Union Theological Seminary (UTS-Phils) celebrated its 110th Anniversary. I took the opportunity to invite stakeholders to journey with UTS in the spirit of remembrance, celebration, and anticipation. One cannot celebrate and be grateful without remembering. Only those who can remember can truly celebrate. In like manner, only those who remember and celebrate can live in the spirit of anticipation.Read more
Lectionary Selection: Mark 9: 2-9
Prayers for the Philippines:
Lord, thank you for the beautiful image of friends bringing the paralyzed man to Jesus in Mark 2. Like the paralyzed man, we often need help in attaining spiritual and physical wholeness. God, you have made the whole world interdependent and in need of each other's support. Right now, we give praise for the Republic of the Philippines. A beautiful country filled with bountiful natural resources and people with generous hearts. Yet, the people's generosity is taken advantage of by outside invaders and even their own neighbors. Help the church in the Philippines stand strong against the abuse of the people, including theft of indigenous land and extrajudicial killing as a tactic in the drug war. Please pray for the leadership of this country as they struggle with many of the similar temptations that we see politicians struggle with in the US, including corruption and neglect of the poor. May we be like the friends of the paralyzed man and help our brothers and sisters here in the Philippines get the restoration that is due to them.
More specifically, please pray for the UCCP (United Church of Christ in the Philippines) as it is in a time of transition and in a position of potential growth.
Please also pray for the two NGOs that I work with: Youth Advocates Through Theater Arts (YATTA) and Gender Watch Against Violence and Exploitation (GWAVE).
Both organizations seek to empower the Filipino community and are doing incredible work. Pray for their ability to continue doing so. GWAVE specifically asked for prayer for the approval of the next phase of our proposal and for co-funding as well as smooth turn over when there are staff changes. For clients, especially those with filed cases, that they may attain the justice they deserve and that the truth will prevail always.Read more
Last night President Trump opened his address to Congress by proclaiming that "The state of our union is strong," followed by his assessment of his agenda in 2017, and laying out a vision for what 2018 might hold. We feel it is appropriate to provide our own brief review of the United States' impact on our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world through their own words.
Ban on travelers from Muslim majority countries and reduction in refugee resettlement
On the president's decision to reduce the number of refugees admitted to the United States, and to block travelers from seven Muslim majority countries, we heard from Bishop Emeritus Munib Younan of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Jordan and the Holy Land:
I am worried, not only for those who can no longer enter your country, but for the safety of my neighbors in this region. I am afraid that the decision to deny entry for citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries while suggesting preferential treatment for Christians from those same countries will be harmful to many smaller communities in the region. This approach will be especially harmful to Arab Christians. In the Arab world, Christians have a long history of living side by side with our Muslim neighbors. We reject any move to divide Arab society along religious lines, and continue to see ourselves as deserving equal citizenship with equal rights and equal responsibilities.
I am worried, because I myself am a refugee, and know firsthand the struggles refugee families face. At the same time, as a Lutheran bishop, I know that turning away refugees of any religion contradicts the message of Jesus Christ. Jesus himself was also a refugee, who sought refuge and safety with his family in Egypt. Throughout his life, through his teaching and his actions, Jesus showed concern for the stranger and the outcast. Read the full letter
As a result of this decision, approximately 80,000 refugees who would have received safety and the opportunity to work for a new life in the United States, have been left in refugee camps or have opted for more dangerous routes to escape persecution. The lack of American leadership in the program was cited by many other governments as an excuse to reduce their resettlement efforts as well. Islamophobic retweets by the president also prompted rebuke from American faith leaders.
Relocation of US Embassy to Jerusalem
The President also further hindered the possibility of peace between Palestinians and Israelis with his decision to relocate the United States Embassy to Jerusalem. A move that was widely decried by partners and the international community. This action provoked the Heads of Churches in Jerusalem to write an open letter to the president saying:
Our solemn advice and plea is for the United States to continue recognizing the present international status of Jerusalem. Any sudden changes would cause irreparable harm. We are confident that, with strong support from our friends, Israelis and Palestinians can work towards negotiating a sustainable and just peace, benefiting all who long for the Holy City of Jerusalem to fulfill its destiny. The Holy City can be shared and fully enjoyed once a political process helps liberate the hearts of all people that live within it from the conditions of conflict and destructiveness that they are experiencing. Read the full letter
In a letter from the South Africa Synod of the United Congregational Churches of Southern Africa, partners responded saying:
We found his announcement of treating Jerusalem as a capital city of the Israeli government manipulative and misleading. This utterance insinuates that Jerusalem only belongs to the State of Israel and that Palestinians are aliens in the area. Nothing could be further from the truth than President Trump’s dangerous insinuation. His utterances feed into the wrong notions that Palestinians are not children of Abraham hence aliens in the area. Read the full letter
Response to Hurricane Maria
Last night the president also called on Americans to continue to support recovery efforts in Puerto Rico where, four months after Hurricane Maria, tens of thousands of citizens remain without power. There was no hint of irony in his statement, even though just the day before, aid to Puerto Rico had been dramatically reduced. In the midst of the worst disaster on the island in recent memory, Global Ministries and partners responded immediately to the needs of the communities. A webinar was held with Miguel Antonio Morales, General Pastor of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ in Puerto Rico), prayers were lifted up from Rev. Edward Rivera-Santiago, General Pastor, United Evangelical Church of Puerto Rico, and we were moved by the testimonios, of the individuals serving as wounded healers. Much work remains to be done, and you can hear a vision for a more hurricane resilient and sustainable future for Puerto Rico in a webinar on February 15th, with Juan Rosario Moldanado of Amaneser 2025.
Use of racist language describing Haiti, El Salvador, and African countries
Partners in several countries replied with words of thanks when Global Ministries shared our letter to the President with them, calling on him to apologize for his hurtful and offensive descriptions of Haiti, El Salvador, and the countries of Africa. The affirmation that "We are Family...No Matter What" prompted many partners to reply with messages echoing that our bond as brothers and sisters would not be overshadowed by the words of government leaders.
Consideration of military intervention in Venezuela
In Venezuela, as the country sought a way forward in the midst of economic uncertainty and political instability, President Trump openly considered military actions against the current government. This prompted a letter from Global Ministries and the leadership of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ. While the military option was not further pursued, the words of that letter still bear an important reminder:
Global Ministries has been engaged in a relationship of solidarity and accompaniment with the people of Venezuela for more than 60 years. As such, we have walked alongside Venezuelans throughout various moments in the history of that nation. As we watched the news of the recent election, we would like to share with you our deep concern for the people of Venezuela and their future. We are deeply convinced that any US military intervention in Venezuela would exacerbate the current crisis and could bring back the darkest pages in the history of the country when the military overthrew civil governments to install dictatorships and de facto presidencies. Every time Venezuela has suffered a military episode in its recent times, the lives of the poorest and the most vulnerable population have been severely damaged. Read the full letterRead more
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10
Happy New Year! Lunar New Year’s Day, also known as Korean New Year or Seollal, marks the first day of the Korean lunar calendar. This year, the year of the dog, the holiday will be celebrated in mid-February. Businesses and offices are closed, and subway trains and streets are less crowded. While many Koreans travel to visit family and friends, members of the Filipino community gather to celebrate the Anniversary of KASAMMAKO (The Unity of Filipino Migrant Workers Association in Korea).Read more
November 30, 2017
Written by Derek Duncan
Global Ministries Area Executive for East Asia and the Pacific
The last stop on President Trump’s recent Asia tour was the Philippines, where he participated in an important summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and then engaged in a friendly meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte. In the streets of Manila, throngs of protestors were far less welcoming, burning effigies and holding signs that decried Trump as an imperialist and Duterte as a fascist.Read more
Lectionary Selection: Matthew 11:16-19, 25-30
Prayers for the Philippines:
Our troubles and tears are overflowing. Compounding the so-called “acts of God” that destroy lives and properties are acts of humanity that are appallingly destructive. The most recent fighting in Marawi City (Mindanao) that resulted in lives lost and properties destroyed as well as a groundswell of internal refugees is one of the symptoms of our deep social malady. Happening almost at the same time was the violence that killed many at Resort World Manila. This is happening against the background of the “war on drugs” that has destroyed many lives.
When will know we know the way of peace? When will we choose the way of life against the way of death? When will we know the way of healing and liberation? Is there any hope?
We come to you, o God, because we believe that you can help us find our way to healing.
We come to you, o God, because we believe that you are the wellspring of our hope. Let your Spirit come and dwell among us that we may acquire active hope: hope that says “no” to death and says “yes” to life and a hope that takes courage to live differently while we have life. And, when the enormity of the situation seems to overwhelm us, help us to realize that we are not called to do everything but to do something, which is to sew our piece into the larger quilt of our planetary concerns.
This is our prayer. Amen.
With sadness, we wish to share with you the news regarding the incident that occurred in the southern Philippines, Marawi City. The decades-old UCCP School in that City, Dansalan College, was attacked on May 23rd. Laubach Hall (the main building of the school) was burned down, which includes the science laboratory, the library and dormitory.
Below is a statement from the United Church of Christ in the Philippines.Read more
Statement on the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility of Children
“People were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they sternly ordered them not to do it. But Jesus called for them and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kin(g)dom of God belongs. Truly I tell you, whoever does not receive the kin(g)dom of God as a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:15-17 (NRSV
The National Council of Churches in the Philippines strongly opposes the passage of the Bill aimed at Lowering the Minimum Age of Criminal Responsibility of Children to age nine (9).Read more
It has been a year of vibrant and creative activities. Let me highlight a few.
In line with UTS’s goal of making theological education more accessible, portable, and affordable, we have pursued and fined tuned our hybrid (online and face-to-face) offerings, which include both degree and certificate programs. For our Innovative Theological Education Program (a certificate program), we conducted two seminars for two groups: (1) Southwest Philippines Annual Conference (UMC) in Silang, Cavite (June 27-July 1, 2016) and (2) Bicol Philippines Provisional Annual Conference (UMC) in Daet (November 21-23, 2016).Read more