Philippines United Methodists decry government killings
The Philippines Board of Church and Society has released a statement to reiterate its denouncement of killings stemming from President Rodrigo Duterte’s violent war on drugs.
"What is happening around us is frightening: An unending body count of victims of extrajudicial killing of the victims of drug use, instead of their rehabilitation, by police and vigilantes agitated by President Duterte himself," the statement reads in part.
There have been about 13,000 deaths, both from legitimate police operations and by unidentified assailants in vigilante-style or unexplained killings.
The Rev. Genesis Antonio, chair of the Philippines Board of Church and Society, said that the board would like to remind The United Methodist Church that "respect for life and dignity of all creatures is one of the foundations of our Judeo-Christian faith. And that should move us, United Methodists, to confront all efforts and/or structures that hinder the liberating and saving acts of God."
Antonio strongly enjoined United Methodists to oppose the violence and to encourage the government to address the roots of the problem of illegal drug abuse, instead of “killing the poor."
"We hope that United Methodists would be vigilant and courageous enough to protect life, dignity and human rights of all," he added.
The Rev. Aniceto R. Villalon Jr., the board’s executive director, urged every United Methodist to embrace the statement.
"The call of the Philippines Central Conference Board of Church and Society is for the entire United Methodist connection to own and embrace this statement by reading it aloud in any public place," he said.
United Methodist churches in several conferences read the statement during worship.
"Per feedback from the district superintendents from Philippines Annual, Rizal Philippines East, South Nueva Ecija Philippines, Bulacan Philippines, Pampanga Philippines, West Middle Philippines and Mindoro local churches, they read the statement during worship services," said the Rev. Reuel Javier, executive assistant to Bishop Ciriaco Q. Francisco.
The statement was also read during the celebration of Critical Thinking Day at Wesleyan University-Philippines, which also featured a parade of more than 100 education students and seminarians around the university.
Puno United Methodist Church in Quezon City read the statement at the Oct. 1 vespers service during the Global Holy Communion.
The Rev. Jonavern Lungub, the church’s associate pastor, said that faithful Christians become stronger when they are united.
"Reading the statement in local churches in the Philippines is denouncing the evilness of extra-judicial killings, which is consistent with our Wesleyan tradition of scriptural holiness as the basis of our advocacy in social justice," Lungub said.
Floyd Castro, a United Methodist layperson, said, "The church must either open its doors to be the sanctuary of people seeking refuge or be sent out to seek the needy to offer God's protection and witness. Such evil is destructive of the humanity, not only of the slain but also of the perpetrators, promote impunity, and shall therefore never be tolerated by the church."
A call was made for the churches to respond by:
1. Opening churches, institutions and facilities as sanctuaries for people who are victims of illegal drugs.
2. Letting pastors and lay people to engage in extending ministry to the victims;
3. Speaking prophetically in these trying times.
4. Expressing belief that life is sacred and should be respected and protected.
5. Calling the government to address the roots of the problem of illegal drug abuse.
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines released its own statement.
Bishop Rodolfo A. Juan, who serves as one of the council’s three vice chairpersons, said that the church must be vigilant in upholding life.
"The church needs to be vigilant in protecting life because it is sacred. Any act of violence perpetrated by anybody, whether police enforcers or vigilantes, is totally unacceptable in our society. I promote strict adherence to due process."
Mangiduyos is a communicator from the Philippines. News media contact: Vicki Brown, news editor, firstname.lastname@example.org or 615-742-5470. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests.