Many Filipinos may be unaware of the displacement happening to the indigenous peoples in Southern Mindanao called ‘Lumads.’ Paramilitary groups organized by the Armed Forces of the Philippines threatened the lives of Lumads as they lead the killings of Lumad leaders so that mining companies can take over the Lumad ancestral lands.
The Lumads are native tribes that have lived in the forests and mountains of Mindanao for years, but because of the continued violence that drives them out of their homes, many Lumads became displaced and sought refuge to other areas in Mindanao.
Local news agencies reported an incident last July 23 when Davao City police went to the Haran Mission House of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines (UCCP) to demolish the refugee camp made by the Lumads, which then ensued to a clash between the police and the refugees.
It was discovered that there were about 700 refugees from Talaingod, Davao and San Fernando, Bukidnon staying at the camp. As of now, there are still 680 Lumad refugees at the Haran Mission House while 2,800 of them are at the Provincial Sports Complex in Tandag City.
A week after learning about the UCCP Haran incident, even Silliman University President Dr. Ben Malayang III called for help on the problem of the Lumads in a press release issued last July 29.
Last Sept. 14, Sister Stella Matutina, a Benedictine nun who fights for the rights and welfare of indigenous people, visited SU to share the story and struggles of the Lumads in Mindanao in a peace forum with the theme “Our Land, Our Peace, Our Minds” at the Silliman Hall.
Matutina, who vowed to “continue to fight for the protection of our land” as long as she lived, wants the youth to be aware of the Lumad killings and displacement because with awareness, each of us can discover what we can do about the issue.
Last Sept. 10, singer-songwriter Aiza Seguerra also brought up the Lumads in social media when he said that the Lumad killings were “not getting enough attention from Filipinos.”
The Lumad displacement in Mindanao to make way for large scale industries such as mining is more than just an issue within indigenous communities. Communities are divided, lands are monopolized, the environment is being destroyed, defenders of justice are killed, people are being deprived of their rights, and yet the government is letting all these things happen.
The Weekly Sillimanian believes that the oppression of indigenous peoples and destruction of our lands must not continue. Also, before solutions for problems are started, Filipinos must first be aware of issues like this that plague our country.
Addressing serious problems becomes difficult when the government lets the issue be invisible, which is why as responsible citizens who care about our fellow Filipinos, we must take the initiative in educating ourselves with the troubles of our nation.
Recognizing that there is a problem is the first step in solving it. We may not have the power to instantly bring back the safety and peace of the Lumads, but knowing that they need homes is a good place to start.