maguindanao, also known as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The bodies were dumped in a mass grave. (Reports on the number of persons killed fluctuated for a few days, ranging from 30 to 64. The final count is 57.)
The government has accused and arrested members of a family that politically controls the area for these murders. Initial reports asserted that the massacre was the responsibility of Muslim rebels. Those claims have been discounted.
The Ough-Martinez statement expressed concern and offered prayers for "the families of those killed as well as with the churches and other advocates of peace with justice in the Philippines, and also with those in political power who are called up to adjudicate civil justice."
Jimmy Cabillo, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Koronadal City and a radio reporter, was among the journalists killed.
The full text of the statement from Bishops Ough and Martinez and the text of a November 28 pastoral letter from Bishop Soriano follow:
Global Ministries Statement on Massacre in Philippines Province of Maguindanao
We join our voices with those of our colleagues in the Philippines and the international religious community in deploring the recent massacre of 57 persons attempting to exercise political and free-press rights in the Philippines' province of Maguindanao, on the island of Mindanao, on November 23. We underscore the importance of a full investigation of the incident and measures to bring to justice those responsible.
Our prayers are with the families of those killed as well as with the churches and other advocates of peace with justice in the Philippines, and also with those in political power who are called up to adjudicate civil justice.
We strongly commend United Methodist Bishop Leo A. Soriano, whose area includes Maguindanao, for his powerful condemnation of the massacre and his call to the government not to ignore "this infamous crime" that has added to the "blood of innocent civilians and helpless poor" killed in the region in recent years.
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines and the Philippines' National Council of Churches, along with Roman Catholic leaders, are engaged in efforts to bring justice and avoid repeats of this violence in the country as national elections near.
The details of events on November 23 are shocking: A group of citizens, many from the same family, seeking to register a candidate for public office, along with a large number of news reporters, were slaughtered in the town of Ampatuan, their bodies dumped into a mass grave. The locale is in the province of Maguindanao, also known as the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. It is about 600 miles south of Manila and falls within the United Methodist Episcopal Area of Davao, led by Bishop Soriano.
Initial reports blamed the atrocities on rebel Muslim groups, but on December 1 the government brought charges against members of the Ampatuna family that currently holds political sway in the area. Several family members of Esmael Mangudadatu, a candidate opposing the Ampatunas, were among those killed. The party was accompanied by a large number of reporters, at least 27 of whom were murdered.
Among those killed in the late November attack was Jimmy Cabillo, a member of the First United Methodist Church of Koronadal City and a radio reporter.
The region has often been the scene of political and economic conflict leading to bloodshed.
We applaud Bishop Soriano's call to Christians in the Philippines and elsewhere to read "the signs of the times." He wrote in a pastoral letter: "The incident happened at the doorstep of national elections. This is reflective of a political culture that some people used for their political gain. Dispel any notion that provokes distrust to Muslim and Christian relations."
The United Methodist Church and its General Board of Global Ministries are strongly committed to peace and justice in the Philippines. We are in prayer for the families of those killed, for all the people of the Philippines, and for the nation as it moves toward elections. We ask God to give the Philippines a future of justice, peace, and prosperity.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President, General Board of Global Ministries
Pastoral Letter from Bishop Soriano:
THE UNITED METHODIST CHURCH: PHILIPPINES CENTRAL CONFERENCE
Davao Episcopal Area
Pastoral Statement on the Infamous "Maguindanao Massacre"
The United Methodist Church, Davao Episcopal Area is still in the state of shock since the gruesome Maguindanao Massacre on November 23, 2009. The killing of sixty four (64) innocent and unarmed civilians is abominable to both Christian and Islamic faith. Such a diabolic act is a sacrilege and insolence to the sanctity of human life. We denounce the "Maguindanao Massacre" in strongest terms and pray with utmost sincerity that justice will be served to all the victims of this infamous crime.
We deeply mourn with the families who lost their loved ones and share their anguish in this trying moment. As a Church, we are actually in pain. Jimmy Cabillo of radio station DXKR (Radio Mindanao Network) Koronadal City is one of the members of First United Methodist Church, Koronadal City. We grieve for his loss yet we celebrate his life because he died for a cause. As a Church, we enjoined ourselves with all the victims in their cry for justice and in their shout that let there be no "sacred cows" in this incident. Perpetrators of this heinous crime must not be spared; they must be penalized.
With the magnitude of the crime, we call on the President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo not to be beholden to anybody in Maguindanao. Much blood of innocent civilians and helpless poor had already been spilled in Mindanao; let this not be another chapter of our darkened history that furthers hatred and animosity. Prophet Jeremiah of old, made a stern warning of the imminent doom because the leaders of his time have crushed the poor; "your clothes are stained with the blood of the poor and the innocent" (Jeremiah 2:34a). Likewise, let me remind all of us of the strong words in the Holy Scriptures; "Do not deny justice to a poor person when he appears in court. Do not make false accusations, and do not put an innocent person to death for I will condemn anyone who does such an evil thing" (Exodus 23:6).
Let me also take this opportunity to remind our constituency to be more prayerful and at the same time heedful in reading the "signs of the times." The incident happened at the doorstep of national election. This is reflective of a political culture that some people used for their political gains. Dispel any notion that provokes distrust to Muslim and Christian relations. Let us pray and work hard so that justice will be served and no culprit will be spared.
May God's favor be upon us, as we risk our lives for truth, peace, and social justice!
Leo A. Soriano Bishop, The United Methodist Church
Date posted: Dec 03, 2009