A group of women Protestant Church leaders in the Philippines expressed concern over what they described as “red-tagging, terrorist-labeling, and vilification campaigns” against Church people in the country.
“Church people and church ministries that take the side of the poor and live out the mission and evangelism of their Christian faith to participate in releasing the people from economic, social, and political bondage experience persecution,” said Rev. Juliet Solis Aguilar.
She said they are “harassed, red-tagged, imprisoned, and can even join the roll of Church martyrs, as victims of extra-judicial killing.”
“All forms of violence and unthinkable reprisal are used to force compliance with the agenda of the ruling elite, including gender-based violence,” said Rev. Irma Balaba, in a statement.
“In a context like the Philippines, red-tagging, terrorist-labeling, and vilification campaigns are wielded against women who exercise their right to dissent and speak out against injustice,” she added.
The two women Church leaders spoke during a gathering marking the International Woman Human Rights Defenders Day on November 29.
Bishop Emelyn Dacuycuy of the Iglesia Filipina Independiente and Bishop Dulce Pia Rose underscored the “viciousness of red-tagging campaigns” in their messages on the occasion.
They urged Church women to pray for those who are under attack and stand together for the truth.
“Being part of a network of Church women gives us courage because we know that our Church sisters are with us as well as the larger human rights community,” said Bishop Dacuycuy.
She said that to be a woman human rights defender “is simply to stand for what is true, righteous and just.”
“We exercise our faith and live out the message of love for our neighbors, as disciples of the Living Christ,” added the Protestant Church leader.
Rev. Glofie Baluntong said they “seek to build justice and peace that addresses the roots of the social ills that cause the suffering of the poor and exploited” in their ministry.
“Our ministry with marginalized groups … should not result in harassment and fabricated charges against Women Human Rights Defenders like me,” she said.
“We are proud of our sisters who are women human rights defenders. We are in solidarity with them as they face state persecution,” said Rev. Juliet Solis Aguilar.
“Those who stand boldly with the oppressed and take the side of those suffering from government neglect, abuse, and political repression should be honored and emulated,” she said.