Fifteen international peacemakers from different countries around the world are visiting congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) from Sept. 21-Oct. 15.
They are sharing 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 Colombia, Honduras, Indonesia, Jordan, Lebanon, Madagascar, Northern Ireland, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia and Syria.
The Rev. Homar Roca Distajo is conference minister, United Metropolis Conference of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines ― a partner church of the PC(USA) and ecumenical leader around issues of justice and peace. He is a “peace articulator” with Pilgrims for Peace and a leader of the UCCP Human Rights Response Team. He is a contributing writer for the UCCP Bible studies and liturgical materials on peace and human rights.
Homar will be visiting the Presbyteries of Sacramento, Stockton, North Central Iowa, Cascades and Foothills.
What is the situation in your country that you will be addressing?
“I will be talking about the human rights situation in the Philippines. We pray the change in administrations in the Philippines means improvement. The UCCP sued the previous president over ‘impunity’ for those who committed a plethora of extra-judicial kidnappings and killings. We hope for an end to this culture of ‘impunity’ in our country.”
How are the faith communities addressing this situation?
“The UCCP is a member of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines with the Catholic Church. Churches and other organizations pressed for implementation of the recommendations of the U.N. rapporteur to end the culture of impunity. After the report, the Catholic Church got really involved in the process. We also helped organize the nationwide observance on Sept. 21 of the 40th anniversary of the declaration of martial law” [by former Philippines dictator Ferdinand Marcos].
What lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
“The church must make people aware of discrimination and oppression, which is the absence of peace. The church must make the Word into flesh by joining the people’s struggle for peace and justice. The church was the first to stand up against martial law and the first to sue the president to end the culture of impunity. Now we have to stand against being branded terrorists just because we work for human rights and peace.”
What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?“I will encourage them to support peacemaking advocacy work.”