The Philippines' largest organization of non-Catholic Christian churches has called on the government to stop accusing cause-oriented groups of siding with communist rebels and to work towards a long-lasting peace.
In a statement released on Nov. 27, the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) urged the government and the military to engage in peace-building.
The Protestant council, which groups together the country's Baptist, Evangelical, Lutheran, Methodist and Pentecostal churches, also called for the resumption of peace talks with the rebels.
"The council's highest policy-making body stands united in its call ... to stop the accusations and red-tagging," read the council's statement following its general meeting on Nov. 26.
It said that the release of a list of alleged "front organizations" of communist groups, which included the council, has been one of the most important concerns discussed during a council gathering this week.
The organization earlier condemned what it described as the "baseless and unfounded" inclusion of its name on the list.
The NCCP's new general secretary called on the organization's members to continue to "stand and be the voice of the voiceless."
"I stand on the shoulders of [ecumenical] giants. My work will be easier because they have prepared the way," said Bishop Reuel Marigza, who is also general secretary of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.
Bishop Marigza was elected new general secretary of the Protestant council during the organization’s 25th general convention this week.
"I never lost hope in the ecumenical movement even during trying times. I know that as we chart the years ahead, God will bless our endeavors," he said.
Bishop Marigza has been an active ecumenical leader through his involvement in the Ecumenical Bishops' Forum and the Christian Conference of Asia as an executive committee member.
A military official, meanwhile, who earlier presented the "red list" before a congressional hearing, denied the whole organization was on the list.
Maj. Gen. Reuben Basiao, the army's deputy intelligence chief, told church leaders that some of the council’s programs have "wittingly or unwittingly" helped the rebels.
The military's deputy chief of staff for civil-military operations, Maj. Gen. Antonio Parlade Jr., also said that "not all members of the [council] are cadres."
"But because of infiltration, many of them, like their bishops, are diehard supporters of the underground revolution," Parlade said in an earlier media interview.
The ecumenical group Promotion of Church People's Response said the allegations against the Protestant council "lay bare the evil that has been set loose" by the government.
Rev. Connie Semy Mella of the Union Theological Seminary said tagging church and human rights groups as communist fronts is "irresponsible."
The World Council of Churches earlier issued a statement warning that red-tagging "gives the green light to harassment and deadly attacks by security forces and militias against those who are listed."
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