Twelve international peacemakers from around the world are visiting congregations, presbyteries and colleges of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) Sept. 19-Oct. 12.
They are sharing their stories about church-based ministries in their countries that seek peace justice and pursue peace in the name of Jesus Christ. This year’s international peacemakers come from Colombia, Egypt, Ethiopia, Jamaica, Madagascar, Malawi, Mexico, Palestine, the Philippines, Russia, South Sudan and Syria.
The Rev. Irma Mepico Balaba is assistant program secretary of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines Church Unity and Ecumenical Relations. She also serves as regional coordinator of KARAPATAN (The Alliance for the Advancement of People’s Rights). Her efforts help victims of human rights violations through education and training, campaigns and advocacy, legal services, fact-finding missions and providing sanctuary.
What is the most important situation in your country that you will be addressing?
We are facing problems in the continuing conflict between the government of the Philippines and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines. Armed forces are taking guns in communities, in schools and in some congregations making life dangerous for the people.
How are the faith communities trying to address this situation?
The National Council of Churches is advocating for peace talks to resume and we are conducting forums. Agreements have been made and we are asking that they be kept. We are moving toward the second phase of the process, which involves social and economic reforms. We are working with peace advocates in calling for peace based on justice.
What peacemaking lessons from your situation are you trying to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians?
We believe it is important to have Christian education (about peacemaking). We also emphasize human rights, human trafficking and issues involving migrants and indigenous peoples.
What is the primary message you want to communicate to U.S. Presbyterians about your country?
It is the active involvement of the church and the vital role of the church in society. This is an ecumenical effort. We have 10 member churches (in the National Council of Churches) and 10 associate member organizations.
Balaba is scheduled to visit Mid Kentucky, Central Florida, New Harmony, and Yukon presbyteries.
Pat Cole is a communications associate with the Presbyterian Mission Agency.