PCUSA condemns human rights abuses

By July 15, 2008

Philippines
(MNN) — On June 27, the 218th General Assembly of the Presbyterian
Church (USA) approved a commissioner's resolution regarding human rights
violations in the Philippines,
Christianity Today reported. 

A number of
pastors and lay leaders have been killed, abducted, and imprisoned for speaking
out on social issues like poverty, landlessness, and corruption, according to
International Christian Concern

"A number of congregations have virtually stopped their
regular worship services," said Bishop Eliezer M. Pascua, an ecumenical
delegate at the General Assembly and General Secretary of the United Church of
Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). "So
many have become afraid, asking, ‘Why are our pastors being killed? Why are so
many [who are] advocating for change being killed?'"

The resolution directed the stated clerk of the General
Assembly to write a letter to the president of the Philippines asking her to stop
human rights abuses by the military, and called on the U.S. Congress to
condition military aid on improvements in the Philippine military's human
rights record. 

It also urged American Presbyterians to increase their
awareness of human rights abuses and do what they can to help. Pascua said such statements increase the
UCCP's credibility in the Philippines,
and the nation has experienced some improvements in human rights over the last
two years. 

"These are official manifestations that give credit to what
we have been advocating and fighting for," he said. "The UCCP is not seen as
just a small denomination, but because of these international connections, [the
government] realizes we have clout and influence."

Pascua said the government does not distinguish between the
UCCP's peaceful advocacy and the violent methods of guerilla groups. Since newer Protestant denominations often
avoid open advocacy on social issues, the government sees the actions of the
UCCP as leftist, communist and terrorist. 

As a result, 26 pastors and lay leaders have been killed in
the last five years, several have been abducted, and more have been
imprisoned. One pastor has spent a year
in jail, but a trial date has never been set. Nevertheless, the UCCP is dedicated to advocating for the marginalized
no matter the consequences, Pascua said. 

"As one of the largest mainline denominations, we believe an
integral part of our mission and ministry is to get involved in the struggles
and hopes of the people," said Pascua. "The
whole UCCP carries this conviction." 

"God is with us," he declared. "We are made more than
conquerors."

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