His Holiness, Pope Francis, PP.
00120 Via del Pellegrino
Citta del Vaticano
“Blessed are you who are poor, for yours is the kingdom of God.” (Lk 6:20)
We share in the joy of our nation, our people and the ecumenical movement in the Philippines in welcoming Your Holiness to the Philippines. The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) is comprised of mainstream Protestant and non-Roman Catholic churches committed to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the Gospel call to faithfulness and justice. We fully appreciate the public emphasis that Your Holiness has given to the importance of the least in our society and the Gospel imperative to seek justice and peace in our world. We would like to take this opportunity to share some of the current critical issues that are at the heart of the witness we are engaged in as a Council of Churches in this country.
The Philippines is a country of a few rich and many who are poor. We are a country where those who seek to defend the human rights of the vulnerable sectors of society are themselves subject to persecution and abuse. Over recent years, there are many human rights defenders including clergy and lay people of our member churches who have been extrajudicially killed, disappeared, tortured, imprisoned on trumped up charges and have suffered other forms of abuse. We ask that in the opportunities that Your Holiness may have to speak with those in power in our country, that you might raise questions about why advocates of the poor are subject to human rights abuses and why their cases are rarely investigated, and perpetrators never prosecuted.
The Philippines is also a country where an armed conflict has been raging for 45 years and has affected thousands of lives. Our people’s cry for peace is deeply rooted in their daily struggle for survival. A just and lasting peace would mean for us food on the table, just wages and job security, land for the landless and a respect for God’s gift of human dignity. We have been active in calling for a resolution to the armed conflict between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP). The formal peace talks between the GPH and the NDFP which resumed earnestly in February 2011 after more than six years of impasse have been stalled again since June 2011.
In this regard, we would like to appeal to Your Holiness if you might reinforce our calls to both parties for them to return to the negotiating table and honor previous agreements to help resolve the roots of the armed conflict and attain a just and lasting peace in the country.
Even before Your Holiness arrived in our country we were aware of your compassionate heart, especially for those of our people affected by typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. As a Council of Churches, we have shared our capacities in the rebuilding of people’s homes and livelihoods however much still needs to be done. Many of them still continue to suffer through the loss of their homes and livelihoods. The Philippines is a country that is extremely vulnerable to natural disasters. Sadly we can only expect more disasters as the world stands ill prepared for the consequences of climate change. Natural disasters in our country are never only natural, but also result from the failures of those in power to protect our people and made worse by the intrusion of political and vested interests into the relief and rehabilitation response. So many people in our country, through poverty and lack of resources, are forced to live in vulnerable places, and for whom little has been done to prepare them for disaster or to mitigate its effects. We have been saddened by the response our government has made to the massive destruction of typhoon Yolanda as they appear to have been more sensitive to the desires of business interests than to the needs of the poor.
Furthermore, the relief and rehabilitation efforts were manipulated to further vested political interests and the lands of some of the poorest and most vulnerable victims have been acquired by opportunist private business interests. We are thankful that Your Holiness will be meeting with those how have been effected by this disaster, we know that your presence will bring them strength in this time of struggle, and ask that Your Holiness might share with the world the cry of the people for justice.
We give thanks to God that you have come among our people with a Gospel heart full of compassion for the poor. We praise God for your humility and faith, and ask God that just as your presence has blessed our nation, that the people of the Philippines may also be God’s blessing to you. Our Council and our member churches will continue to hold Your Holiness in our prayers as you continue to speak truth to power.
Very Respectfully in Grace and Peace.
The Most Rev. Ephraim S. Fajutagana
Obispo Maximo XII, Iglesia Filipina Independiente
Rev. Rex RB. Reyes, Jr.
General Secretary, NCCP