Written by Bennett Guess
General Synod 26 urged the whole UCC — individuals, congregations, conferences and the national setting — to help end the mounting violence in the Philippines in which nearly 850 human rights workers have been murdered.
The killings, often by masked assassins on motorcycles, have been documented by Amnesty International and by the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). In addition, many persons have simply disappeared. Nearly all the victims have been community organizers, church workers, human rights activists, trade union and peasant leaders, journalists, and elected officials.
Among the victims was a UCCP pastor, the Rev. Edison Lapuz, who was shot in the head and stomach point blank, while he and his wife were resting after the funeral of his father-in-law. Lapuz had been a defender of the rights and livelihoods of marginalized communities, including peasants and fisher folk.
According to the NCCP report, "Let the Stones Cry Out," the incidents "have grown in alarming proportions under President Gloria M. Arroyo." The Philippine government is conducting a so-called counter-insurgency program as part of what it calls "the war on terrorism." (More information is available from www.nccphilippines.org).
The Synod called for direct approaches by UCC General Minister and President John H. Thomas to President Arroyo to halt the executions and to U.S. President Bush to reconsider his description of the Philippines as a "model of democracy." Thomas has already urged the U.S. government to intervene.
Wider Church Ministries has agreed to maintain supportive contact with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). It will also encourage partnerships between UCC conferences and the UCCP and help disseminate information through the church.
Justice and Witness Ministries will organize legislative action, by members of local congregations and others, to address U.S. policy and funding issues. Specifically, the U.S. Congress would be asked to make any U.S. appropriations to the Filipino government conditional upon a demonstrated promotion of human rights.
Individual members were asked "prayerfully to consider" developing personal relationships with members of the UCCP. Some congregations are already including victims and the Philippine churches on their prayer lists.
The resolution, which originated with the Northern California Nevada Conference, urges conferences across the United States to establish dialogue, conversations, and programs and to create partnerships with the UCCP.