Filipino human rights defenders take on international ecumenical journey in Switzerland

EcuVoive News
September 16, 2019
Geneva, Switzerland

On Delegation members of the Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace in the Philippines (Ecuvoice) visited the German-speaking community of the Old Catholic Church in Bern, Switzerland on September 15, 2019, and attended the Sunday service at the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul, the seat of the independent Catholic Church in Switzerland.

The group, which is currently participating at the 42nd session of the UN Human Rights Council, is composed of Bishop Antonio Ablon of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente, Karapatan General Secretary Cristina Palabay, Marissa Lazaro and Isaac Tampus of the Rise Up for Life and for Rights, Ecumenical Bishops Forum’s Fr. Wilfredo Ruazol, Deaconess Norma Dollaga of the Promotion of Church People’s Response, Rev. Marma Urbano of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines, Ramento Project for Rights Defenders’ Fr. Jonash Joyohoy, and Johanna dela Cruz of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines.

During the service, a candle dedicated to human rights defenders, peace advocates and political activists in the Philippines subjected to political attacks was lit. A special intercession prayer was also offered for the Ecuvoice delegation which is lobbying support from member states of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.

Fr. Ruazol extended their group’s gratitude for the invitation of the Old Catholics in Bern. “Your friendship, prayers and solidarity is a source of strength for those who face increasing state attacks as they work for social justice and protection of human rights.

”Other members of the Ecuvoice delegation visited the Evangelical Lutheran Church and the Catholic Community Center in Geneva. “Through these ecumenical encounters, we hope to promote cooperation among Christian Churches in the work of human rights, guided by and consistent with the World Council of Churches’ positions and commitment to human rights,” Ruazol said.

Pilgrimage of Justice

Marissa Lazaro is the mother of 20-year old Christopher, who was killed in 2017 by the police in the course of its implementation of Duterte’s drug war.

“This is a pilgrimage of justice for me. I am here to seek justice for my son’s death and other victims of rights violations, hopeful to see concrete steps from the UNHRC following its adoption of Iceland’s resolution to probe President Duterte’s bogus war on drugs. I was believing there is no hope for us poor people. But now I can go on with the fight for justice for my son’s death and that of others,” Lazaro said.

Lazaro will join a team visit of the Ecuvoice delegation to Iceland on Sept 18-23, headed by Bishop Ablon and Palabay. They will also meet with diplomats and members of the parliament, non-government organizations, and the Churches. The visit in Iceland is being organized by the Europe Network for Justice and Peace in the Philippines.

Global Undertaking

Cristina Palabay, head of the Ecuvoice delegation, expressed optimism about their participation in UNHRC and engagement with ecumenical bodies such as the World Council of Churches.

“The two global bodies’ interest over the human rights situation in the Philippines and Ecuvoice’s undertaking in Geneva is overwhelming. Their support is significant in bringing stressing the need for accountability amid the human rights violations in the Philippines,” Palabay said.

The WCC and Ecuvoice partnered in organizing an ecumenical forum where human rights defenders, faith and ecumenical leaders and kin of victims of extrajudicial killings from the Philippines meet with members of the permanent missions, diplomats, Church leaders and the Filipino community in Geneva.

Palabay believes that it is important that leaders from Churches and non-government organizations from the international community work together on issues surrounding human rights in the Philippines.Bishop Ablon is confident that Ecuvoice’s visit in Geneva and in other countries in Europe would strengthen global cooperation for human rights issues in the Philippines.

“This is our witness as an ecumenical movement for human rights, justice and peace, and as we build cooperation through prayers, dialogue and solidarity with other faith communities, people from the government and non-government sectors across nations, we are walking together on the path leading to global justice and peace,” Ablon said. #

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