Christians should be able to look past denominational differences and see their common humanity, said a church leader working with other faith and civic leaders to stop gross human rights violations in the Philippines - Kathy Gilbert of United Methodist News Service writes.
"I keep on telling my members in my church that my intention is not to make you very good Episcopalians; I would like you to become very good Christians first," said the Rev Rex Reyes, an Episcopal priest and member of the National Council on Churches in the Philippines.
Reyes was on the writing team that documented killings of more than 800 civilians and the "disappearances" of another 200 in a 2007 report to members of the US Congress and the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
"Christianity is not just a social club," he said. "It is a movement primarily of people who are concerned that everybody should have abundant life. And clearly in our experience, the reason the National Council of Churches in the Philippines is howling is that its people are howling."
Reyes is the council's program secretary for Christian unity and ecumenical relations.
In an interview with United Methodist News Service, Reyes thanked the United States for sending "wave after wave" of supporters to the Philippines, with The United Methodist Church taking the lead.
A delegation from the California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference traveled to three regions of the Philippines last February to hear reports from church workers and others about the killings and abductions.
"Nothing can match the experience of really talking to the persons, to the bereaved, living in their houses and eating with them, having that communion with people," Reyes said. "Nothing can match that. They really left entirely different persons than when they came into this country."
Reyes said he doesn't understand why governments and leaders keep repeating the same mistakes. He cites President Ferdinand Marcos, whose corrupt and repressive government ran the Philippines from 1966 until his ouster in 1986. Marcos, he said, underestimated the power of the people at the grassroots level. "He suddenly woke up to the reality that you cannot continue punching these people without paying a price."
Reyes said the Scriptural teaching that all people are created in God's image is "not an empty statement for Christians. Christian people ought to be bothered when people are getting killed," he said.
He also reminds that there is power in prayers. "We ask that the Philippines not be forgotten. Pray for not just us but all people who are suffering," he urged.