A church run shelter facility in the Philippines has come under attack from a group of knife-wielding militants.
The incident occurred on 25th January in the city of Davao at a shelter run by The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP). The facility, “Home and Altar for Renewal, Action and Nurture” (HARAN) housed hundreds of displaced “Lumad” tribal people who have been fleeing persecution at the hands of the military.
Over the course of the sustained attack, the militants tore down a wall into the compound and occupied the entire facility, striking fear into those taking shelter there. The event took place just ten days after the Regional Peace and Order Council of Region 11 (RPOC-11) ordered the facility to be closed, alleging that the rights of those being cared for were being violated.
The Council of Bishops of UCCP issued a scathing statement in response to the attack, noting that the RPOC-11 resolution was “undoubtedly offensive against the Church and against those that advocate peace, justice and human rights – a clear violation of the principle of separation of church and state.”
“The Regional Council has no right whatsoever to demand the closure of a church’s mission, much more to blame a church for faithfully doing its Christian mission of defending the poor and the oppressed,” it added, according to Davao Today.
“UCCP-Haran is not a mere evacuation center. The RPOC is probably not informed that HARAN stands for ‘Home and Altar for Renewal, Action and Nurture,’ a mission house inspired by the UCCP action in 1990 to declare our churches and church facilities as sanctuaries and zones of peace.”
The UCCP also complained that police officers had turned a blind eye to the attack, and called on the Davao City Council to launch an investigation and bring those responsible to justice. It is thought that militants from Alamara -- a group linked to the communist “New People’s Army” (NPA) -- were responsible for the attack.
“The forced intrusion of the Alamara group into the compound of UCCP-Haran could not have happened without the prodding of those who initiated the resolution,” the UCCP added. “It was unlawful and yet no one among the illegal intruders has been apprehended by the police up until this moment. We deplore such inaction and fumbling on the part of the police.”