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02/02/2020 Philippines (International Christian Concern) – A church shelter in Philippines’ Davao city was surrounded by knife-wielding men, before the armed men tore down a wall and occupied the sanctuary which hosts displaced tribal people in Mindanao on January 25.

The United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) – HARAN is a mission house inspired by the UCCP action in 1990 to declare their churches and church facilities as sanctuaries and zones of peace. HARAN stands for “Home and Altar for Renewal, Action and Nurture.”

More than 500 tribal people, known as lumad from neighboring areas, have taken refuge at HARAN from what they said was military harassment in their villages.

The attack took place ten days after the Regional Peace and Order Council of Region 11 (RPOC-11) demanded the closure of the church compound. The council alleged that the tribal people’s rights were being violated inside the facility.

In response, the Council of Bishops of UCCP demanded a public apology through a statement on January 29, saying that it is “deeply offended” and “gravely concerned” by the forced entry on Jan. 25 of the members of paramilitary group Alamara into the UCCP-Haran compound, which serves as a sanctuary for indigenous people who are fleeing militarization from their communities.

“The Regional Council has no right whatsoever to demand the closure of a church’s mission, much more to blame a church for faithfully doing its Christian mission of defending the poor and the oppressed,” it added.

The church group deplored the inaction taken by policemen who were in the vicinity and denied all allegations that lumad evacuees are being used to get donations from foreign groups and they are being detained.

The UCCP leadership also called on the Davao City Council, through its committees on human rights and indigenous peoples, to conduct an investigation into the intrusion into UCCP-Haran and the resulting damage to property there.

For interviews, please contact Olivia Miller, Communications Coordinator: [email protected]