As a “Just Peace Philippines” congregation, First United Methodist Church of Richmond offers at least one Sunday sermon per year on the human rights situation in the Philippines. On June 23, Nikki Salde-Azzam of Buena Vista UMC in Alameda, a member of the California-Nevada Annual Conference's Philippines Solidarity Task Force, preached at FUMC Richmond and shared the story of Elijah (from 1 Kings 19:1-15a), calling attention to how it parallels the experiences of Filipino human rights advocates. Like Elijah, activists literally face the danger of being hunted down and killed or being imprisoned for their advocacy. Still, like Elijah, activists persist in their quest for justice.
More than 30,000 Filipino people have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte took office in June 2016, as a result of his so-called “War on Drugs” policy, while the United States has stood largely silent. (In 2017, in fact, according to a New York Times report, U.S. President Donald Trump called Duterte to "congratulate him" on the success of his War on Drugs.)
Last year (June 19, 2018) the United States and 37 other (of the 47 total) members of the United Nations Human Rights Council signed a statement on human rights in the Philippines issued by the government of Iceland:
While acknowledging that drug use in the Philippines is a serious problem, actions to tackle drug abuse must be carried out in full respect of the rule of law and compliance with international human rights obligations. We urge the government of the Philippines to take all necessary measures to bring killings associated with the campaign against illegal drugs to an end and cooperate with the international community to investigate all related deaths and hold perpetrators accountable.
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