“The United Methodist Church deplores violence of any kind, and we are praying for a just and peaceful solution that upholds the dignity and protects the human rights of all persons.”
By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
MANILA – The General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church reaffirmed that it is standing with the vulnerable and marginalized who are seeking justice in light of the infamous Kidapawan massacre.
“The United Methodist Church deplores violence of any kind, and we are praying for a just and peaceful solution that upholds the dignity and protects the human rights of all persons,” Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Board of Church and Society of the United Methodist Church general secretary, said.
General Board of Church and Society is based in Washington D.C. It serves as social action arm of The United Methodist Church.
Some 4,500 protesting farmers are currently seeking refuge at the United Methodist Church in Kidapawan City. Among those within the compound of the local Methodist church is the bishop’s residence.
This morning, the Church compound was subjected to a hastily-obtained search warrant, which National Union of Peoples’ Lawyers secretary general Edre Olalia found “dubious, irregular, and a fishing expedition.” According to media reports, the police purportedly found a police cap and a wallet.
Three farmers were killed and hundreds wounded when police opened fire at the protesters’ barricade at around 11 a.m., yesterday, April 1.
Dozens others were also arrested and detained.
Apart from the United Methodist Church, other church groups have also criticized the Kidapawan massacre.
Citing a biblical passage, “ Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake?” Iglesia Filipina Independiente Obispo Maximo Ephraim Fajutagana said, “there are people who would; and they fed starving farmers with bullets.”
“While the local government has reportedly claimed full responsibility, the Kidapawan massacre betrays the Aquino government’s appetite for killing those who stand to assert their rights more than denying them what they rightfully and legally deserved. This government, despite warnings from various international and local groups of the effects of this year’s El Nino, has neglected the plight of farmers who depends on the land they till for their daily sustenance,” Obispo Maximo Fajutagana said.
Rev. Marie Sol Villalon of the Promotion of Church People’s Response decried the “callous disdain and brazen violence” that government forces have responded to farmers seeking assistance.
The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) said they “could not understand this government response to the legitimate peoples’ action. They were unarmed, yet they were met with live bullets.”
Its statement, signed by United Church of Christ in the Philippines Bishop Elmer Bolocon, Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez Jr. of the Diocese of Caloocan, and Iglesia Filipina Independiente Bishop Felixberto Calang, further added that government authorities are supposedly God’s servant who would look after the people.
“However, their response was the exact opposite as they became terrors to the people ,” the EBF statement read.
Meanwhile, the Redemptorist Vice-Province of Manila said through its Justice and Peace-Integrity of Creation Commission assailed the continuous peddling of lies to discredit the struggle of Kidapawan farmers.
“It is very unfair for the police to think the farmers are stubbornly holding their ground under the scorching hear of the sun just to catch attention for themselves and gain media coverage. Finally, why do you always have to resort the habit of branding everyone as NPA when they were merely asking for food in the right and proper manner?” the Redemptorist said.
Meanwhile, the IFI called on its faithful and the clergy to open the churches and provide shelter to drought-hit farmers, and gather support and resources for them as part of their solidarity.