MFSA Advent Devotion Week 1
by Joy Prim

As Advent season falls upon us, I find my thoughts and community back with our siblings and communities in the Philippines. Communities where in California-Pacific Annual Conference we have partnered with since 2010. Our only United Methodist siblings in Asia, we have for nine years gone and learned about the realities of indigenous and rural farmers and urban poor communities. Partnering in ministries of listening, solidarity, and action based on the request of the communities. Ministries in the margins took on a whole new meaning when the margins were full of militarization, displacement, harassment, illegal arrest, and killings. 

In recent years, the killings and human rights violations in the Philippines have sky rocked with reports of over 27,000 people have been murdered many in the governments so-called “war on drugs” which is really a war on the poor and over 200 farmers & human rights defenders, nearly half a million living as internally displaced refugees, and 1000s languish behind bars in over-crowded cells waiting for the “injustice” system to move. Our United Methodist siblings in the Philippines are members of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) where together they engaged in common ministry to serve the people of the Philippines, especially the poor and those vulnerable to violence, marginalization, and natural disasters. To turn the swords of violations to plowshares to farm the fields throughout the country. 

Since 2016 Human rights violations in these poor communities no longer just affect the communities but the priest, pastor, lawyer, teacher serving them. Willing to provide services the government doesn’t to teach both children and adults reading and writing, to provide relief and rebuilding from natural disasters, medical clinics when the closest hospital is a 2 day walk away, and rehabilitation for those suffering from addiction. And the defense in the legal system against false charges. Leaders have been killed, threatened and targeted. In early November, the  National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) along with 17 other community-based organizations that provide humanitarian relief and support peace and human rights were publically labeled a “front organization[s] of local communist terrorist groups” by the Philippines’ Department of National Defense.  

Yet, our siblings preserve on in their ministries, in their work. Refusing to be silenced for living their faith in action, serving their people. A prophetic voice for peace filled with justice and respect within these communities. Shedding tears behind closed doors, and pushing forward in a hope that together we can overcome, we can bring the peace of Christ to earth. 

We here in the United States are complicit in the attacks against our siblings in the Philippines. Complicit to the amount of over half a billion US tax dollars in aid to the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Philippine National Police since 2016. The blood is on our hands as we prepare for 2020 we must continue to be the prophetic voice for justice, we must answer the cries of the 27,000+ families who are not complete this Christmas. We must educate our communities on the living reality of this human rights crisis our Philippine siblings and turn our prayers into action as we push our elected officials to stop funding this human rights crisis. 

Join MFSA on January 9, 2020 (save the date), to learn more about the Human rights crisis in the Philippines and how we can work alongside our United Methodist siblings in the Philippines to ensure our US tax dollars are not funding death and human rights violations in their country.

You make our collective work possible by your witness for justice every day in your church, community, and Annual Conference. MFSA does not receive any financial support from the United Methodist Church's giving channels. 100% of our budget is funded through your membership dues and your generosity in giving. Please consider making a gift to MFSA. 

As we begin the Advent season of waiting for the coming of the birth of Jesus. May we reflect on how we are bringing justice and peace to our communities and reflect on the following prayer written by one of our United Methodist Siblings in the Philippines. 

God of Life and God of Justice,
We come together on this day
to lament
to remember
to dream
and to rise up
as a people determined
to uphold the sanctity of life.
Open our eyes
that we may empathize
with the poor and marginalized
who suffer under grinding poverty
and endure the hardships
of oppression.
Open our ears
that we may understand
the harrowing realities
of harassment
and killings
that have gripped
so many lives. 

Open our hearts
and fill us with compassion
so that we may embrace
those who grieve,
embolden those willing to struggle for justice,
and stand unflinchingly
as defenders of human rights. 

Give us courage to
amplify the voices
of the downtrodden
in their pursuit
of accountability,
speaking truth to power. 

Raise us up
as one humanity
that acts in solidarity
to uproot impunity
on our collective journey
toward freedom,
and righteousness. 

Make this day one that
ignites our passion
and galvanizes our resolve
to struggle
for the respect,
and liberation
of the captives and oppressed.
This we pray to you, GOD OF ALL.