Philippines

Enemies of the State

The Philippines Armed Forces have been implicated in most of the recent human rights abuses that have occurred in that country (almost 800 unlawful executions since 2001). Journalists, activists, pastors, and lawyers have been kidnapped, tortured, or even gunned down in public for daring to advocate on behalf of the economic, social, and civil rights of the poor.



But since 9/11, the U.S. government has given the Philippines army $245.6 million for "foreign military financing," [...]

Where is Jonas Burgos?

Imagine you're eating at a shopping mall food court when you suddenly hear shouting and see a group of uniformed men (neither police nor army) drag a young man from his lunch a few tables away. "I'm just an activist! I haven't done anything wrong!" he shouts as they cuff him and take him to a waiting van outside. What would Christ-followers do? What would you do?



This is the scene [...]

News Bites

Olive Branch. In April, 120 former Israel Defense Force soldiers and Palestinian militants publicly launched “Combatants for Peace,” a partnership of former enemies who will pressure both governments to stop violence, promote peace, and establish a viable Palestinian state.

Groundbreaking. The Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines released a statement on mining issues and concerns in January that challenged President Macapagal-Arroyo’s “mining revitalization program.” This program would allow transnational companies to open new mines in economically depressed areas, sensitive bioregions, and indigenous homelands.

Salaam, Shalom. The Second World Congress of Imams and Rabbis for Peace was held in Seville, Spain, in March, gathering more than 150 influential Jewish and Muslim leaders to work on a common agenda to “preserve the value of life.”

Mini-Size It. Ravalli County, Montana, passed an ordinance in April limiting stores to no more than 60,000 square feet, effectively protecting main street businesses and blocking Wal-Mart’s plans to build a supercenter.

Money Matters. Some of the world’s largest international investment funds, valued at more than $4 trillion, endorsed a set of six voluntary “principles for responsible investment” introduced by the United Nations in April. The signatories will incorporate environmental, social, and corporate governance issues into their investment analysis.

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Sojourners Magazine July 2006
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A Miracle in Mindanao

The Christians of Isulan were out for revenge. A young Muslim had stabbed a Christian youth, and Christian adults were determined that Muslims would pay for the crime. As Christians and Muslims faced each other, raised their guns, and took aim, Bernie Eliseo knew he had to act quickly. He stepped between the two groups, facing his fellow Christians.

"If you insist on killing our Muslim neighbors, you're going to have to kill me too," he told them. Startled, both groups lowered their weapons. A potential bloodbath was averted by the selfless response of one determined peacemaker.

Eliseo, a community leader, had learned mediation skills at a workshop called "Panagtagbo sa Kalinaw"—Culture of Peace—which has since been offered in communities throughout Mindanao, the southernmost of the larger Philippine islands. Christians, Muslims, and members of indigenous groups who attend the workshops reflect together on the harmful stereotyping of one another that can lead to violence. They study the history of the diverse religious and cultural groups in Mindanao and articulate their dreams for peace among those groups. Finally, they learn mediation strategies and engage in role-playing to practice their new skills.

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Sojourners Magazine July-August 2002
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People Power II

Tens of thousands of people gathered in the streets and parks in Manila and other major cities in the Philippines early this year as People Power II erupted. With crowds swelling, cabinet members offered their massive resignation, and finally even the military deserted the president-it was clear that people power had reached its objective to push Erap Estrada to resign. There were joyful celebrations in the big cities that evening.

Despite all existing political and social theories, there is not one I know that can fully explain the people power phenomenon both in 1986 and this year. While there are material bases for the revolutionary struggle, for the believer there were just so many signs of God's intervention that was the people power. It was political, yes; but it was also very cosmic, metaphysical. There is no way the people could have won, if not but a direct divine intervention. A miracle took place.

Right now many are saying that God has given us a second gift, the first being the one given in 1986. We wasted the first gift; no radical reforms to benefit the poor took place from 1986 on. This is a second gift, and many of us say to ourselves that we should not waste it. We should learn the lessons of 1986 and not commit the same mistakes. Thus, there are calls for:

n A continuing trial of Estrada for all charges of corruption and plunder. Justice first before reconciliation and mercy. He, his kin, cronies, and all those who helped him obstruct justice should be brought to trial. This is the only way we could experience catharsis, as it happened in South Korea. Then, having undergone a fair trial, if they are found guilty they should be punished, even in a symbolic manner. Then, as the psalmist states, let justice and mercy embrace.

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Sojourners Magazine March-April 2001
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A Caged Bird Sings

Sojourners editor Jim Wallis and Karl Gaspar found each other in Geneva in the spring of 1983. They were attending an international ecumenical dialogue between Third World and First World theologians. "I meet a lot of people," says Wallis, "but sometimes something just connects with another human being. I remember taking long walks with Karl around the city, earnestly talking about our similar histories. We both grew up in the protest movements of the '60s. A real bond was formed between us which intensified when, a month later, Karl was disappeared by the Marcos regime."

Karl Gaspar spent 22 months in a Philippine prison, charged with political subversion. He was tortured and starved. Fellow political detainee Gus Miclat remembers when Karl disappeared. "Most of us felt numb and paralyzed by the fact that if they could do this to Karl, they could do it to anybody," Miclat said. But their fear turned to rage and then courage. For the first time, the People Power movement organized raids on the military "safehouses," rather than only enduring the military raids on their own houses. "In an ironic twist of roles," said Miclat, "in one safehouse we raided, a military thug demanded to see a search warrant."

Jim Wallis was one of thousands who tried to find Gaspar. Karl did eventually come to light—on Easter Sunday in Manila. "After I was surfaced by the military, I was told that the American consulate in Davao City was surprised about this one persistent caller from Washington, D.C.—a pastor who called every day to ask about me. Hearing that story from my family—they were the only ones who could see me in prison—made me very grateful for people like Jim, who showed tremendous interest regarding the life and death situations we faced during the time of Marcos."

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Sojourners Magazine January-February 2001
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