Press Release/25 May 2009
Buffeted by heavy rain and gusty winds, more than 200 visitors of the German Kirchentag took about seven hours until they were able to light one candle for each of the 1015 victims of political killings in the Philippines.
“Though it is not new to us, we are shocked by the number of victims the candles reveal,” said Hannah Wolf, spokesperson of the German-Philippine initiative “Sumabay Tayo! Walking Together – for Justice. “In fact sheets the numbers seem so abstract. The candles are the first to give an idea of about how many individuals were actually killed, how many more are left to mourn, are traumatized and hungry for justice. To no one of these 1015 victims has justice been served. It is horrific.”
The action, held in the German city of Bremen was organized by “Sumabay Tayo! Walking Together – for Justice!” and supported by the philippinenbüro, the United Evangelical Mission, and the German partnership group Barkadas. “Sumabay Tayo!” is composed of young German and Filipina students and professionals, the majority of whom have lived at least a year in the Philippines.
The protest called attention to the murders of more than 1000 persons who have been summarily executed since 2001 under the administration of Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Organizers had earlier planned to light 1,009 candles but raised the number as they received reports of six more deaths. Among them were deaths in the central Philippine islands of Panay and Negros. The action was part of the Kirchentag, the biennial German Protestant Church gathering, which was held from 20 to 24 May. Based on the Kirchentag theme “Mortal, where are you? (Genesis 3:9),” the initiative “Sumabay Tayo!“ called especially on Christians to act according to their faith and to stand for justice.
Describing the symbolic meaning of the candles, the spokesperson of the initiative, Hannah Wolf, said: “It was as if I light this atmosphere, this sprit that surrounded me. The spirit I mean is the one that the bullets did not succeed to kill, the spirit of the dead but living souls, the spirit of those present, committed and active, the spirit of those far away, living, surviving and fighting. With these candles we gave light to this spirit that lives to one day see justice being served.”
Passers-by and visitors of the Kirchentag were shocked at the fate of 25 victims, whose stories were selected and posted on billboards along Bremen’s Weser River. “Why were they killed?” and “Who is behind the killings?” were their most-often asked questions.
More than 200 people expressed their support for the youth initiative and joined the signature campaign calling Philippine authorities to investigate each case; to compensate survivors and relatives of the victims; and, to end not only the political killings, but all human rights violations in the Philippines. The signed letters are being sent to the offices of the Philippine President, the Department of Justice, the Department of National Defense, the Presidential Human Rights Commission, the Philippine National Police, the Ombudsman and the Commission on Human Rights.
Niklas Reese, member of the board of the philippinenbüro, a German resource center organized during the years of the Marcos dictatorship, stressed: “with more than 1000 victims of political killings since 2001, the importance and urgency for this and more activities is indisputable. It generates hope that with more international awareness and pressure the killings could be stopped
“The activity was a start and we are encouraged to continue and to let other activities follow,” Wolf added. “This joins other voices in bringing attention to the human rights violations and demands for justice all over the world.”
Dr Jochen Motte, Executive Secretary for Justice and Peace of the United Evangelical Mission (UEM), expressed his satisfaction with the activity. Underlining the UEM’s concern especially about political killings and enforced disappearances of church workers, Motte said, ”The UEM continues to support the United Church of Christ of the Philippines (UCCP) in its efforts to stop the killings and to assist the victims and relatives of these crimes.” The UCCP is a member of the UEM, an organization of 34 churches and a diaconal institution in Asia, Africa and Germany.
Other supporters were the philippinenbuero e.V.; the German Action Network on Human Rights; the Institute for Mission, Ecumenism and Global Responsibility (MÖWe) of the Protestant Church of Westphalia; and Church based partnership groups such as Barkadas of the Ev. Kirchenkreis Münster and the Ev. Kirchenkreis Koblenz.
Youth of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP), of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) and the Asian Methodist Youth Network (AMYN) are set to join “Sumabay Tayo!” in an Economic Justice Forum and Prayer Gathering for the Victims of Human Rights Violations in the Philippines. The Philippine action “A Call for Justice and Peace” is scheduled on 31 May in Quezon City.
Spokesperson of “Sumabay Tayo!” and for this activity
Phone: +49 151 57270663
United Evangelical Mission (UEM)
Dr. Jochen Motte
Executive Secretary for Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC)
Phone: +49 20183038 -28
Fax: +49 20183038 -30
 The Kirchentag is held every two years under a different theme based on a Bible verse. Venues change each year and draws thousands of persons of all faiths. This year’s Kirchentag from 20-24 May, takes place in the northern port city of Bremen. Similar to a public festival, the Kirchentag includes worship services, open air concerts, workshops and public discussions. Booths featuring various organizations, churches and groups are located in various parts of the city center. For more information please visit: http://www.kirchentag.de/index.php?id=home_english
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