Coming to the Philippines has been an eye opening experience to me. Last week we attended the memorial services and gatherings about the current struggles of the Lumads who are among the indigenous people in the Philippines. They have been severely affected by the conflict resolution process between the Philippine Government (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). At least 13 Lumad human rights defenders and community members, including two children, have been killed in five incidents of extrajudicial killings and four massacres in the past eight months, with the recent killings of Emerito Samarca, Executive Director of a tribal school, and two other Lumad leaders in Surigao del Sur on 1st September. In the aftermath of the killings, more than 4000 Lumads evacuated to a neighboring village due to fear for their safety, and schools have been forced to close down. It is said that at least 68 indigenous people were killed under Aquino’s Oplan Bayanihan. Of the 68 people, 53 are Lumads. 23 Lumad leaders were killed from October 2014 to June 2015 in Northern Mindanao alone and there were at least 6 incidents of forced evacuations in the provinces of Saranggani, Bukidnon, Davao del Norte, and Surigaodel Sur that involved more than 4,000 individuals, mostly indigenous people. They fled their homes and communities, some since the month of May up to the present, due to heavy military presence and intense combat operations in their respective communities. Peace and justice advocates have become targets for trumped up charges, harassments, intimidation, and killings. Alternative schools have been threatened with closure and their grounds have been subjected to military encampments and harassments for the people affected.
As I attended these gatherings in solidarity with the people the stark brutality was so striking and the world seems fading apart to the dark kingdom with all these killings and other social injustices. Thinking of the people affected, their families and children and the closure of schools, all these struggles moved me to share this with you. As we do what we are called for, let’s all remember the Lumads in our prayers!
The light of God surrounds us, the love of God enfolds us, the power of God protects us, the presence of God watches over us, wherever we are, God is, and where God is, all is well.
Grant us O Lord the Divine Protection of and justice for the Lumad People and other indigenous people. Like unto the prophet Jona, who was guarded for three days and three nights in the belly of a whale, thus shall the Almighty God, our Father, please guard and protect your People
May God cover their children, spouses and families with His sovereign pinions, and under His powerful wings that they may seek refuge. God’s faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. Their families shall not be afraid of the terror by night, or of the arrow that flies by day, or of the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, or of the destruction that lays waste at noon
Grant us, O Lord, Thy protection and in protection, strength and in strength, understanding and in understanding, knowledge and in knowledge, the knowledge of justice and in the knowledge of justice, the love of it and in the love of it, the love of all existences and in that love, the love of spirit and all creation.
*Originally published in the Asia Indigenous People Pact
Harris Memorial College, Philippines
GMF International, Class 2014