(Message of Archbishop of Manila Luis Antonio G. Cardinal Tagle, released on Nov. 10, 2015, on the eve of his surprise visit to the Lumad’s tents at Kampuhan sa Liwasan in Manila on the morning of November 11. He expressed solidarity with the Indigenous Peoples from Mindanao who joined the Manilakbayan (Journey to Manila) to create increased national awareness of the plight of the Lumads. Photo used with this Sunday Read article, courtesy of Manilakbayan ng Mindanao).
We are deeply saddened and disturbed by what our indigenous brothers and sisters in Mindanao have been experiencing. Some have died not only because of illness but because of violent conflicts. Many have been forced to evacuate and leave their homes and ancestral lands. They have lost their livelihood. Their children could no longer go to school. Most vulnerable to suffering are the elderly, the sick, the women and children. Their lands poached upon and environmentally degraded. There is chaos and violence, and there is the absence of peace and justice in their communities.
Jesus said that what we do or fail to do for “one of these least brothers of mine,” you did or did not do for Him (cf. Mt 25:40, 45). Thus we must be moved to do something for our Lumad brothers and sisters in Mindanao.
First, we call on the leaders of government: allow peace to reign. This would mean the removal of military forces in the areas settled in by our indigenous brothers and sisters. Likewise, they should disband and disarm all para-military groups. We call on the military and the NDF to declare as “peace zones” these areas of the indigenous people. Second, we seek assistance for the our Lumad brothers and sisters who have been forced to evacuate their homes, barangays and towns and are now in “evacuation areas.” They are in most need of food, water, medical attention and medicines, and of our understanding and compassion. Let us help them. Let us try to do everything we can to enable them to return to their land and home and to live there freely, peacefully and securely. Third, we ask that justice prevail and that all those who are responsible for the deaths of Lumad leaders and other indigenous persons be held criminally liable.
It will be for the good of all for us to sit down and talk and support and help one another find a solution to the problems being experienced by our brothers and sisters in Mindanao. We all may have contributed, in small or large measure, because of our shortcomings and indifference, to their present situation. But, as Pope Francis has reminded us when he declared for the Holy Year of Mercy for the Church, we are given always the chance to repent and to change. It is God’s mercy that heals and transforms us, and with the help of His mercy, let us all try to right the wrong, bring order amid chaos, and allow peace to reign.
+LUIS ANTONIO G. CARDINAL TAGLE ARCHBISHOP OF MANILA
NOVEMBER 10, 2015