Food Crisis and Violence in the Philippines
By Thomas Kemper
The General Board of Global Ministries stands in solidarity with The United Methodist Church in the Philippines as it ministers to drought-plagued, starving farmers in Mindanao locked in a struggle with government over emergency food supplies. We have conveyed to Bishop Ciriaco Francisco of the Episcopal Area of Davao our prayers for peaceful resolution of the situation. We pray also for the families of farmers killed and wounded when national police on April 1 fired on protesters blocking a road to underscore their demand for rice in government storage. Drought intensified by the El Niño weather pattern destroyed this year’s food crop.
We are also exploring ways to reach the most vulnerable of the farm families through the Philippines’ church with the support of our disaster relief and development unit, the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR).
We commend Bishop Francisco and his staff for providing sanctuary to some of the fired-upon protesters at the Spottswood Methodist Center, headquarters of the Davao Episcopal area, located near the demonstration site in Kidapawan City in North Cotabato Province on the island of Mindanao. We are appalled by the use of violence against hungry people expressing their pain and their hope for food.
We welcome and strongly endorse the warm and poignant pastoral letter on poverty and justice issued by Bishop Francisco, with the concurrence of his two fellow bishops in the Philippines. On the issue of providing sanctuary, the bishop rightly says that “the church asserts not only its right to protect the vulnerable ones, it is an imperative of our faith to care for the weak and the poor specially during the crucial moments when they are being beleaguered by the powerful and the mighty.”
As we monitor the situation in collaboration with United Methodist leaders in the Philippines, we continue to pray for a peaceful conclusion to the incidents in Kidapawan City and for government generosity toward both the protesters and the hungry people of the rural community.
We believe that the graciousness of God’s love should be the example for people as we relate to one another, that the hungry must be fed, and that violence is never the best way to respond to need or disagreement.
Read a press account of the situation in Kidapawan City.