Leaders of Church groups gather on March 12 to discuss areas of collaboration, especially during times of emergencies. (Photo by Mark Saludes)
Faith groups in the southern Philippines met this week to coordinate efforts to address what they described as emerging humanitarian issues in Mindanao.
The gathering of local church groups identified a "rise in violent extremism," that needed a "coordinated response" from various church organizations.
The meeting, on March 12, also stressed the need to address "environmental concerns" affecting farming and tribal communities.
Father Edwin Gariguez, executive director of Caritas Philippines, said the ongoing armed conflict in Mindanao has also displaced several Mindanao communities.
The priest said initiatives of various church groups now aim to "localize humanitarian aid responses and recognize the capability of local churches to respond to any crisis."
He said churches have organizations at local level that can facilitate early intervention in any humanitarian crisis.
"Churches can respond because they are part of the community and are attached to a larger religious conference that can provide training and equipment," Father Gariguez said.
Rey Barnido, executive director of the non-government Duyog Marawi group, said collaboration among churches has been "tried and tested" in Mindanao.
He cited the work of local churches in helping up to 500,000 people displaced by the terrorist gunmen attack on the city of Marawi in May 2017.
"Christians and Muslims came together to give aid relief and provide development work to displacement victims," Barnido said.
Father Gariguez said any response to a crisis could be stronger if faith-based groups come together and plan a "systematic intervention" in affected communities.
Minnie Ann Mata-Calub, secretary-general of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, said they plan to establish structures, mechanisms and programs through a "consultative approach."
"This will allow church organizations to collaborate and work together before, during and after human-induced disasters or natural calamities," she said.
Calub said collaboration would include the sharing of information, resources and the exchange of best practices in humanitarian responses and risk reduction.
Reverend Stephen Gualberto of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches stressed the need to strengthen the capacity of local church groups.
He said church institutions need training before being provided a platform that will provide opportunities for funding.
The network of church organizations is being supported by the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines and the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches.