Let us rise with the Lumad!

[Below is the acceptance speech of Atty. Czarina Golda Musni of the RMP-NMR-established ‘Higala sa Lumad’ Network after accepting the check amounting to 2,000 Euros on behalf of the Save Our Schools (SOS) Network Mindanao in an intimate ceremony in Ieper, Belgium on 26 April 2016. The fund was raised by the organizers of the 19th Kathe Kollwitz Vredesloop (Peace Run) held last October 24 in Ieper.  There were more than 800 runners who participated in the event. The proceeds amounting to 4,000 Euros aim to benefit the work of Doctors for the World for the burgeoning refugees in Europe and the contiuous campaign of Save our Schools through the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP).

Attorney Musni was with Dr. Angelica Gonzales of the InternationalCoalition foir Human Rights in the Philippines (ICHRP). The ICHRP has led the implementation of the SOS campaign internationally, in Europe in particular, from the latter part of 2015 as they launched the campaign in August and implemented the Global weeks of action for Mindanao in November. Members and friends of the coalition around the continent (Switzerland, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy, Germany, Poland, Luxemburg and Denmark) hosted speakers from RMP-NMR, Panalipdan, ALCADEV, MISFI, KARAPATAN-National and Karapatan-Caraga, bringing the stories of the Lumad and the Filipino people to the attention of the international community.

The ICHRP, together with the Initiatives for Peace in Mindanao (InPeace), KARAPATAN Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights, and Ecumenical Voice for Human Rights and Peace (EcuVoice) in cooperation with BAYAN (New Patriotic Alliance) and the International League of Peoples' Struggles are now gearing to hold International Solidarity Missions and the International Conference for Peoples' Rights in the Philippines in Mindanao come July.]

Atty. Czarina Golda Musni (2nd from right) with Dr. Angie Gonzales of the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines (center) during the awarding ceremony.

 

Maayad ha daliman. Good evening, friends and organizers of the Kathe Kollwitz Vredesloop 2015, ladies and gentlemen!

On behalf of the Save our Schools Network, I heartily accept this kind generosity that you extend to our Lumad communities, especially our Lumad children, in their struggle for a quality, accessible and culture-responsible education. 

The Save our Schools Network was created in 2011 amidst the increasing attacks on our Lumad schools in Mindanao by the military and paramilitary forces. It has now reached out to the international community through the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines. The Lumad schools, or the alternative learning centers, were established by our partner organizations in the hinterlands of Mindanao to address the lack of access to quality education by the Lumad children.  But these learning centers, rather than being assisted and developed, were instead attacked by the military and paramilitary forces:  accusing the volunteer teachers and students as members of the revolutionary group, the New Peoples’ Army and tagging the schools as a front of the Communist Party of the Philippines.  But all these allegations remain to be baseless, and are in fact a complete fabrication by the current Aquino government to attempt to justify its human rights violations against our Lumad communities, which force them to flee and evacuate their areas and close down these learning centers.

Ultimately, these cases of human rights violations hamper the Lumad children’s right to education, the Lumad communities’ right to live in a peaceful community and their collective right to development and self-determination. 

But with our continuous cooperation and solidarity, we, the Filipino people are more inspired to turn things around and further empower not only the Lumad communities in Mindanao, but all the oppressed and marginalized sectors of our society and ultimately realize genuine peace and development in our land.

Together, let us:

1.     Organize discussions and information campaigns to increase public awareness on the issue of attacks on the Lumad schools through forum, roundtable discussions, educational discussions, use of social media, showing documentary films, posters, brochures, photo exhibits and many others; (For example - we will be in Howest tomorrow to provide more information about the state of our Lumad brothers and sisters; if you would know of other opportunities in the coming months, please inform the International Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines or ICHRP – who is our main international partners in this campaign)

2.     Coordinate and lobby the issues with your governments, child rights advocates and organizations, both local and international bodies, including the United Nations; (Lumad representatives have been here in Europe in December 2015 and again just last March and lobbied at the United Nations and the European Union institutions. We will be sending another delegation in September to October 2016 to Europe, especially if our Lumad brothers and sisters remain refugees in our own land even with a new president in power.)

3.     Conduct activities which will gather support for the education of Lumad children such as fund raising activities, donation of books and school supplies, etc.; (At least 3,000 Lumad are still in evacuation centers, as the Aquino government continue to ignore the call of the people for an end to military and para-military occupation of their lands. Fact finding missions have already established the need to rebuild some school facilities as they have also been destroyed by the occupying military forces.)

4.     Join the calls:

a.      to stop the attacks on the Lumad Schools and the Lumad communities;

b.      to stop the vilification of the volunteer teachers and their students;

c.     to hold the State accountable for the human rights violations against the Lumad communities;

d.     to respect the Lumad communities’ right to life and to education

e.     to support the Lumads’ right to self-determination and ancestral domain;

5.     Last but not the least, we invite you to visit the Philippines and experience firsthand the struggles of our people. (In July, we will be holding International Solidarity Missions in several areas in the country and an International Conference for Peoples’  Rights in the Philippines in Davao City, in Mindanao; if you are interested to attend or support these initiatives, please just get in touch with the ICHRP)

Together, let us rise with the Lumads!

Again, my heartfelt gratitude to every one of you.  Rest assured that your generosity and warm solidarity will reach the Lumad communities as soon as I get back home.

Tunkay ug maayad ha daliman. Thank you and good evening.

 

Käthe Kollwitz Vredesloop 2015

Ieper, Belgium

26 April 2016