Catholic Church leaders urged the Filipino faithful to help amplify the issues and situation of Indigenous Peoples in the country.
The Church observed Indigenous Peoples (IP) Sunday on October 9 and called on the people not to make the observance “just as a token” but as a mission.
“The [observance] helps us see, consider, thank, and value our IPs,” said Bishop Broderick Pabillo of Taytay in Palawan.
“Today, we make their presence felt and remind ourselves that they are part of our being Filipinos,” he said.
In 1978, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines declared every second Sunday of October as Tribal Filipino Sunday.
In the 1990s, following the lead of the United Nations, which formally described First Nations groups as Indigenous Peoples, local church leaders renamed the celebration as Indigenous Peoples Sunday.
There are more than 10 million IPs in the country, “but many Filipinos are not aware of them,” said Bishop Pabillo.
“They are invisible in the traditional media and even in social media,” he said, adding that people “do not talk about them.”
“Many of them are not valued and even abused. Their lands are being taken. Their cultures are not respected,” he said.
Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga appealed to Christian communities to “let [the IPs] feel that our Church is one with them and for them.”
The prelate said Filipino Christians must remember their roots “with respect and affection,” adding that the IPs “our first faithful and responsible stewards of God’s creations.”
“They take good care of our nature. They don’t misuse nor abuse Creation for their personal interest,” he said.
“With their respect to nature, they take what they really need, utilize for common good; not for profit nor to enrich themselves,” said Bishop Santos.
Bishop Modesto Villasanta of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines said Churches in the country must “strengthen the apostolate and ministry” for the IPs.
“As Church of the Poor, Christian love must prevail. The kind of love that liberates the oppressed and overthrows oppressive structures,” he said, adding that the ministry for IPs “is also a ministry for the environment and our future.”