November 15, 2015

A Statement from Catholic Nuns of Mindanao

We are from the Sisters Association in Mindanao or SAMIN. We are a group of more than 300 Catholic nuns from Mindanao who have been working for the cause of justice and peace since 1983.

We are here in Manila to show our solidarity with the Lumad. This is our way of responding to the call of Pope Francis to proclaim the Joy of the Gospel to the poor.

We support the call of Cardinal Antonio Tagle to help the Lumad in whatever way we can to bring attention to their plight. We are one with the Cardinal in his unequivocal call to pull out the troops of the Armed Forces of the Philippines from Lumad communities.

We are especially concerned with the trauma and suffering of Lumad children due to the encampment of the AFP in their schools and communities. Children and schools should be off limits to these forms of aggression.

We also would like to bring attention to the harassment and vilification being suffered by Catholic sisters who are carrying out apostolates for the poor in rural communities. Many of us have become victims of human rights violations as well and have been targeted by the military in their propaganda and harassments. An example is the Missionary Sisters of Mary congregation in Butuan City who has been accused as NPA supporters by military-backed indigenous paramilitary groups in Butuan City.

Our former chairperson Sr. Stella Matutina, OSB is now facing charges of kidnapping, illegal detention, and human trafficking due to her support to the internally displaced persons of UCCP Haran in Davao City. This, as Sr. Stella will be conferred the prestigious Weimar Human Rights Award on December 10, International Human Rights day in Germany this year.

But these attacks on our ranks as Catholic sisters is a mere extension of the broader and more vicious attacks on our Lumad brothers and sisters. We see this as part of the Oplan Bayanihan of the military to discredit all those who support the just cause of indigenous peoples who are fighting for their land, rights, and culture. Now, it is not only Karapatan that they are running after. Like in the days of Martial Law, the church is being attacked as well for her prophetic stance in favor of the struggle of the Lumad.

We call on President Aquino: The Lumad have been here for almost a month now. President Aquino, your heart is as hard as that of the Pharaoh who refused to end the oppression of God’s chosen people. You have not heeded the intervention of the church to leave the Lumad in peace. As we speak now, President Aquino has deployed more troops to the Caraga region and a school has in fact been burned there by AFP-backed indigenous paramilitary group. We implore you to hear the cry of the Lumad! Stop Lumad Killings! Stop the attacks on Lumad schools, communities and people! Support the Lumad resistance to militarization and plunder!

For reference:

Sr. Ma. Luz Mallo, m.a.
SAMIN Executive Secretary