Church leaders called a press conference today to protest at what they claim was military harassment after soldiers entered a sanctuary on March 26. "We strongly condemn the incident," said Carmelite priest Marlon Lacal of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP). He called for "solidarity and participation in upholding human rights." He said that eight soldiers entered the AMRSP's Kanlungan center in New Manila, where at least 60 families from a nearby slum took shelter after their homes were demolished by local authorities last January. The soldiers were looking for Camillian priest Charly Ricafort, chairman of Task Force on Urban Conscientization (TFUC) of the religious superiors. "This dark effort of the military is in consonance with the [government's] national internal security plan," said Nardy Sabino of the Promotion of Church People's Response. The incident took place after a "solidarity visit" to the demolished community by participants of the World Council of Churches pre-assembly meeting in Manila last week. Sister Maureen Catablan, secretary of TFUC, said they were surprised over the action of the government that "spares no one, including Church people." She said they will not be cowed by the incident because "the Church is called to defend the rights of the poor at all times." Sabino, meanwhile, lauded the "prophetic stand" of Ricafort. "Any attempt to stop their work for peace and justice by any form of harassment is a devil's work to silece the forces of change working for the fullness of life," Sabino said in a statement. Mayor Guia Gomez of San Juan City, where the slum is located, denied any knowledge about the soldiers' action. The information office of the Armed Forces of the Philippines said it would look into the report.
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