The challenges being posed by the continuing imposition of Martial rule on the poorest in Mindanao doesn’t seem to deter the members of the Sisters Association in Mindanao (SAMIN) who are renewing their commitment to serve those whom they called “God’s Anawim” (Greek word for God’s poor).
Gathered on the 22nd SAMIN Assembly, the Sisters had declared that they continue to be “grateful, faithful and committed to God’s Anawim and Creation” in the continuance of their prophetic role as workers for justice and bringer of peace. In their assembly, the Sisters recalled that they have started this journey 35 years early on, during the height of President Marcos’ despotic regime under Martial rule, and they see every reason to continue.
Although they have acknowledged that in today’s Martial rule in Mindanao under the Duterte administration, they felt the danger and threats even as they have been witnesses to the suffering especially among the Lumads and the Moro populace. ‘Everywhere we look, suffering on the faces of God’s poor haunt us even as the “evil” forces within and outside of us mock our resolve to continue working for genuine justice and lasting peace,” the Sisters said.
As they shared the different developments in their sub-regional reports where members of SAMIN are located in various regions in Mindanao, each of their stories echo each other, as stories of human rights violations perpetrated by “powers-that be” are making life more difficult especially among the indigenous peoples.
Some of them were unable to hold back their tears as they narrated how the suffering of God’s people have changed their outlook in life, and see the naked truth before their very eyes as hundreds among the Lumads, women and their very young children in tow, walking side by side with the elderly especially those driven out of their ancestral lands in Surigao poured out into the streets even without food and security of shelter.
These are seemingly done in the name of progress and development under government administrations then and now under Duterte’s anti-terrorism drive campaign. Yet, to the Sisters, it all seemed like the Lumads are really what the soldiers wanted out of their ancestral lands.
Some of them even had to brave intimidation and actual threats from State forces who have become the yoke upon the Lumads’ shoulders. Some of them expressed inadequacies in each of their responses to the people’s cry for help, as they are not only aware of the struggles and suffering of the poor, but like them, they also experience pain in the limitations and poverty of their congregation.
The SAMIN Sisters are aware about the reasons why the poor continues to live in misery because of the stranglehold of the corporate greed on their ancestral lands. Likewise, they acknowledge that that the Marawi siege that brought a heavy toll on the Moro people’s lives, and continue to deny their right to abode in evacuation centers was not of the people’s own making but foreign economic interests abated by their local cohorts.
Over a year had passed, and still a great majority of them continue to live in decrepit evacuation shelters denied of their basic human needs, as government authorities seem reluctant even to allow them a glimpse into the destruction of their city up until now.
Moreover, the Sisters saw that the Duterte administration have become the symbol of tyranny that the people have been unjustly dealt with severely even as they do not deserved it, as the spectre of “State terrorism” continues to sow disunity, fear, confusion and discord.
They saw how those who are supposed to serve as public servants and are tasked to serve the Filipinos have refused to look at their own culpability and corrupt practices, and instead are involved in illegal dealings.
With all these societal maladies besetting the country today under this despotic regime, the Sisters vows to continue to be relentless in their efforts to give theeir support and assistance to the marginalized and the oppressed. “We cannot be cowed by the anti-people policies and attempts at intimidating us in our efforts to respond to our people’s cry.., We cannot close our eyes to the brazen impunity that this arrogant administration displays wantonly with total disregard for Human Rights and people’s welfare,” they said with certainty.
The Sisters believe that they can only be “true to our vows if we continue to be in solidarity with the poorest and give expression to the sanctity and integrity of creation”. “No amount of intimidation can cast doubt in our love for the poor and the powerless,” as they are “strengthened by our resolve to continue the work that God has bestowed on us in defence of humanity and those of Creation.”
Thus, SAMIN Sisters are raising their voices together with the Indigenous and the Moro Peoples, for the State Forces to stop the terror and violence perpetrated against the people and on human rights advocates, the clergy and church workers, social justice activists and other victims of all kinds of violations of the peoples’ fundamental rights
They are likewise calling for an end to Martial Law in Mindanao; Resumption of the Peace Process with the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP); Removal from terrorist listing of indigenous and other civil Society Leaders.
Most of all, the Sisters are urging to Stop all mining activities and other foreign corporate entrusion into Mindanao soils.(davaotoday.com)