As Philippines continues fight for human rights, “our faith calls us not to be still but to take action”

At a 28 July ecumenical briefing on INVESTIGATE PH’s “Second Report of the Independent International Commission of Investigation Into Human Rights Violations in the Philippines,” religious leaders discussed their renewed commitment to act in solidarity with people in the Philippines whose human rights are increasingly in peril.

The report, which examines continuing human rights violations in the Philippines, highlights an ongoing, prevailing lack of effective domestic remedies for these abuses. The report is the second in a series of three by INVESTIGATE PH, an initiative of people and organizations from all over the world concerned about the state of human rights in the Philippines.

World Council of Churches central committee moderator Dr Agnes Abuom is among INVESTIGATE PH’s faith-based participants.

During the briefing, Derek Duncan, associate for Global Advocacy and Education, United Church of Christ, USA, reflected that part of faith-based organizations’ commitment involves strong advocacy with their own governments. “Too often, our religious constituents have not been mindful of that—of their role as citizens as well as members of the body of Christ,” he said. “It’s incumbent on the United States in particular to make sure that the values we hold in the church and that we hold in the legal system are upheld in the relationships with strategic partners like the government  of the Philippines.”

Rev. Dr Chris Ferguson, general secretary of the World Communion of Reformed Churches, said that many international religious communities are doing important work in defending human rights in the Philippines and across the world. “But we must redouble our efforts to coordinate and work together,” he said. “I hope that we can make a commitment to make sure this report gets in the hands of your denomination or religious community.”

Rev. Michael Blair, general secretary of the United Church of Canada, stressed the importance of not turning a blind eye to the report. “It’s important that people in the Philippines don’t feel like they are journeying alone,” he said. “The UN is an important mechanism to advocate for justice and freedom for all. INVESTIGATE PH is a platform that engages both religious and civil society partners to stand in solidarity.”

Rev. Patricia Lisson, also from the United Church of Canada, urged communities of faith to act both on the international stage and the local stage. “What power do we have? We can take action where we are,” she said. “Our faith calls us not to just be still—but to take action.”