BAGUIO CITY — Strengthening church and indigenous partnership, representatives of world churches and indigenous peoples inked their partnership and condemned the abduction of James Balao, an indigenous Ibaloi of Benguet province.
Fifty participants from various regions of the world gathered at the Igorot Lodge of Camp John Hay here on October 21 to 26 at the International Consultation and Social Visions of Indigenous Peoples, a first activity with indigenous peoples sponsored by the Geneva-based World Council of Churches (WCC).
The conference also condemned atrocities committed by various states against indigenous peoples worldwide, as they (indigenous peoples) struggle to keep their lands from forces of so-called development aggression.
We have heard a litany of abuses committed against indigenous peoples. Worst of these are the killings and enforced disappearances, the latest of which is the case of (James) Balao,” stated their strongly worded conference statement.
Balao is active, for many years, in advocacy of indigenous peoples rights, the statement claimed as some of their participants joined an international solidarity mission that dialogued with PNP hierarchy in the region and conducted interviews to witnesses of the abduction.
The police or military elements could have perpetrated the abduction as evidenced by the precision that it was conducted and the traits of the persons involved, the statement added.
Call on gov’t officials
Participants claimed that the circumstances as supported by accounts by witnesses of the abduction convinced them to press for expeditious investigation and urged “action of all government authorities to locate and surface Balao the soonest possible time.”
An American Indian held the highest government officials accountable for the disappearance.
This (abduction) is not a small operation. It is carried by powerful forces,” said Dr. Richard Grounds, a member of the Euchee Indians of Oklahoma, USA
We join the Balao family in their call to surface James,” added Grounds, who is a co-chair of Cultural Survival, an organization actively involved in the campaign for the recognition of Indian rights in his country.
Grounds claimed that the abductions of political activists is a shame to a government that claims to be democratic, as he is frustrated with the action of the concerned government. He was among the members of the International Solidarity Mission that had an audience with Gen. Eugene Martin of the Police Regional Office-Cordillera (PRO-Cor) Wednesday.
Churches condemn extra-judicial killings
WCC had consistently condemned extra-judicial killings and other atrocities among indigenous peoples as contained in their position presented at the Universal Periodic Review, a new United Nations Human Rights Council’ mechanism which reviews the human rights records of various countries every four years.
This is a part of our program against atrocities and discrimination of indigenous peoples which is now going for two decades,” explained Dr. Deenabandhu Manchala.
He claimed that the WCC adopted their support for indigenous issues in their 7th Assembly in Vancouver, Canada in 1987. The theological consultation that WCC held here is among its program for its partnership with indigenous peoples, added Manchala, as he claimed that indigenous peoples are among the oppressed and exploited worldwide.
The largest and most represented gathering of Protestants and Orthodox, WCC has 342 member churches in 110 countries with headquarter based in Geneva, Switzerland. # Arthur L. Allad-iw