A delegation of United Methodist leaders from the United States is visiting the Philippines to learn about the killing and harassment of church workers, peace and human rights activists, and journalists.
"The situation in the Philippines is deeply disturbing," said the Rev. R. Randy Day, chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries in New York, in a report released by the United Methodist News Service. "Church workers, human rights activists and others who are perceived as threats are terrorized and killed."
"We need to hear firsthand the stories of the people who serve God in the midst of this danger, and show them that the international church is with them in their struggle," said Day, who attended college in the Philippines.
The board of nine United Methodist leaders are visiting from Jan. 3 to Jan. 7 and expect to meet with church leaders, the U.S. State Department, and Philippine government officials in Manila. The delegation includes Bishop John Hopkins of Cleveland, who leads the denomination's program coordinating organization, the Connectional Table, and top staff executives of three of the church's program agencies.
Last July, a delegation of Protestant bishops and representatives of the World Council of Churches and the Christian Conference of Asia visited the Philippines on a fact-finding mission at the urging of the country’s National Council of Churches.
The church leaders reported that besides outright killings, human rights violations included intimidation by the military, illegal detention and torture of peasants working of farms for rich landlords, according to Ecumenical News International.
The United Methodist Church has been in the Philippines since the late 19th century and has about 181,000 members in the Philippines among its more than 11 million members worldwide.
The denomination works closely with the United Church of Christ in the Philippines, the largest Protestant denomination in the nation, and the National Council of Churches in the Philippines. Its third denominational partner is Iglesia Evangelica Metodista en Las Islas Filipinas.