Fr. Rex Reyes speaking at a WCC event in 2014. Photo: Athena Peralta

Fr. Rex Reyes speaking at a WCC event in 2014. Photo: Athena Peralta

Participants in Manilakbayan 2015, called by some the “Lumad caravan”, have come to Manila for a month-long series of activities and protests to bring attention to human rights violations in Lumad communities of the Philippines.

Around 700 Lumad, indigenous peoples inhabiting the Southern island group of Mindanao in the Philippines, journeyed together with their supporters from Mindanao to Manila. Travelling from Surigao City to Eastern Visayas, before crossing to Luzon, they arrived in Manila on Sunday, October 25, a week after leaving their home communities.

Mindanao is rich in mineral resources, blessed with dense forests and other natural bounty. However, large-scale mining by corporations, plantations and other extractive projects are reportedly fueling and financing the militarization of the region.

As a consequence, according to local human rights organizations such as Karapatan, over a thousand Lumad families (or more than 4,000 persons) have been forced to abandon their ancestral lands and are now living in evacuation centres.  Attacks on schools (burnings, raids, harassment and intimidation of students and teachers) that are run by Lumad and non-government organizations have taken place. Around 56 Lumad leaders and environmental activists resisting large-scale mining projects in Mindanao have been murdered since 2010.

The National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) condemned the recent killing of Lumad community leaders Emerito Samarca and Dionel Campos in a statement issued on 1 September.

The Manilakbayan 2015 is an expression of the world-wide Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace.

“We welcome the Manilakbayan, the Lumad, the Moros and human rights advocates from Mindanao whose unrelenting hope is admirable,” said Norma Dollaga, general secretary of KASIMBAYAN (formerly Ecumenical Centre for Development) and a deaconess serving the United Methodist Church in the Philippines.

“They impart upon us so many things:  to trust their dream and live out its fulfilment; never to give up the fight for one’s dignity and rights; to cry out, to shed tears and to carry on what their martyrs and heroes have fought and died for; to express their anger, fears, and challenges with authenticity; to sing their songs with honesty, to dance the music and rhythm of their struggles, joys and hope,” she continued.

“The continuous struggle of the Lumad in Mindanao to defend their ancestral domain is a struggle for life, as land for them is life,” said Fr Rex Reyes Jr, general secretary of the NCCP and a member of the Central Committee of the World Council of Churches (WCC). “In journeying with the Lumad, the NCCP has been prayerfully undergirding and supporting their struggle for land, life and self-determination,” he said.

On the killings, forced displacement and unbated human rights violations against the Lumad and their communities

On the militarization and impending closure of Lumad schools in Mindanao

On the Lianga and Pangantucan Lumad massacres in Mindanao