Message to the General Assembly, Zentrum für Mission und Ökumene, (Centre for Global Ministries and Ecumenical Relations) September 6-7, 2019
Greetings of peace and solidarity in Christ to the delegates of this General Assembly, the Board of Directors and to all the staff!
May I take this opportunity to extend my gratitude to the men and women in the Centre for Global Ministries and Ecumenical Relations (ZMÖ) of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Northern Germany! Thank you for becoming my neighbor in time when I was so brave to face whatever my ministry to the indigenous peoples, the poor farmers and other victims of human rights violations, will bring me including death.
From a simple greetings of “how are you there bishop” and casual conversation with Fr. June Mark about the situation in the Philippines, I am here now in Germany and traveled several countries in Europe since May 14th. When I got hold of the official invitation signed by the Director of ZMÖ, the Revd Dr. Christian Wollmann, it was the time when I really have to decide – to either take this opportunity for me to leave and live my life under the safety conditions of a place far away or to stay which might mean death or at the very least arrested for trump-up charges like what happened to my colleague – Bishop Carlo Morales. Because it was only for three months, I decided to give myself a chance not knowing that my breathing space here would make me realize how risky my life is while doing my tasks – priestly, pastorally and prophetically. In fact it was only when I am already here that I realized that what I was doing was the work of what they called the human rights defenders (HRD’s). Yes, I am an HRD and am a victim myself of the human rights violations like many other advocates for human dignity in the ground. And if I should die being killed because of this ministry of giving life to others or even in a natural death, please remember that I am so grateful that you have become my neighbor who once save my life.
As a bishop of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente I appreciate it much that through the ZMÖ our churches has been working together, even if there are no formal relationships established yet, expressed in the presence of The Revd June Mark Yañez here, the moral and financial help you have extended to Bishop Carlo Morales during his incarceration made significant by the visit of Isabel Friemann and the funds that helped building the center for activities of Mindanao Lumad Ministry in DCENT Center, IFI-Bulua, Cagayan de Oro City.
You must also know that your good deed is not only beneficial to me, my family and my church but most of all to the people I served – the Lumads and the rest of the Filipino people. You provided me the opportunity to share not only my story but the story of the struggle of the lumads and the human rights victims of the Philippines into a wider scope of people, churches – Evangelical Lutheran Churches, Old Catholic Churches of the Union of Utrecht, Anglicans and Episcopal Churches, NGO’s, government institutions – Foreign Affairs office, the Members of German Parliament including the Committee of Human Rights and even to the international community through the World Council of Churches and most significantly to the 41st session of the United Nations Human Rights Council to which I was part of the lobbying Filipinos who went to Geneva for the approval of the Iceland sponsored resolution that requires the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to render a comprehensive report of the Philippine Human Rights situation in its 44th session in June and July 2020.
I know that mine and my church’s experience with your goodness is only a tiny part of the gargantuan task you are doing to the rest of the globe. It is my wish therefore that this assembly will enable you to appreciate the ZMÖ’s achievements and to prepare again for a more meaningful service to God’s people – whoever they are, wherever they are, whenever they need and regardless of their faith, race and ideology. Amen.