Sisters’ Association in Mindanao sounds alarm on aggression vs indigenous communities

Sisters’ Association in Mindanao

Today and always, “the poor are the privileged recipients of the Gospel…We have to state, without mincing words, that there is an inseparable bond between our faith and the poor. May we never abandon them.” (Evangeli Gaudium, 48)

We, the 69 delegates of the 21st Congress of the Sisters’ Association in Mindanao (SAMIN), coming from 31 Religious Congregations, have gathered from August 19 to 21, 2015 at the Diocesan Pastoral Center in Malaybalay, Bukidnon.  Coinciding with the Year of the Poor and the Year of Consecrated Life, this event is historical as it is the first time for the Diocese of Malaybalay to host the SAMIN Congress.

Before the Congress formally opened, many of us journeyed together to Butong, Quezon in Bukidnon and listened to the story of an organized Manobo-Pulangihon community struggling to reclaim their ancestral land.  This affirmed our own experiences in mission and validated the theme of this year’s Congress, “SAMIN – Padayon Paghalad sa Kaugalingon Diha sa Pagduyog-ambit sa mga Kabus (SAMIN-Continuing to offer ourselves as we journey in our prophetic witnessing and solidarity with the Poor) .”

Our various ministries in cities and countryside inform us of the signs of the times, confirmed and expanded by competent resource persons during the Congress.  Our eyes see the horrendous devastation to our beloved Mindanao. We are disturbed these past years with the escalating attacks against human rights defenders, indigenous peoples, Moro communities, women, children, and the elderly.

We are alarmed by the grand-scale aggression in the name of development that tramples on people’s patrimony and disregards its ecological impact.  Under President Aquino, 68 indigenous peoples have been killed for protecting their land against mining concessions and expansion of plantations; 53 of them were Lumads from Mindanao. More harrowing is the use of state security forces in what seems to be a systematic program aimed at sowing fear in the communities, weakening the people’s resistance, and ultimately paving the way for the unhampered entry and operation of foreign and local corporations.

Five years in office, the Philippine president has proven to be an instrument of foreign capital, fortifying the anti-people policies begun by his predecessors.  His slogans of politics of change and daang matuwid (straight path) have now become nothing but a sham.  With no significant change in sight and with the continuing onslaught against our poor and marginalized communities, including community-built schools and learning centers, we are urged to rise up and take a prophetic action to break the culture of impunity.

As women religious discerning God’s call, we commit ourselves with our hearts ablaze to go to the peripheries.  As SAMIN, we heed the call to care for all life and respond beyond palliatives.  We resolve to contribute to the protection of those in the fringes of society and uphold their right to self-determination for advancing their economic, political, and cultural aspirations.

With boldness, we stand strong with our Sisters, Church leaders, and fellow advocates of genuine social transformation, to build unity with the poor to whom we have all been sent to fulfill Christ’s mission.  We share their hope and joy and actively journey towards the day when we celebrate together the fullness of life.

As long as there are the poor to serve, so will SAMIN continue to be.

Signed this 21st of August 2015,
at Diocesan Pastoral Center,
Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

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