Salupongan International condemns arson at Lumad refugee sanctuary in Davao City

On February 23rd, Salupongan International was informed that arson was committed on a church compound in Davao City that is serving as a sanctuary for internally displaced indigenous peoples. The fire injured five people, including three children, and destroyed makeshift shelters and personal property.
 
We strongly condemn this atrocious and vicious crime in the strongest terms possible and demand that the perpetrators responsible for these actions be arrested, prosecuted and that justice be restored.
 
The United Church of Christ in the Philippines Haran House in Davao City is a church compound that has served as a refuge for over 700 Lumad people of the Manobo tribe since March 2015. They fled their villages in the mountain range after soldiers and military-backed Alamara militia occupied their communities and harassed civilians, including children and elderly. We find it appalling that the Philippine government has done absolutely nothing to address these incidents, despite a large international outcry.
 
According to reports, at around 2:00am on February 24th, three unidentified men poured gasoline on the canvas roofing of the refugee’s tents and then threw a lighted torch to the area. There were two separate fires on the site at the time, according to reports. The church’s dormitory was also set on fire, causing damage to the church property and destroying personal belongings of sleeping church volunteers. Refugees say that they smelled gasoline around the time of the fire and later found containers of gasoline on the outer areas of the property that did not belong to them.
 
The Lumad people deserve our extreme solidarity and compassion. They are currently fighting to save their land from multi-national large scale mining and logging corporations whose intentions to extract resources from the land would not only continue to displace thousands, but also cause irreversible and severe environmental destruction. The Lumad are fighting to preserve their culture and livelihood in the face of such aggression by these companies and the military-backed militia who violently defend them, specifically the Alamara paramilitary group.
 
SI calls on the international community to keep its focus on the unjust conditions of the indigenous peoples of Mindanao. We need to work together to continue exposing the suffering they are experiencing and support the fight to stop the environmental destruction of their ancestral lands. We must be outspoken against the continued human rights violations of the Lumad. These barbaric atrocities must be stopped and those who have already committed these acts must be held accountable.
 
We are calling on our supporters to provide financial assistance in rebuilding the evacuation center and the immediate needs of the refugees through SI’s BRIDGE Program (Bringing Relief to the Internally Displaced Groups Equitably) on our website.