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Desperate cries for food literally answered with live bullets

/ 12:15 AM April 21, 2016

Is there anyone among you who, if your child asks for bread, will give a stone? Or if the child asks for a fish, will give a snake? (Matthew 7: 9-10)

Farmers in Mindanao, facing drought-driven hunger, trooped to Kidapawan City on Wednesday, March 30, 2016, to draw attention to the situation in their communities and demand calamity assistance from the government.  After 11 a.m., on April 1, 2016, gut-wrenching news arrived that state forces from the Philippine National Police opened fire on the farmers, killing at least one farmer and injuring as many as 30 others.

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The Promotion of Church People’s Response joins the lumad and farmers in expressing utter contempt for the hard-hearted leaders who answered the people’s cry for food with death-dealing bullets and stone-hard blows.

Suffering from months of deprivation due to El Niño, poor farmers cried for assistance, but little help arrived. Seeing the hunger of their children (in sharp contrast to the little or absent calamity assistance) farmer and lumad organizations journeyed together to the city to make their just cry for government assistance known. The barricade at the Cotabato-Davao national highway only punctuated the extreme need of the communities represented by the 5,000 farmers, lumad, and their supporters who had gathered there. Rather than showing compassion and responding mercifully to their cry for help, ruthless elected officials and state forces answered these poor citizens with callous disdain and brazen violence.

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Our nation faces a severe moral crisis—the cries of the people for food have been answered with hurled stones and life-destroying bullets! When the hunger of the poor brings violent responses from those in leadership, these leaders are not fit to govern. Our people, especially the poor, deserve a government that responds to their needs and respects their efforts to make their dire situations known. The poor should be encouraged to advocate for their communities and to organize for the betterment of their lives. As they have lived for decades with inadequate access to basic needs and services, drought conditions are literally unbearable. Their cries should have yielded rice for them to bring to their hunger-plagued families; but instead of being provided sustenance, they were razed by bullets and pummeled with stones.

Our government is plagued with shameful indifference.

We stand with the poor farmers and lumad to condemn this ruthless and violent dispersal. We demand that calamity support be immediately given to those stricken by drought in Mindanao. May our hearts be moved with compassion. These cries for food deserve a human and caring response.

—REV. MARIE SOL VILLALON, cochair, Promotion of Church People’s Response, [email protected]

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TAGS: dispersal, El Niño, farmers, food, hunger, Kidapawan, Lumad, North Cotabato, Protest
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