Various religious groups have expressed their support for the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines, which has been tagged by the government as terrorist financiers.
“In our country and times, the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines are among those who embody the compassion and action of the Good Samaritan,” read a statement from the ecumenical group “One Faith. One Nation. One Voice.”
The group cited the story of the Good Samaritan in the Gospel of Luke.
“In the story, we find a savior in the Good Samaritan. While the others left the victim alone and suffering, the Good Samaritan acted with compassion for the victim. He bandaged his wounds, brought him to a safe place and took responsibility for his well-being,” read the statement.
It then added that members of the Rural Missionaries “serve farming and fishing communities, indigenous peoples and those whom they meet that need help.”
“They respond to members of our communities whose education, health, and prospects for development and growth have been neglected and denied,” said the group.
“They serve without expecting anything in return. The Rural Missionaries were also not expecting the egregious attacks upon them by the Philippine government,” it added.
The Department of Justice has earlier filed charges against 16 RMP workers, including five nuns — Sisters Emma Cupin, Susan Djolde, Ma. Fatima Somogod, and Mary Jane Caspillo — for allegedly diverting funds from foreign organizations to alleged fronts of the underground communist movement.
“One Voice, as a network of Church people committed to peace, justice, and truth, denounces these attacks upon Church people serving the poorest of the poor,” read the group’s statement.
“In the face of the worsening economic crises, food insecurity, and inability of the government to respond to the needs of these marginalized communities, the work of the Rural Missionaries should be recognized as Christian service,” it added.
One Voice said it holds “accountable” government forces “who are attacking legal, democratic and Christian organizations who faithfully serve the Filipino people.”
“These attacks seek to sow fear among those who help the poor. They are violations of human rights and civil liberties,” said the religious group.
The group also called for the repeal of the country’s Anti-Terrorism Act, saying it is “a threat to democratic space and the work of human right defenders and the most marginalized rural communities.”
Earlier, the Religious Discernment Group also issued a statement demanding the dismissal of the charges of perjury filed against the Rural Missionaries of the Philippines and other human rights organizations.
“Obviously, the charges are attempts to harass and discourage those accused from doing their work as human rights defenders; by silencing them, it is expected that they would not speak out to denounce the social injustices committed against victims of human rights abuses,” read the statement.
“We join our voices with those who seek justice for the respondents as the trial for the case reaches its end. We join our voices with those who seek justice for many others experiencing red tagging, harassment, vilification, illegal arrests and detention,” said the religious group.
The Rural Missionaries of the Philippines is a religious organization, which is inter-congregational and inter-diocesan in character, of religious women and men, priests, and lay people that was founded on Aug. 15, 1969.
It is a “mission partner” of the Association of Major Religious Superiors in the Philippines, now known as the Conference of Major Superiors in the Philippines.
The faith-based group is currently under scrutiny of the Philippine government for alleged terrorism financing and for allegedly being an aboveground communist organization.