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Stop the attacks on Missionaries

A press statement by the Promotion of Church People's Response
June 29, 2018

The Promotion of Church People’s Response (PCPR) raises utmost concern and registers our strong criticism of the Duterte administration’s harsh and inhospitable treatment of United Methodist Church (UMC) foreign missionaries.

As President Duterte attacks God and disrespects the religious persuasions of the people, foreign missionaries are being maligned under his leadership. The three missionaries from UMC came to the Philippines in response to a calling of God to missionary service with the people. They have immersed themselves with the ordinary people, learning and working with them, and journeying with them towards their aspiration and dream of God’s promise of peace and justice.

Chandiwana Tawanda, Adam Shaw and Miracle Osman are missionaries assigned by General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) to missionary service in Mindanao.

In February of 2018, Tawanda and Adam Shaw were part of an international fact-finding team looking into human rights issues in the Mindanao. They were aboard a truck that was stopped by police at a checkpoint in Barangay (village) Palian in Tupitown, South Cotabato. Their passports and immigration cards were seized by police and they were detained temporarily, but later released.

Tawanda was arrested and detained on May 9, 2018 in Davao City and later transferred to the Bureau of Immigration Warden Facility (BIWF) in Bicutan, Taguig City on June 4, 2018. While Tawanda has “no derogatory record” according to stamps on immigration papers, he is reported to be the subject of the “Watch List Order.” Tawanda’s detention is excessive, as he has been in detention for seven weeks already.

Also wholly unacceptable is the treatment of Adam Shaw, who was issued an Order to Leave (OTL) due to alleged violation of his missionary visa provisions, when he participated in the International Solidarity Mission. Defending and upholding human rights is an honourable action for any persons – all-the-moreso for a missionary – wherever and whenever in the world. Shaw participated in a mission to look into reports of human rights abuses. As a missionary and a Christian, he is guided by a faith imperative requiring him to uphold the rights and dignity of human beings and communities. The parable of the Good Samaritan demonstrated the universality of compassion, care and the upholding of human rights.

What happened to Miracle Osman was a deliberate and hostile violation of her right as a missionary and a foreign national: her passport was confiscated by the Bureau of Immigration. She is also now said to be the subject of a “Watch List Order.”

We find all these incidents of harassment exacted on foreign missionaries who have faithfully tried to integrate themselves with those seeking justice and respect of their human rights, as morally unjustified and ethically questionable. Theirs has been a humble expression of solidarity with the poor and marginalized.

As the church sends people to different parts of the world, a powerful message of being light for the world and salt of the earth is affirmed. Aiming to build and nurture a global community founded in understanding for one another and respect for human rights, missionaries like Tawanda, Adam and Miracle have simply sought to help build peace based on justice in the areas where they are assigned, while also nurturing a global community and solidarity network committed to working to create a better world.

We remind President Duterte to stop attacking God, whom he does not see, and to stop attacking missionaries, most particularly those whose good works for the poor and marginalized are evident. Missionaries are not perfect individuals, but they have committed their lives to service to others – any shortcomings can be nurtured and remolded as they accompany the Filipino people in their desire for a just and lasting peace.

Stop the attacks on foreign missionaries!

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