In recent weeks, three United Methodist missionaries — Adam Thomas Shaw, Tawanda Chandiwana, and Miracle Osma — have experienced the terror of the Trump-backed Duterte regime before all safely returned home in the past few days. In only two years, the Duterte regime has wrought over 20,000 killings and shut down the possibilities of peace talks amidst a fifty year civil war in the Philippines; now, the regime is targeting church workers who work in solidarity with the poor.
In February 2018, the three missionaries (Shaw, Chandiwana and Osman) participated in a fact-finding mission — as a part of an ICHRP International Solidarity mission — in rural South Cotabato, Mindanao. The missionaries documented eye-witness accounts of the Lake Sebu massacre in which the Armed Forces of the Philippines killed 8 indigenous farmers. On their way back to the city, Philippine authorities apprehended the three missionaries, along with two others. Government authorities then placed the missionaries on a blacklist for their human rights work, and accused the missionaries of being ISIS members.
Most recently, the Philippine government gave orders for Shaw, Chandiwana and Osma to leave the country because of their “political activities.” Chandiwana was detained for 2 months before being deported, while the Bureau of Immigration withheld documents necessary for Shaw and Osma to leave the country. The United Methodist Church since launched a campaign to #LetThemLeave, and Shaw returned to the United States on July 4, while Osman has just recently been released.
The three missionaries are among many church workers that have experienced Duterte’s rising fascism. Sister Patricia Fox, a 71-year-old Catholic nun from Australia, also faced threats of deportation due to her work with peasant farmers, but remains in the Philippines after cries of protest from church people across the globe. In December 2017, assailants killed Roman Catholic priest Father Tito Paez, and since then, three other priests have been killed – Father Mark Anthony Ventura, Father Richard Nilo and Father Rey Urmeneta. On July 3rd, a Mayor and United Methodist, Ferdinand Bote, was gunned down.
The common thread of these church workers has been their concern for and work with poor and struggling Filipinos. As Adam Shaw recently noted, “I think the church, especially in the Philippines, will always be with the poor, the oppressed, and the marginalized because it is part of our mandate as people of faith to be supporting, to be a platform, and to give space for their voices.”
Reflecting on the grave human rights crisis, Shaw further recounted, “Because I had my prior experience in Mindanao, witnessing all these things happen to people that I work with, having trumped-up charges, being disappeared, being arrested, and some being killed, that maybe I’m a bit more numb or more understanding,” Shaw said. “Yes, I’m on the watch list but it could be much worse. Yes, I’m on the blacklist but I’m still alive and I haven’t been disappeared. It kind of puts it more in a reference.”
Under the Duterte administration, the suffering of only a few individuals — whether Kian De Los Santos, Father Tito Paez, Jo Lapiro, Adam Shaw, or Sister Pat— has been enough to enrage and move thousands across the Philippines and the world to resist Duterte’s dictatorship. But these names are just a few of thousands who have suffered, and Duterte’s long list of human rights violations are not acts merely against church leaders out of spite for Christianity, nor are Duterte’s violations mere personal attacks on individuals, nor, are these attacks even limited to the Filipinos.
Rather, Duterte is waging an all out war against the Filipino people and all those who seek peace and justice in the face of rising fascism, labeling ordinary activists and faith leaders as terrorists. As U.S. military aid continues to support the Duterte administration, Duterte’s all out war is another link in the chain through which U.S. war and intervention holds oppressed people captive across the world.
The International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines joins the United Methodist Church to demand an end to the repression of church workers. Further, if human rights violations against a few church workers has already garnered the ire of thousands — over 18,000 signed the United Methodist petition to let the missionaries go home — then now when there is an all out war against the broad sectors of Filipinos and all those who seek justice in the country and across the world, we call for an even greater expansion of a U.S. mass movement against Duterte’s tyranny and against U.S. military aid and intervention in the Philippines. ####
- Support the struggle of poor and indigenous communities for self-determination and flourishing: Donate to the Save Our Schools Network as centers of community education and development. Through the United Methodist Church all donations of the Save Our Schools Network are tax deductible and 100% of your donation goes to support the network.
- To donate online: Go here or go to umcmission.org and search Save Our Schools, Protect Indigenous Life (#3022305).
- To donate by check, please make your check payable to Advance GCFA and the Advance number on the memo line and mail to: Advance GCFAPO Box 9068 GPO
New York, NY 10087-9068
- To donate by phone, please call 1-888-252-6174.
- Take Legislative Action: Join congressional advocacy efforts to ensure that U.S. tax dollars are not used to fund the Philippine military and national police.
- Conduct vigils, write statements, and participate in actions for the people’s State of Nation Address, July 23rd Philippines time. Raise the calls of ICHRP: Stop the Killings! End U.S. military aid to the Philippines! No to Fascist Dictatorship! Resume the Peace Talks!
- Expand the movement against tyranny — invite churches, organizations, and individuals (whose organization is not yet able to join ICHRP) to join the of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines-United States!