As Christians, we are witnesses to the sacredness of the Earth and all of its communities. United Church partners have called us to respond to the grave injustices continuously faced by Indigenous peoples as a result of mining and exploration.

In the southern Philippines, Indigenous peoples of the mineral-rich Mindanao region (collectively called Lumad) are severely impacted by heavy militarization that protects foreign mining interests. The Lumad face ongoing violence and intimidation, attacks and killings, human rights violations, and the environmental degradation of their ancestral lands. Families are often forced to flee their homes and live in shelters.

Some 2,000 Manobo Lumads from nine hinterland communities were forced to flee their homes in July 2017 amidst fears of another imminent military operation. Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines says the displaced residents have sought refuge at Simowao Tribal Community School in the sub village of Emerald.

Take Action

Take action today to protest violence and harassment directed against Indigenous peoples of Mindanao, Philippines:

  1. Pray for justice for the Lumad and peace in their lands. Remember those who have been injured and those who have lost their lives.
  2. Write to Philippine government officials with an urgent appeal calling for 
  3. Show your support to and solidarity with women human rights defenders under attack in the Cordillera, by signing this petition.
  4. Share this Take Action through your social media networks. Use the hashtag #UCCan.

Protestors with signs including \"Respect the life and dignity of Indigenous peoples - UCCP\"
Members of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines protest the ongoing violence against Indigenous peoples.
Credit: 
National Council of Churches in the Philippines

Background

Indigenous peoples in the southern Philippine region of Mindanao (collectively called Lumad) live in mineral-rich areas. The militarization to protect foreign mining interests has driven many Lumad to seek shelter outside their communities. Indigenous peoples of the Philippines continue to call on the Philippine government to cease military operations and related violence, assert Philippine national sovereignty, and uphold Indigenous peoples’ right to self-determination.

A Timeline of the Violence

2015–present: An increase in violent attacks on and harassment of Lumad who oppose mining and exploration in their communities is reported by human rights groups. This includes military aerial bombings, killings, torture, forced displacement, sexual violence, and unfounded arrests of community leaders and members. The forced closure of Lumad community schools by the military interrupts the education of more than 3,000 children.

November 23, 2015: Moderator Jordan Cantwell, along with 100 other Canadian signatories, signs onto an open letter to the Philippine president at the time, B.S. Aquino, strongly condemning the violent attacks on the Lumad.

February 24, 2016: A fire breaks out at the Haran Mission Center, Davao City, Philippines, injuring five—arson is ruled as the cause. The centre, run by United Church partner the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, houses 700 displaced Lumad. Two days later, Moderator Jordan Cantwell again writes to then-President Aquino voicing the United Church’s deep concern regarding the ongoing violence directed against the Lumad.

October 19, 2016: More than 3,000 Indigenous peoples (part of the annual Caravan of National Minorities or “Lakbayan”) gather outside the U.S. Embassy in Manila to call for peace with justice and the end to military violence on Indigenous lands. According to an account by United Church partner International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP) Canada, the crowd is violently dispersed with police batons, water cannons, and tear gas. A police vehicle runs over a group of protesters. Fifty are injured, and necessary medical attention for the injured is delayed.

July 6, 2017: Due to the ongoing military campaignto displace the Lumads, more than 400 families and over 600 students across Lumad communities have had to leave their homes and communities. These military operations have similar aims to previous military campaigns: counterinsurgency, to protect mining companies or to pave the way for new mining operations.

Child with burn marks on face and hands, in family setting.
This two-year-old Lumad child was burned in the fire at the Haran Mission Center in Davao City, Philippines on February 24, 2016.
Credit: 
Kilab Multimedia

Why Are the Lumad Attacked by the Philippine Military?

Lumad communities are targeted for two reasons. The Philippine military claims that the Lumad support the decades-long armed conflict against the Philippine central government, led by the New People’s Army (NPA). The Lumad villages under attack are target areas for the implementation of the Philippine government’s counter-insurgency program, Operation Plan Bayanihan.

There are also reports that the Philippine government sanctions operations under Operation Plan Bayanihan in order to suppress the resistance of resource-rich Indigenous communities and clear the way for mining and other resource extraction companies. Canadian companies are among those with mining exploration or applications in Lumad villages under attack.

The government’s counter-insurgency program in Mindanao aims to eliminate the NPA and to establish conditions for the government’s economic development program, of which mining and resource extraction are key strategies.

The government continues to hold the peace talks at bay, while disregarding relevant agreements such as the Comprehensive Agreement for the Respect of Human Rights and International Humanitarian Law (CARHRIHL).

Further United Church Action

The United Church’s Beaconsfield Initiative (search “Beaconsfield Initiative” on United Church Commons) has studied the impact of Canadian mining interests in the Philippines since 2006. At our 42nd General Council in 2015, commissioners recommended extending the work of this initiative. This included calling for the end of human rights violations of people and people’s organizations of the Southern Philippines, and encouraging government action that requires Canadian mining companies to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples, labour rights, and the right to a healthy environment.

Send your letters or e-mails to:

H.E. Rodrigo Duterte
President of the Republic
Malacañang Palace
JP Laurel St., San Miguel
Manila
Philippines
E-mail: op [at] president.gov.ph
(or send a message through the President’s website)

Hon. Jesus Dureza
Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process
7th Floor Agustin Building I
Emerald Avenue
Pasig City 1605
Philippines
E-mail: stqd.papp [at] opapp.gov.ph or feedback [at] opapp.net

Ret. Maj. Gen. Delfin Lorenzana
Secretary, Department of National Defense
Room 301 DND Building, Camp Emilio Aguinaldo
E. de los Santos Avenue
Quezon City
Philippines
E-mail: info [at] dnd.gov.ph or webmaster [at] dnd.gov.ph

Hon. Vitaliano Aguirre
Secretary, Department of Justice
Padre Faura St.
Manila
Philippines
E-mail: communications [at] doj.gov.ph

Hon. Jose Luis Martin Gascon
Chairperson, Commission on Human Rights
SAAC Bldg., UP Complex, Commonwealth Avenue
Diliman, Quezon City
Philippines
E-mail: chairgascon.chr [at] gmail.com

Send copies of your letters and e-mails to:

Hon. Neil Reeder
Canadian Ambassador to the Philippines Embassy of Canada
Makati 1261
Philippines
E-mail: manil [at] international.gc.ca

Christie NeufeldtProgram Coordinator, Public Witness416-231-7680 ext. 4078
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4078
cneufeldt [at] united-church.ca
For more information, contact:

Japhet NdhlovuProgram Coordinator Southern Africa & South Asia Partnerships416-231-7680 ext. 4056
1-800-268-3781 ext. 4056
jndhlovu [at] united-church.ca