Church leaders and church people are good in humanitarian and charity works. For sure, as Typhoon Ompong has destroyed some parts of the country, the churches in those affected areas have been offered as sanctuaries and relief centers. Church people have been good in this area of concern. The people must thank God for His servants.
But church people are not only good in helping people who are victims of natural calamities. In Metro Manila, some church people are busy in hosting the Lumad ‘Bakwit School’ with 100 students, teachers, parents, and Lumad leaders from Southern Mindanao Region. The Lumad ‘Bawit School’ is bringing its concern about the life, education, rights and struggle of the Lumad people in the country’s center of political power.
The Lumad people, aside from wanting to shake up the Duterte government about their plight, want to get the attention of the people of Metro Manila, especially the leaders of churches, schools and universities. They want to share their struggles as victims of martial law in Mindanao. In their communities, their schools were forcibly closed; some of their teachers were harassed and intimidated by state forces (military, police and paramilitary) in the guise of counter-insurgency; and some of their leaders and teachers were slapped with false charges. Some teachers were illegally arrested and detained, while some have been killed by believed-to-be members of the military.
The Lumad ‘Bakwit School’ is a learning system with a campaign to save Lumad schools. The students, teachers, and leaders become the story-tellers about the situation of the Lumad in Mindanao. Aside from holding regular classes, they speak in different fora, dialogues, group discussions, and Holy Masses.
The church people are amazed at this learning system. They do not only regularly open the church and school facilities as classrooms, but they also support their daily needs and provide financial support. Countless church leaders and church people have been constantly involved with the struggle of the Lumad people and national minorities in general.
The Lumad ‘Bakwit School’ was held at the Union Theological Seminary in Cavite last August. In the first week of September, the Redemptorist community received them with gladness. On Wednesdays, representatives of the Lumad were given the opportunity to tell their stories in Masses offered from morning to evening in Baclaran Church.
From September 11 to 16, the students, teachers, and leaders of the ‘Bakwit School’, aside from holding their regular classes, engaged the students, teachers, and church people of the University of Santo Tomas in study fora and cultural exchanges.
The leaders and staff of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) are busy in speaking with religious congregations and schools to host the Lumad ‘Bakwit School’. On September 13, Miriam College donated bags of rice and canned goods for the Lumad people through the effort of the RMP national coordinator. Though Miriam College cannot accommodate the Lumad ‘Bakwit School’, Lumad leaders and students appreciate their care and concern for the Lumad people.
On the remaining days of September, the Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI) parishes and communities will accommodate the Lumad and its clergy and lay people will accompany the Lumad people as they march on the streets with the United People’s Action during the commemoration of Martial Law of Ferdinand Marcos.
The involvement of the church people in the lives of the are oppressed ad exploited is not new to us. Church people (bishops, priests, pastors, nuns, seminarians, and lay church workers) offered the parishes, local churches, seminaries and convents as sanctuaries and refuge centers under Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law.
Church people visited the political prisoners who languished in jails and detention centers. They joined rallies, workers’ strikes, and protests against the Marcos dictatorship. Some church people immersed themselves with the peasants, fisherfolks, and national minorities in the countryside and some joined the New People’s Army. Many church people became leaders and cadres of the revolutionary movement. Some were martyred in the name of national liberation and democracy.
On September 21, 2018, church people will join in the rally to be spearheaded by Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (BAYAN) and United People’s Action (UNA). They will join not only to remember the atrocities and human rights violations of the Marcos dictatorship but to oppose Rodrigo Duterte’s looming martial law nationwide. The Lumad, national minorities, and the Filipino people have shown condemnation and have acted against martial law in Mindanao. The people have condemned and acted against the economic policies and programs of the Duterte regime and all of Duterte’s Oplans (Tokhang, Tambay, Kapayapaan), as well as political persecutions against his critics.
The church leaders and church people will not be left inside of their comfort zones. They will march with the people struggling towards the emancipation of the oppressed and exploited.