The Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform – North Luzon (PEPP-NL) in partnership with The Regional Ecumenical Council in the Cordillera (RECCORD) and the Pilgrims for Peace – Cordillera successfully held a forum on Ecumenical Advocacy on Human Rights and Peace last December 10, 2015 at the Ecumenical Theological Seminary (ETS), Bokawkan Road, Baguio City. The theme for the gathering, “Advancing the Indigenous Peoples’ Agenda for Genuine Peace and Freedom” was at the center of discussion during the whole day activity.
Church leaders who were present during the activity were Bishop Elorde M. Sambat, PEPP Convenor of North Luzon and Bishop of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-North Luzon Jurisdiction (UCCP-NLJ) and Bishop Pedro M. Torio, Jr. of the United Methodist Church – Baguio Episcopal Area (UMC-BEA). They were joined by representatives coming from UCCP-NLJ, UMC-BEA, Episcopal Church in the Philippines – Episcopal Diocese of North Central Philippines (ECP-EDNCP) Iglesia Filipina Independiente (IFI), Lutheran Church of the Philippines (LCP) and Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en las Islas Filipinas (IEMELIF) . Sixty two (62) advocates and participants coming from the academe, NGOs and Peoples Organizations (POs) in the region joined the church people in the quest for the respect of Human Rights and the attainment of Peace based on justice.
The liturgical agenda included inputs like the Biblico-Theological Reflection on the theme with an emphasis on the celebration of the international human rights day and the rights of indigenous peoples by Dr. Ferdinand Anno of the Union Theological Seminary (UTS). In the afternoon, the human rights situation in the region and basic human rights concepts were given by Ms. Rhoda Dalang, Executive Director. DINTEG – Alternative Law Center – Cordillera. Ms. Audrey Beltran, Vice Chair, Cordillera Human Rights Alliance then shared the historical development of the peace process including updates and developments in the peace talks between the Government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front in the Philippines.
During the open forum, the different sectors also presented their issues and concerns as part of the situation of the people. The different denominations also responded in their individual capacities and made their own commitments since they cannot represent their denomination as a whole. They shared about their ministries and programs in addressing the issues of the people.
Bishop Sambat shared the work of the PEPP and its main objective in his closing remarks. He mentioned the clamour and call of the Churches for the resumption of the peace talks to address the root causes of the armed conflict between the GPh and NDFP. In this way, he said, “we can attain the vision of a just and lasting peace in our country”.
The concluding activity of the one day Peace Week Celebration was a Unity Walk of Church Leaders and church workers with the people’s organizations majority of whom are indigenous people, as a manifestation of concrete support to the victims of human rights violations in the Cordillera region in commemoration of the International Human Rights Day. ###