In their formal dress, a caravan of Lumad indigenous people march in the streets. Photo: Salupongan International
UMCOR and local partner BALSA Mindanao provide food aid to displaced Lumad indigenous people in the Philippines, after they were forcibly displaced from their homes in 2015
By David Tereshchuk*
June 7, 2016 — In late 2015, nearly 3,000 Lumad indigenous people, mainly women and children, were forcibly displaced from their homes on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines. The United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) is working with local partner BALSA Mindanao to provide displaced families and individuals with much needed food aid.
The incident was the latest in a long history of armed conflict on Mindanao. The areas where the Lumads — the original inhabitants of Mindanao — live are resource-rich. But poverty, abuses by military authorities, and the regular displacement of the tribal communities by logging and mining companies have fueled conflict there for many years.
Magahat-Bagani, a paramilitary group, has been responsible for most of the forced removals of Lumad families from their homes and farms. Fearing reprisals, the Lumads remain unable to return home more than six months after their uprooting. Children in the evacuation centers remain traumatized by the threat of attack, and many have been losing weight.
Meeting a basic human need
“UMCOR is glad to support communities that are affected by disasters that are not well known to the outside world,” said Samrawit Assefa Melles, executive secretary for UMCOR International Disaster Response.
“Since the Lumad people are uprooted from the everyday activities that give them their livelihoods, we are aiming to provide a basic human need in the short term, hoping that more sustainable solutions will soon be set in place,” she said.
BALSA Mindanao is delivering UMCOR-funded food-relief packs to meet basic nutritional needs of Lumad families and individuals in evacuation centers in Tandag City, Surigao del Sur, and Malaybalay, in northeastern Mindanao. The packs include rice, beans, sugar, oil, and specially fortified blended foods.
UMCOR also is working with BALSA Mindanao to provide psychosocial support for children in the evacuation centers.
A vision of shalom
The Rev. Jack Amick, senior director of UMCOR Disaster Response, underscored the seriousness of the Lumads’ situation. “For people who live off the land, to lose access to the land is to not eat,” he said.
“In the Bible,” Amick reflected, “the prophets present a vision of everyone one day sitting under their own fig tree on their own land. It is an image of abundance and peace — shalom or wholeness, we might call it. For the displaced indigenous families of Mindanao, UMCOR’s wish is that they have both abundance and peace.”
Your gift to International Disaster Response, Advance # 982450 will support people around the world who are impacted by disaster, including those impacted by the crisis in Mindanao.
*David Tereshchuk is a journalist and media critic who regularly contributes to www.umcor.org.