A number of Christian missionaries working in rural areas across the Philippines have had their bank accounts frozen by the government.
Persecution watchdog, International Christian Concern (ICC), reported that government officials may have shut down the bank accounts because they believe them to be “related to terrorism financing.”
The government’s Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has ordered a 20-day freeze on three of the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines (RMP) accounts, which are held with the Bank of the Philippine Islands.
In response to the allegations, the RMP released a statement categorically denying “any form of financing terrorism” before noting that their funds are used to develop community projects and help support the poor.
"These accounts were created and maintained for completed and ongoing projects of RMP as well as for its internal operations,” RMP said in an official statement.
“In freezing our bank accounts, the AMLC is only depriving the rural poor of the help and services they deserve and that the government refuses to provide,” the group lamented. “We have our mission and community partners to confirm this.”
The missionary organisation, founded in the late 1960s, has faced repeated accusations that it is affiliated with communist rebel groups - an allegation that serves as a precursor to the government’s persecution.
“We’ve been accused of being a communist and terrorist front. Our members have been harassed and threatened, forcing some of them to seek sanctuary elsewhere,” the group added.
Several tribal schools established or run by the RMP have been closed in recent times. In response to the relentless persecution, the group said that "helping the poor, as Christians living out concretely your faith imperative and following the church mandate to establish the Church of the Poor, will put your liberty and life at risk."