A dozen international peacemakers from 10 countries around the world will visit congregations and presbyteries of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 24-Oct. 18.
They will share their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Bolivia, Central Asia, Colombia, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Indonesia, Israel/Palestine, Mexico, Pakistan, the Philippines and Sudan.
The International Peacemaker program is sponsored by the Presbyterian Peacemaking Program.
The Rev. Joel Tendero has been a leader in the peacemaking ministry of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines for more than 20 years. His life has repeatedly been threatened by government-backed paramilitary groups for his activities. He is conference minister for the Northeast Southern Tagalog Conference of the UCCP, which has a partnership with Sacramento Presbytery of the PC(USA).
Where will you be going?
What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
"The justice and peace issue continues to be of primary concern. We have a new president and we have to work very hard because he said in his inaugural address that human rights and a stop to the extra-judicial killings in our country will be a priority. Pastors are still receiving death threats and we have learned from a police officer that a 'liquidation unit' is after (the Rev.) Berlin Guerrero (a UCCP pastor who was released from prison in Sept. 2008 after many months in jail on charges the government later said were trumped up). Other government officials have told all of us (in the UCCP) to change the SIM cards in our cell phones because of the eavesdropping."
How are the faith communities (your's in particular) addressing this situation?
"We must continue to advocate with the new president to keep his inaugural promises. We have some friends in the police who are promising to investigate some of the threats and human rights abuses. We especially are advocating for the release of 43 church health workers who have been detained, including the head of health ministries for the UCCP. I am most gratified by the response of my church to the threats on my life. I now have lots of members who accompany everywhere I go — God sent me lots of angels. We are also working with some of the resistance, groups, the churches and the government to get everyone to the negotiating table. This is a large effort, called the Philippine Ecumenical Peace Platform."
"One thing we are not doing is leaving the country. These threats are a consequence of our peacemaking ministry and it would be a betrayal of our faith to leave the country."
What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
"The root of our problems in the Philippines — and in many other places around the world — is poverty."
"Last year in Pennsylvania, I saw a marker for a World War II factory that made Willys Jeeps. Thousands of those Jeeps went to the Philippines where they were used in the war. After the war, those military vehicles were turned into public transport, called 'Jeepneys.' They are proof to me that we can turn swords into plowshares."
What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
"Peacemaking is our ministry for all who have committed themselves to Jesus. Peacemaking is the mandate of the Gospel."