Joji and I are constantly faced with enormous instances of social injustices. Indigenous Peoples are being pushed out of their ancestral domains by state and non-state armed forces. Local farmers are pushed deeper into poverty due to unjust trading manipulations by the rich and powerful. Government promises of autonomy and right to self determination are constantly broken. We could tell endless stories of broken families, wasted lives, and devastated communities as direct and indirect results of historical injustices.
Because of these, we are challenged daily to critically-look at the overwhelming historical facts when Christian institutions and Christian empires misused the name of Jesus in the advancement of their greed for wealth and power. As a beneficiary of such religious imperialism, we’re facing the realities of the present conflicts it caused — in many parts of the world and in our country — with a repentant heart and a proactive ministry to help, even in our small contribution, to correct those historical injustices.
The corrective measures have to start with our exclusivist theology. The Roman Catholic doctrine extra ecclesiam nulla salus is a classic summary of the exclusivist approach to truth. Protestants expressed it in a different way: Outside Christianity there is no salvation. For example, a definition of missiology reads: “That branch of theology which in opposition to the non-Christian religions, shows the Christian religion to be the Way, the Truth, and the Life; which seeks to disposses the non-Christian religions and to plant in their stead in the soil of heathen national life the evangelic faith and the Christian life.”
This view of truth among Christians worked hand in hand with Western colonialism. The British East India Company and its evangelical business leaders, for example, helped in the “evangelization” of India in the early 19th century. In James Morris’ book, Heaven’s Command: An Imperial Progress (p. 74), he reports: “The Indian territories were allotted by providence to Great Britain, wrote Charles Grant, the evangelical chairman of the British East India Company’s Court of Directors, ‘not merely that we might draw an annual profit from them, but that we might diffuse among their inhabitants, once sunk in darkness, vice, and misery, the light and benign influence of the truth, the blessings of a well-regulated society, the improvements and comforts of active industry…'”
Until now, for many Christians who describe themselves as ‘conservative evangelicals,’ the Gospel is often reduced to the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20). Christianity is then perceived as an exclusivist faith against all other religions condescendingly-tagged as ‘pagan.’ Many years ago, Christoph Schwöbel, in his article “Particularity, Universality, and the Religions” (published in a book Christian Uniqueness Reconsidered: The Myth of a Pluralistic Theology of Religions, p. 38), made a profound warning on the kind of Christianity where the modern West was going: “The question that arises when God is presented as being exclusively at work in Christianity is whether this does not reduce the universality of God to such an extent that God is made to appear as the tribal deity of a rather imperialistic form of Western Christianity.” The present misuse of Christianity by the Trump regime in the United States of America is a clear demonstration of this tribalized god and its imperialistic, war-mongering religion.
All these imperialist and colonial misuse and abuse of the Gospel of Jesus Christ became a global-historical curse and it started way back in the 1400s — with the Doctrine of Discovery, which needs to be repudiated.
Repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’. One of the highlights in our journey as members of Mennonite Church Canada, and as field staff members of its International Witness, was the day we received the news that our sending church actually did repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. Here’s the actual content of the document:
A Resolution to the Mennonite Church Canada Delegate Assembly July 2016: The Church and the Doctrine of Discovery
It is the recommendation, supported by the individuals, congregations and Area Churches below:
1. That Mennonite Church Canada repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as it is fundamentally opposed to the gospel of Jesus Christ and our understanding of the inherent dignity and rights that individuals and peoples have received from God.
2. That a working group be formed by representatives of Mennonite Church Canada and Area Churches to begin by reviewing the church related recommendations from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Report, make the appropriate study material available to congregations, and make further periodic recommendations to the General Board/Area Church Boards on steps along the path of reconciliation.
As Canadian citizens who originally come from the Philippines — a nation that had been colonized by the Spaniards and the Americans, sanctioned by the Doctrine of Discovery — we read about, and have directly witnessed, the marginalization of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada. We heard testimonials on the abuse of children in the residential schools. We saw the racial discrimination against the Indigenous Peoples in various sectors of the Canadian society — academic, business, church, government, police, and military. Regrettably, I kept my silence for most of my years in Canada. Like most immigrant families, my wife and I had to establish our respective means of income to provide a decent upbringing for our children in a stable home. And, as a burnt-out revolutionary going through a process of healing, I avoided getting too involved in any activism.
Then we followed the journey of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada from June 2008 to June 2015 even as Joji and I kept busy in our peacebuilding mission in Mindanao. When I read the TRC Reports, I personally experienced a sort of theological-ethical crisis for a couple of months. How could the Christian Church, to which I belong, intentionally and significantly contributed to the oppression of the Indigenous Peoples of Canada, specifically in destroying generations of children’s lives by uprooting them from their families and communities?
This 30-minute video talk by Jennifer Henry of Kairos Canada resonated exactly what went through my heart and mind during those weeks when I was struggling with the Doctrine of Discovery and how it corrupted the practice of my Christian faith. Jennifer Henry’s talk also helped me process what it means to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery as a Canadian Christian.
In the context of the Philippines, the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery includes a radical transformation through active non-violence.
We see the violent system of patronage politics of the oligarchies, supported by global economic-political-military powers, as the historical effects of the Doctrine of Discovery. The instinctive response of many against the violence of patronage politics would be violence. But responding to the oligarchs with violence only increases their power because they thrive on violence. The violence of injustice will only be exacerbated by the injustice of violence. Violence begets violence.
The best approach to respond to violence is through active non-violence. Through this approach, we take the oligarchs outside their sphere of power. A radical, active non-violent transformation is what we need to really empower our people and thus liberate our nation. This is what Peter Ackerman and Jack Duval pointed out in “Victory without Violence,” A Force More Powerful, p. 505: “The power of active nonviolence has been shown in recent history. People power in the twentieth century did not grow out of the barrel of a gun. It removed rulers who believed that violence was power, by acting to dissolve their real source of power: the consent or acquiescence of the people they had tried to subordinate. When unjust laws were no longer obeyed, when commerce stopped because people no longer worked, when public services could no longer function, and when armies were no longer feared, the violence that governments could use no longer mattered — their power to make people comply had disappeared.”
But because there is so much fear of the unknown in the path of non-violent radical transformation, many Filipinos would rather stay in the familiar state of their slavery rather than to cross, by faith, the yet-to-be-parted, uncertain waters toward liberation. Some, who are comfortable in their current privileges, would rather maintain the status quo of injustice. Their self-interest is their god. They need to realize that the present system of injustice is violence. Some, who are blinded by false sense of peace, that of seeming calmness brought about by anti-insurgency, will hang-on tightly on the present system.
Many Filipino Christian leaders are afraid of chaos. But there will be no genuine change without chaos. And chaos does not necessarily mean violence. The birth of a child is a painful chaos in the life of a mother. The coming of a baby is chaos in the journey of a family. Chaos must not be violent. Chaos may bring life!
The repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery may bring uncertainty and chaos.
Yet, we believe that the repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery may also bring order and system as an expression of active, nonviolent radical transformation. Every day, we interact and work with the Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao. The ancestral domains of these peoples are being encroached by multinational corporations, using the legal processes based on the Regalian Doctrine, which is the face of the Doctrine of Discovery in the Philippines. The respective leaders and mass bases of these peoples have been struggling to protect their ancestral domains and to assert their right to self-determination. This has been their way to repudiate the Doctrine of Discovery. As peacebuilding missionaries, we have been called and sent to listen, to learn from them, to affirm them, to walk with them, and to help amplify their voices in their struggles.
There’s a viable way towards a peaceful, orderly, and systematic repudiation of the Doctrine of Discovery. That is to help in the advocacy to adopt and to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in various contexts we are called to serve.
Supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 13 September 2007, the UN General Assembly adopted the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). A majority of 144 states voted in favour. But Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States voted against it, while Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine abstained.
Just recently, however, Joji and I celebrated online with Steve Heinrichs of the Indigenous Relations at Mennonite Church Canada when he “gave thanks to the Creator for the countless Indigenous peoples who prayed for decades.” And their prayers were answered last 30 May 2018 when Canada adopted on Third Reading Bill C-262, An Act to ensure that the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Along with Steve and his team, we expressed our gratitude to the Great Creator for the Indigenous peoples who “travelled to the UN tirelessly with the support of home communities, lobbied State powers persistently for the recognition of their rights, went on hunger strikes to move hardened hearts…” As a result, the Government of Canada, according to the adopted Bill, will be required “to develop and implement a national action plan to achieve the objectives” of the UNDRIP, “in consultation and cooperation with indigenous peoples.” Along with Mennonite Church Canada’s Indigenous Relations team, Joji and I will continue to join Steve on our bent knees as Bill 262 “is now off to the Senate with prayers and more action to come,” as indicated in his post.
The Republic of the Philippines is a signatory to the UNDRIP. But Congressman Teddy Brawner Baguilat, Indigenous Peoples representative from Ifugao Province, questioned the consistency of the Philippine government in implementing UNDRIP. In a 2011 statement, he said: “Even with UNDRIP and our very own Indigenous Peoples Rights Act of 1997 or IPRA, the implementation of policies protecting the rights of IPs in the country is quite weak. Conflicting laws and policies and the priority economic development strategy of the government are among the many hindrances to the full enjoyment of the indigenous peoples of their rights due them.” Baguilat also said that on top of these policies is the “liberalization of the mining industry that led to the increased displacement and human rights violations against indigenous communities which includes manipulating the requirement for Free Prior and Informed Consent (FPIC) in favor of mining companies.”
Speaking boldly as an advocate for the Indigenous Peoples’ rights in this country is also dangerous to one’s security. In March 2018, Front Line Defenders condemned the Philippine government’s inclusion of human rights defenders when the Department of Justice (DoJ) included them in a petition, tagging them as ‘terrorists’. Even Victoria Tauli Corpuz, UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, was included by the DoJ in the said list, along with 648 others who are working for the rights of indigenous people.
Both Canada and the Philippines still have a lot of work to do in implementing UNDRIP in their respective contexts. It is our commitment at PeaceBuilders Community Inc. (PBCI) and at Coffee For Peace (CFP), being Canadian-supported peacebuilding organizations in the Philippines, to design and strategize our work to contribute to the realization of UNDRIP. For PBCI-CFP, this is the new ethical-legal framework for a more just interaction with the Indigenous Peoples. For the Filipino just-peace activists, UNDRIP must replace the current ethical-legal framework of the Doctrine of Discovery. We have to work for the harmonization of our Regalian Doctrine of land ownership with that of UNDRIP.
Supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law in the Philippines. Our support to the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is based on our view of peace and reconciliation in the context of the historical injustices committed by the majority of the Christianized Filipinos against the Bangsamoro or the Moro Nation — the Islamized tribes in the southern islands of the Philippines.
The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is a peaceful, nonviolent path to correct the historical injustices of the past. This is a means towards peace and reconciliation based on justice. Reconciliation, in the words of John Paul Lederach, includes “innovative ways to create a time and a place to address, to integrate, and to embrace the painful past and the necessary shared future as a means of dealing with the present.”
In 27 March 2014, PeaceBuilders Community, celebrated with the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) the signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB). Along with our partners in the civil society, we travelled from Davao City to the Malacanang Palace in Manila to mark this occasion in our shared journey in peace-and-reconciliation work.
We were so excited about the fact that the GPH-MILF peace negotiation has reached a stage when a politically negotiated agreement, CAB, can be implemented through an enabling basic law which was drafted by the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).
In 17 July 2017, the Draft Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL 2017) was submitted by the BTC to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte at the Malacañang Palace in Manila. This CAB-based, BTC-drafted BBL, according to the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP), is “a more inclusive law that would replace the junked Bangsamoro Basic Law as it hopes for a comprehensive enforcement of the peace agreement without leaving any sector behind.”
Last 31 May 2018, the Philippine Senate approved on third and final reading the proposed Senate Bill 1717 or An Act Providing for the Basic Law for the Bangsamoro and Abolishing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. But Gazali Jaafar, BTC chair, was not very happy with the diluted version of the bill that was approved, according to a report posted on the official website of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). In front of an audience that included Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Jaafar reportedly said: “We are revolutionaries. We are not trained to talk much, but we are trained to do more. If there is no BBL,” he was further quoted, “there is no decommissioning of troops.”
This 2-minute video summarizes the concerns of the Bangsamoro as they journey through the Philippine government’s promise of autonomy through the BBL:
On 09-13 July 2018, the Bicameral Conference Committee of the Philippine Congress will finally decide on the BBL. The state of the Peace Process between the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will be determined by the final version of the BBL that will be approved by the BiCam Conference. Their report on the BBL will be submitted for ratification by Congress in their respective plenary sessions on 23 July 2018.
We, at PeaceBuilders Community, are praying that the Bicameral Conference Committee would pass a BBL that is CAB-compliant, consistent with what the BTC drafted, and affirming the right to self-determination of the Indigenous Peoples.
From our point-of-view as peace-and-reconciliation workers, this will determine whether the Christian majority in the Republic of the Philippines is ready, or not ready, to correct the past historical injustices committed against the Bangsamoro. The readiness, or not readiness, of those claiming to be Christians would depend on how they understand the Peace of Christ. Their level of understanding of the Peace of Christ would also help us locate where we’re at in our work of peace and reconciliation.
Supporting the Struggle for the Cordillera Autonomous Region. In February 2017, I led a Peace and Reconciliation Team trip to Kalinga to listen to the elders of the Cordillera Peoples Liberation Army (CPLA). My friend and soul-sister, Ka Chupan Chulsi, then Chief of Staff of the CPLA, arranged a meeting between us and the CPLA elders in her home at Camp Conrado Balweg. Ka Pablo, the Camp Commander, spoke for the CPLA elders.
There, we learned first hand that in 1986, Ka Chupan and Ka Pablo joined a splinter group from the CPP-NPA which was formed to struggle for the autonomy of the Cordillera people. Led by Father Conrado “Ka Ambo” Balweg, the CPLA was strengthened to stand against the internal colonialism of the Manila-based Philippine government. The CPLA was joined by the Montanosa National Solidarity and the Cordillera Bodong Administration. In 13 September 1986 the CPLA and the Government of the Philippines made a “sipat” or ceasefire at Mt. Data Hotel, in Bauko, Mountain Province. The agreement is now known as the 1986 Mount Data Peace Accord.
In 1999, Father Balweg was assassinated by the NPA.
In 15 July 1987, President Corazon C. Aquino issued Executive Order 220. The provinces of Abra, Benguet, Mountain Province, Ifugao and Kalinga-Apayao were formed together that became the new Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR). In 14 February 1995, through the enactment of Republic Act No. 7878, Kalinga-Apayao was split into two separate provinces of Apayao and Kalinga. This was consistent with the 1987 Philippine Constitution provision for two autonomous regions in the country — the Bangsamoro and the Cordillera.
Then in 23 October 1989, Republic Act No. 6766, took effect. But the majority did not vote for it during a plebiscite held in 30 January 1990. According to the key people who worked for the bill on autonomy, the version passed by Congress was significantly diluted that even the proponents voted “No.”
After that, the Congress of the Philippines passed Republic Act No. 8438 in December 22, 1997. Again, the people of the Cordillera did not approve it during a region-wide referendum in 07 March 1998. This time, the bill passed was generally accepted by the proponents. However, its passage was delayed and the advocates did not have enough time to campaign and to properly disseminate information. Meanwhile, anti-autonomy forces took advantage of the delay to campaign against the ratification of the Act. One message that confused the voting public was the false information that all government employees who were under the national payroll would be fired.
In 04 July 2011, a “closure agreement” between the Humiding Faction of the CPLA and the GPH was signed at the Rizal Hall in Malacañan Palace. Part of the agreement were: (a) the disarmament of the group; (b) the reintegration of the militants into mainstream society; and, (c) the conversion of the militant group into a socio-economic organization. However, the original members of the CPLA told us that, as far as the wider constituency of the Cordillera People is concerned, there was no CPLA-GPH closure. For them, the so-called closure of July 2011 was hastily done by GPH with a small faction of CPLA for the purpose of political image-building. Moreover, the concept of ‘closure’ in this agreement is not contextually sensitive to the Cordillera culture of “bodong” which was the basis of the agreement. In the “bodong,” closure is tantamount to war.
In 20 March 2017, House Bill 5343 “An Act Establishing the Autonomous Region of the Cordillera (ARC)” was officially filed during the First Regular Session of the 17th Congress. A month after, in 24 April 2017, some leaders of the CPLA invited representatives of PeaceBuilders Community, Inc. (PBCI) to observe the dialogue between them and Sec. Jesus Dureza, the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process under the current administration. PBCI sent Joji and a PAR volunteer, Maimai Lim, to this key event in the Cordillera Peace Process. The dialogue, dubbed as Pioneer Cordillera Champions Coming Together, was held at Mount Data Hotel in Bauko, Mountain Province. There were more than 200 participants including representatives of various Cordillera revolutionary and political groups: CPLA and Cordillera Bodong Association (CPLA-CBA); Cordillera Peoples Alliance (CPA); Cordillera Broad Coalition (CBC); Cordillera Regional Consultative Commission (CRCC); and, the North Luzon Coalition for Good Governance (NLCGG) among others.
“Even though we have factions,” said Ka Chupan Chulsi, “we are united in our stand in supporting autonomy towards federalism.”
And so, we will continue to walk with the Cordillera people in their peaceful struggle towards genuine autonomy.
Supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks. Our support to the peace negotiations between the Government of the Republic of the Philippines (GRP) and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) is framed in a Peace Theology, specifically in our commitment to active non-violence in the pursuit of justice.
The Christian churches in the Philippines are active in the peace talks between GRP and the NDFP through the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform (PEPP). PEPP is composed of official leaders and representatives from the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), Catholic Bishop’s Conference of the Philippines (CBCP), Ecumenical Bishop’s Forum (EBF), National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP), and the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines (AMRSP). The purpose of PEPP is “to have a compelling united voice of Church leaders, clergy and laity that will push GRP and NDFP into a continuing substantive peace dialogue.” PEPP specifically aims “to articulate the urgent call for the resumption of the peace talks between the two parties focused on providing concrete and comprehensive solutions to the primary causes of the problems and renewed by the visions of a just peace which resonates among the various religious communities.” There were instances when PeaceBuilders Community was sent by PCEC to be a part of their delegation to the PEPP activities.
Our present involvement, as far as the GRP-NDFP Peace Process is concerned, is focused on the emerging voice of the Lumads (Indigenous Peoples of Mindanao) who are now pushing for an independent, inclusive platform called Lumad Husay Mindanao (LHM).
In 22 June 2018, we were invited to listen to the LHM leaders as they express their hearts and minds on their engagement in the GRP-NDFP Peace Process. Tagged as “Asoy Sa Kalinaw: Lumad Appeal in the GRP-NDFP Peace Negotiations”, they made specific policy proposals on how the said peace negotiations would be more effective. The forum was organized by the Convergence of Indigenous Peoples Civil Society Organizations. It was facilitated by one of our partner organizations — Initiatives on International Dialogue.
Three major IP networks in Mindanao have come together to form an intertribal solidarity that offers an independent “voice” for IPs involved in the ongoing peace process between the GRP and the NDFP. These networks are the Lumad Mindanao Peoples Federation (LMPF), Katawhang Lumad Council of the Mindanao Peoples’ Peace Movement (KL-MPPM), and the Mindanao IP Peace Forum (MIPPF).
Here are the key messages they want us to hear and to amplify:
LHM asserts the centrality of the IP Agenda in the peace process and offers ‘indigenous peacemaking’ (Husay) as a complementary guiding framework and process. The word “husay” roughly translates to “settlement based on restoration,” and is shared among local Mindanaoan languages. It also refers to the process of community mediation and conflict resolution facilitated within their territories and guided by an indigenous justice system that paves the way towards a more sustainable peace.
In asserting their right to self-determination as part of the peace process, LHM believes that “only a united IP constituency can meaningfully translate an IP agenda into action and concretize meaningful self-governance.” An independent Lumad peace panel was formed by the LHM in order to articulate the IP agenda as they represent their communities in the peace talks. They also aim to initiate public participation processes that will integrate the IP agenda into the substantive agenda of the talks while building a Lumad peace constituency in various arena of engagement.
While IPs have been oft represented in both of the panels representing the parties in conflict, they are usually pitted against each other as their ancestral domains are turned into battlegrounds as state forces clash with armed insurgents. Decades of conflict has taken its toll on IP communities, but they remain steadfast in asserting their rights.
LHM is part of a continuing “consensus building process” among IP leaders to negotiate for peace with the key actors and other multi-stakeholders especially at this critical juncture in a peace process laden with setbacks after a period of accelerated talks. They presented key policy agenda for inclusion in the draft agreements on the Comprehensive Agreement on Social and Economic Reforms (CASER), ceasefire and amnesty proclamation during the peace forum on June 22, 2018 entitled “Asoy sa Kalinaw : Lumad Appeal on the GRP-NDFP Peace Process” – organized by the IP-CSO Convergence at the Ateneo Community Center in Davao City. Consequently, they have formally turned over these proposals to the representatives from the office of Usec Allen Capuyan, under the Office of the President as well as shared to Atty Reuben Lingating, Chair of the IP Peace Panel – OPAPP during a separate meeting. The IPs called for both parties to resolve the ‘kinks’ and appealed to stand the peace ground with dialogue in mind and work towards greater public support to the process itself.
For inquiries: Email at LumadHusay@protonmail.com
For Joji and I, listening to, and working with, the Indigenous Peoples are crucial aspects of our mandate here in the field as peacebuilding missionaries sent by Mennonite Church of Canada. The Peace Commission of the Mennonite World Conference have proposed a Declaration of Solidarity with Indigenous Peoples. It was approved during the General Council meetings last 23–26 April 2018 in Nairobi, Kenya. The organizations we represent, PeaceBuilders Community and Coffee For Peace, are committed to help implement the said declaration in our various contexts here in the Philippines, especially in amplifying the voice of the LHM.
In all our interaction and relationship-building with the Indigenous Peoples, we always seek to start by listening — thorough, active listening — and respectfully focusing on their worldview (what for them is final reality), value system (what for them is important), and behavior patterns (what for them is right and proper).
Supporting the IP agenda in the GRP-NDFP Peace Process is our own way of advancing an active non-violent, radical transformation in our land.
As we think of the plight of the Indigenous Peoples in our land, we’re also thinking about, and praying for, the Palestinians’ struggle for justice and peace as Indigenous People of Palestine. Often, we are being asked by our peacebuilding colleagues among the Indigenous Peoples and the Bangsamoro why most Christians do not care about the Palestinians’ struggle to protect their ancestral land? They are confused why there’s not much support from Christian peace-and-reconciliation advocates for the Palestinians who are being killed while asserting their right to self-determination in a land considered by Jews, Christians, and Muslims, as holy. To share my heart with my Muslim and Lumad sisters and brothers, I wrote a personal reflection on this issue during the time when the United States moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. Here, I’m expressing my support specifically for my Palestinian sisters and brothers in Christ.
Supporting our Palestinian Sisters and Brothers in Christ. My main source of knowledge and wisdom in plunging into this discourse are my sisters and brothers at the movement called Christ at the Checkpoint. They started as a conference then evolved into a movement. Their mission is fourfold: (a) Empower and encourage the Palestinian church; (b) Expose the realities of the injustices in the Palestinian Territories and create awareness of the obstacles to reconciliation and peace; (c) Create a platform for serious engagement with Biblical Zionism and an open forum for ongoing dialogue between all positions within the Evangelical theological spectrum; and, (d) Motivate participants to become advocates for the reconciliation work of the church in Palestine/Israel and its ramifications for the Middle East and the world.
PeaceBuilders Community wholeheartedly resonate with the mission of Christ at the Checkpoint.
Here, I want to echo the message of my Palestinian evangelical brother, The Rev. Dr. Jack Y. Sara to fellow Christians, especially to fellow evangelicals in the West and around the world: “We are not ashamed that we are Palestinian, even if our existence is an eschatological annoyance to some. We are not ashamed that we are Palestinian, even as some of our brethren try to deny our history, our identity or our nakba; the trauma that we collectively experienced in 1948 and continue to experience to this day. We’ve heard the lies that our land had no people living in it; but the ruins of our villages and the ancient olive trees we tended for centuries testify otherwise. Some of our families can trace our lines here as far back as such lines can be traced. Whether one day we were called Jordanian or another day Assyrian, doesn’t change the fact that for a very long time those who lived in this land were called Palestinian — whether Muslim, Christian or Jew.”
Sabeel Ecumenical Liberation Theology Centre is another source of inspiration. I support their vision for Palestine: “Our vision involves two sovereign states, Palestine and Israel, who in the future may choose to enter into a confederation or even a federation, possibly with other neighboring countries and where Jerusalem becomes the federal capital. Indeed, the ideal and best solution has always been to envisage ultimately a bi-national state in Palestine-Israel where people are free and equal, living under a constitutional democracy that protects and guarantees all their rights, responsibilities, and duties without racism or discrimination. One state for two nations and three religions.” This vision statement is based on a healthy theological frame, moral principles, legal arguments, and justice-oriented political perspectives.
The best way for me to support my Palestinian sisters and brothers right now — in the limitation of space, time, and resources — is to join them in their 21 June 2108 Wave of Prayers:
:: The “Great March of Return” continues in Gaza. Tens of thousands of Palestinians attended morning prayers for Eid-el-Fitr, the celebration which marks the end of the month-long Ramadan fast.
Lord we continue to pray for the Palestinian demonstrators and their commitment to non-violence. We pray that the Israeli government would abide by international law and would allow Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland. Lord in you mercy… Hear our prayer.
:: Last week Human Rights Watch (HRW) objected to the Israeli forces ‘repeated use of lethal forces’ in the Gaza Strip’ against Palestinian demonstrators who ‘posed no imminent threat to life’ and stated that these actions ‘may amount to war crimes’. The Middle East director at HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson, went on to say that Israel should not be allowed to ‘conduct investigations which mainly whitewash the conduct of its troops’. She also stated that the US should not be allowed to block international accountability with its Security Council veto.
Lord, we cry to you and ask that the eyes of the powerful may be opened to the pain and suffering of the Palestinians in this troubled land. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.
:: It gives us hope that the UN General Assembly approved a Palestinian-backed resolution blaming Israel for violence in Gaza and deploring its ‘excessive use of force’. Since March 30, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed and over 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire along the Israel-Gaza border.
Lord we are thankful that the U.N. representatives have spoken out for the protection of Palestinian civilians and are investigating human rights violations. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.
:: On Wednesday night a peaceful demonstration was held in Ramallah to call on the Palestinian Authority to lift the sanctions it has imposed on Gaza. These sanctions are further exacerbating the suffering caused by the Israeli siege of Gaza. The Palestinian Authority sent in the riot police to disperse the protest. They fired tear gas and arrested a number of protestors.
Lord, we pray for the Palestinian Authority that it would exercise its authority in a just and righteous way. May those who call out for justice for the oppressed remain steadfast. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.
:: Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas will not meet with U.S. President Donald Trump’s adviser, Jared Kushner, who is expected in the region this week. President Trump is bullying an already oppressed people into an agreement that deprives them of their basic rights
Lord, be with us in the time ahead that we remain steadfast with regards to our Palestinian rights. Make us strong to stand firm for Justice for all that are oppressed in this land. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.
:: On Tuesday June 12 the Israeli forces ordered a Palestinian farmer, Ahmad Assi Damra, in the Jordan Valley to evacuate his land. They plan to destroy his six acres of palm trees. A similar order was reportedly made to another Palestinian farmer, Suleiman al-Zayed, who had planted his smaller plot in the village of Nuwei’meh, north of Jericho, with olive trees.
Lord, we continue to pray for the Palestinian farmers as they witness the Israeli forces uproot their trees and deprive them of their only source of income. We long for the time when the words of your prophet Micah are fulfilled, “Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid…” Micah 4:4. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.
:: More than 700 Palestinians in the neighborhood of Silwan, in occupied East Jerusalem are awaiting a decision from Israel’s High Court, which could determine their right to live in their own homes. They are challenging a ruling that transferred ownership of the land on which their homes stand, to a Jewish trust more than a decade ago.
Lord, we pray that the Israel government will abandon its strategy of forcing the Palestinians out of their homes. Lord in your mercy… Hear our prayer.
Being Jesus’ Witnesses in the Context of Historical Injustices
I am a follower of Jesus. I am a church-based and a church-sent peacebuilding missionary. My view of Ultimate Reality of life and of existence has been transformed because my experience of The Christ became my understanding of God’s self-disclosure in the particularity of my historical context. I experienced transformation in the context of a community of faith called church. My transcendental understanding of the God that I encountered in the person of Jesus Christ is the mystery of the Triune God. I love the God who is Just, Gracious, and Merciful Creator-Parent. I love Jesus who is Love-Incarnate and whose unconditional love radically transforms lives and communities. I submit my whole being to the leading and comfort of the Holy Spirit who, to me, is Ultimate Life-Energy.
Because of this existential encounter with the Creator-God, I can face the challenges brought about by historical injustices as we love the Creator and as we serve the people.
Joji and I are inviting our fellow Christians to seek becoming dialogical witnesses for Jesus in this pluralist world marred by historical injustices. May we invite you to journey with us as we seek to be funnels of God’s love by humbly practicing and respectfully demonstrating what we understand to be the Peace of Christ? Here’s how we understand the Gospel of Peace:
:: Harmony with the Creator (spiritual transformation);
:: Harmony with our being (psycho-social transformation);
:: Harmony with others (socio-political transformation); and,
:: Harmony with the creation (economic-ecological transformation).
In the midst of historical injustices still happening around us, may we genuinely live and practice our faith in accordance with the character of Jesus of Nazareth — the Incarnation of Truth & Love, Justice & Peace.
BEING JESUS’ WITNESSES IN THE CONTEXT OF HISTORICAL INJUSTICES
Part 1: Being Jesus’ Witnesses (08 June 2018)
:: Jesus–Our Justice and Peace
:: Being Martyr-Witnesses for Jesus
Part 2: Historical Injustices (18 June 2018)
:: The Doctrine of Discovery: Misusing the Name of Christ
:: War Crimes: Historical Injustices in the Philippines
:: Bangsamoro: Historical Injustice in Mindanao
:: Cordilleras: Historical Injustices in the Northern Mountain Ranges
:: Nakba: Historical Injustices in Palestine
Part 3: Justice-Based PeaceBuilding (28 June 2018)
:: Repudiating the ‘Doctrine of Discovery’
:: Supporting the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples
:: Supporting the Bangsamoro Basic Law
:: Supporting the Struggle for the Cordillera Autonomous Region
:: Supporting the GRP-NDFP Peace Talks
:: Supporting our Palestinian Sisters and Brothers in Christ