Jubilee Declaration on Development

Executive Summary

A consultation was conducted on March 18-20, 2014 in Culiat, Quezon City, to consider the development direction of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP). The consultation was held forty years after the historic Angono consultation, which introduced a profound shift in the development agenda of the NCCP towards people centered development and action in solidarity with the most marginalized sectors of society.

In the forty years since the historic statement in Angono was formulated during the early years of martial law, our country has seen an expanded democratic space and a proliferation of civil society organizations, however little has changed in the lives of the poor in our society.

The consultation built on the collective experience of the churches in development and especially how this has been expressed in significant major statements on the churches and development through the years.

During our consultation we were reminded that the task of the church is both prophetic and pastoral. Shepherding is an act of solidarity, not only motivated by compassion, but also by recognition of a radical call to stand against a system that is oppressive. Good shepherds do not promote their own agenda and interests, but are always concerned to serve the sheep, that their desire for a more abundant life might be realized (John 10:10).

The Declaration affirms important principles embodied in the previous statements of the Council in regard to development and the call to the church presented in these documents.

The said statement identifies some important ongoing and emerging issues for the Council’s work in development.

• We affirm the diverse responses of the churches and call us to challenge each other to understand more deeply how these different responses, also seen as gifts, might contribute to fundamental change in our country to bring about a society based on justice and the promise of abundant life.

• We call on the NCCP to be active participants in the process of advocating for post 2015 Millennium Development Goals that focus more clearly on the participation of the basic sectors, and the kinds of structural changes that can end the regimes of inequality that ensure that the poor remain poor.

• We call upon civil society organizations associated with our churches to demonstrate their distinctiveness as organizations immersed in the life of the people, committed to the people’s agenda, and selflessly serving the interests of the most marginalized.

• We call on the NCCP to continue its international advocacy in the United Nations and other international forums to continue to witness for the basic rights of our people as a fundamental principle of development.

• We call on the NCCP to continue to support and advocate for our migrant workers and call on all our churches to seek the transformation of our society so that people no longer need to leave the country to seek opportunities but can contribute their skills to the development of our nation.

• We commit to continue to pursue genuine development that seeks to protect our natural environment, to stand against the unfettered plunder of our resources for short term economic gain, and to recognize that the environment is also a central concern of the poor, because the poor are always the most vulnerable to natural disasters.

• We affirm the traditions and culture of our indigenous communities that present us with a valuable alternative vision of stewardship that views the natural environment as an inheritance not only for the present generation but for the future generations.


Jubilee Declaration on Development[1]
National Council of Churches in the Philippines
March 20, 2014
Maria Antonia Retreat Center, Claretian Missionary Sisters, 48 A Cenacle Drive, Sanville, Culiat 1128, Quezon City

“Then they will hammer their swords into plowshares And their spears into pruning hooks; Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they train for war. Each of them will sit under his vine and under his fig tree, with no one to make them afraid, for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.” (Micah 4:3-4)

“They will build houses and inhabit them; they will also plant vineyards and eat their fruit. They will not build and another inhabit, they will not plant and another eat….” (Isaiah 65:21-22)

Who are we? We are representatives of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines (NCCP) member churches and associate members, regional ecumenical councils, church related development programs, and people’s organizations. We came together forty years after a similar group met to formulate the historic Angono Document, a turning point in the approach to development by the NCCP and its member churches. We came together to pray and reflect on the current global and national situation, to share our experiences in people oriented development, and to offer guidance to the NCCP member churches on the future direction in development.

During the consultation, we celebrated the diverse responses of the churches to development – from programs of immediate relief and assistance, to projects aimed at people’s participation in environmental rehabilitation, to programs aimed at the defense of basic human rights, and activities engaged in organizing among the workers, farmers, migrant workers and indigenous communities.

Our Context Today:  In the forty years since the historic statement in Angono, our country has seen an expanded democratic space and a proliferation of civil society organizations, however little has changed in the lives of the poor in our society[2].

Massive inequalities in wealth and power persist between the masses of the poor and the small but powerful elite. The gap has widened through the years. The product of these inequalities is the suffering of the majority and the corruption of the elite (i.e. political dynasties, pork barrel, patronage politics and commercial collusion). In such an undemocratic economic system, and despite the presence of a robust civil society, real political democracy remains elusive.

Successive Philippine governments have been complicit with the international neo-liberal agenda of privatization, liberalization, and deregulation. As a result of this agenda, any improvements in the national economy have gone either directly to the benefit of the already wealthy or as profits repatriated by foreign companies operating in the Philippines.  While the current government celebrates so-called improved indicators of the health of the national economy such as credit ratings and levels of direct foreign investments, the signs that reflect the real economic health of our people such as real wages, the incomes of the majority, and the condition of our manufacturing and agricultural sectors, are all in decline. This is what concerns churches. The government has promoted a paradigm that views development purely in terms of national economic wealth, with no concern on how that wealth is generated or distributed. The open door that the government offers to extractive industries, especially to international mining companies, is promoted as development. In reality it spells further underdevelopment. It promotes the plunder of our natural resources for short term gain, with little regard to the effects on communities, especially on women, youth and children, the environment, and the needs of future generations.

The Philippines is one of the most vulnerable countries to the effects of climate change. Typhoon Haiyan (local name: Yolanda) which has been identified by scientific research as consistent with human induced climate change, particularly illustrates the acute vulnerability of the poor and the difficulty of our national government in introducing measures to mitigate the effects of climate change and to respond effectively to the needs of the most vulnerable people in times of disaster.

In the Philippines there has been no genuine agrarian reform, pronouncements of all presidents to implement such notwithstanding. The rights of workers continue to be trampled upon. The urban poor continue to be displaced, their communities demolished, without any provision for adequate housing and livelihoods. Our indigenous people continue to be subject to discrimination, abuse and displacement from their ancestral lands.

National sovereignty continues to be undermined by foreign military interests. Constitutional change that would see the existing legal protections of our national patrimony removed in favor of unfettered access to our resources by foreign interests are being pushed. Unrestrained military operations continue to result in the large numbers of people being internally displaced. Human rights abuses, extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, torture and trumped up legal charges continue to be a daily reality in our country, especially inflicted on the organized sectors of the masses of our population and those who advocate their cause. A number of church people, including the sons and daughters of our member churches, have become victims of these violations. Abuse of human rights and repression has become more systematic and given rise to a culture of impunity where violators are not called to account and avoid legal prosecution.

Peace is an essential condition of genuine development. Yet, authentic peace can only come about with justice and the participation of the people in the political processes of the nation. The peace that has been established by the Philippine government in Mindanao with the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) is seen by many as very fragile. It has been observed that some stakeholders were excluded from the process of negotiation, particularly the indigenous peoples (Lumad). There has been a sad failure by the Philippine government and the National Democratic Front of the Philippines (NDFP) to return to the negotiating table to resume the formal peace talks since 2011. There is a clear lack of trust in each other’s sincerity, but the government’s non-compliance with previous agreements, raises real questions in regard to the seriousness of its commitment to seeking a just peace in the country.

The global community has focused on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) which have been important and effective in generating popular awareness, a broad consensus, and in mobilizing political commitment around development and poverty. The results however in the Philippines, as in many other countries, have been very mixed and limited. The MDGs have in their narrow focus excluded important aspects of genuine development such as the participation of people in decision-making, equity, ecological sustainability, security and justice. They have addressed symptoms of underdevelopment rather than the root causes, and have at times served to draw attention away from critical structural issues of global economic justice. Often the MDGs have been pursued within the neoliberal restructuring of the global economy. While there has been a focus on limited gains in very narrow areas, unbridled market liberalization has weakened the capacity of government to ensure the progressive realization of human rights and fundamental basic regimes of social protection.

There is currently an ongoing crisis in the global economic regime, which undermine the wages, social protections and the rights of workers across the world. There is also growing repression and authoritarianism on a global scale.

In the absence of real structural change which would see a democratization of wealth and power, real democracy remains elusive in our country. In this context of elite democracy, real sustainable development to the benefit of all cannot be achieved unless fundamental structural change is undertaken. In this respect, the agenda set for the churches engagement in development forty years ago has ongoing relevance and remains our continuing priority.

Our Shared History: This consultation builds on the collective experience of the churches in development. Especially, how this has been expressed in significant major statements on the churches and development. At the founding of the NCCP in November 1963, the Council inherited from the Philippine Federation of Christian Churches an array of programs, the largest of which were programs in social welfare and development. Many of these social programs were supported by funds and resources from abroad, particularly through food aid provided by the Government of the United States through Church World Service (CWS). The focus of the programs of the Council during this time were on feeding programs, food for work projects, health services, and training in livelihood for the urban and rural poor. Through the 1960s there was an increasingly influential critique of the Council’s development practice that suggested that its programs were complicit in reinforcing dependency among people rather than leading to people’s liberation.  In November 1971, a consultation on Human Development  was held during which the NCCP clearly stated that the Philippine socio-economic conditions were oppressive and exploitative. There was a call for the church to view its role as prophetic and to engage in ‘exposing those existing oppressive systems and structures in order to bring about fundamental changes for a more humane society’.[3]  The task of the church is to emphasize those endeavors that enhance human development and liberation, with a priority being on organizing people for action to effect necessary change.

In May 1974, during the early years of martial law, a consultation was conducted on the Role of Churches in Development, in Angono, Rizal. The ‘Angono document’[4] which was an outcome of the consultation, suggested that any discussion of development needs to be rooted in a concrete social and political analysis of Philippine society. The roots of underdevelopment were viewed as the persistent inequalities in wealth and power between nations and within the nation, and the structures that sustain these inequalities. Authentic development was viewed as the process whereby the people, the poor and the oppressed being bearers of humanization, liberate themselves from all forms of enslavement and create the conditions in which there are no oppressors and oppressed.

A further consultation on development was held in Tagaytay in 1985. Here the churches reflected on the rich store of experiences they had accumulated in pursuing people oriented development under the repression and corruption of the Marcos regime. The ‘Tagaytay Covenant’[5] embraced a vision of a transformed society as the long-term goal of development efforts, where:

1) people are guaranteed their right to life and sovereignty,

2) people enjoy provisions for basic human needs,

3) peasants benefit from genuine agrarian reform,

4) vital industries while open to participation from local entrepreneurs are under effective nationalized control,

5) those without social power are effectively represented in organs of government,

6) there is genuine people’s participation in decision making,

7) there is an open interplay of views free from repression and suppression, and

8) the education system is responsive to social needs, accessible to all, autonomous and allows critical thinking ….

A particular priority not clearly articulated in the previous documents was the importance of the participation of women, youth and children in development. “The churches should consciously integrate in their programs the development of  … women, youth and children, addressing their needs as marginalized and discriminated sectors, and involving them in development work from conceptualization to implementation process.” [6]

In 1996, a National Consultation on Faith, Witness and Service was held in Los Baños. The consultation occurred during a time in which the Philippine government pushed for the deregulation of key industries and the liberalization of the economy as part of the neoliberal agenda of globalization. The Los Baños statement was a clear articulation of the significance of global capital and the international neo-liberal agenda of privatization, liberalization, and deregulation in the impoverishment of the people and in setting the national economic, political, cultural agenda.[7]

Theology and the Role of the Churches

God calls the church to continue the prophetic task of Jesus Christ (Luke 24:19), to be the advocate of God’s justice and righteousness (Micah 6:8), to proclaim the Reign of God (Luke 9:2), to preach the good news (Mark 1:1) to be the humble servant of God’s people (Matthew 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43) The call to the church is to follow the way of Jesus in identifying with those whom Jesus sought to uplift and to suffer with those for whom Jesus gave his life (Matthew 4:19; Luke 9:23; John 12:26).

In 1985 at Tagaytay, the situation of the nation was likened to the captivity of the people in Egyptian oppression. In the latter, God hears the cry of the people, raises up a prophet who becomes the instrument of God, who pleads the peoples cause before the throne of Pharaoh, and is God’s instrument in leading the people out of oppression into freedom (Exodus 2:23; Numbers 20:15-16). When the church does embrace this prophetic role, those Christians who work actively with the struggling masses, have often, like the people themselves, become victims of state repression. Like the prophet who is both servant of God and servant of the people, Christians as development workers are partners for change, and it is the people whom we serve who finally decide the change they want.

In Los Baños, the call was for the church to be a ‘tabernacle church’ – a church that accompanies the people in the journey towards their promised Land – crying with them, confronting life’s vicissitudes with them, sharing the joys and celebrating the victories with them.

The task of the church is to emphasize those activities that enhance human development and liberation, a priority being on organizing people for action to effect necessary change. In any given political, social and economic situation, God opens opportunities for the people to act responsibly for their liberation. Human development is more than a drive towards economic prosperity, and needs to particularly include the aims of enabling the people to realize and exercise their own potential for self-determination and self-reliance.

During our consultation, we were reminded that the task of the church is both prophetic and pastoral. Jesus lamented that the people were harassed and helpless like sheep without a shepherd (Mark 6:34). The image of the shepherd is pervasive in the scriptures; there are shepherds who act out of pure self-interest, exploiting the sheep (Ezekiel 34:1-3; Matthew 7:15). In contrast Jesus is the good shepherd (John 10:11). As development workers we take on the characteristic of a shepherd who is walking with the flock, always choosing a vantage point that commands a view of all the sheep and within striking distance should a wolf attack. We know the sheep by name, because we are ‘babad’[8], we are intimately immersed in their lives. We have a vantage point different from those in power; we look at the issues from the perspective of the cry of the oppressed, from the yearnings of the vulnerable, from the experience of the marginal of the insensitivity and abuse of those in power. Shepherding is an act of solidarity, not only motivated by compassion, but also by recognition of a radical call to stand against a system that is oppressive. Good shepherds do not promote their own agenda and interests, but are always concerned to serve the sheep, that their desire for a more abundant life might be realized (John 10:10).  As we are reminded in Psalm 23 even when surrounded by the enemy and those who seek to oppress, the shepherd will seek for the sheep a foretaste of the abundant life that is the promise of God (Psalm 23:5). As shepherds we are workers, not messiahs, we are workers working on a future that is not our own.

Affirming our perspective on development

As witnessed by these historical documents, we affirm the principles, that development:

  • begins with a clear analysis of the political, economic and social realties’ of Philippine society in its global context, undertaken from the perspective of the basic sectors of society
  • needs to be viewed and evaluated from the perspective of what it means for the most disadvantaged and marginalized within the society
  • has at its core genuine participation by the basic sectors of society, the churches can promote this participation through a commitment to supporting community organizing, supporting the people in indentifying their own problems, developing their own solutions, discovering their own potential, make their own decisions, and to accompany the people in achieving power so as to shape their own lives and future
  • involves raising awareness of the basic structural issues that inhibit justice and equality in our society, this can be promoted through the educational programs of the NCCP and its member churches
  • involves a commitment to research, sharing of experiences and information exchange to better understand the problems, processes, objectives and programs of development
  • becomes sustainable only when it is accompanied by a fundamental transformation in the social and economic structures that sustain inequality of wealth and power

We support the call represented in these historic documents for the NCCP and the member churches to:

  • confess that many times we have been complicit in supporting those structures that sustain oppression and inequality
  • accompany the people in the journey towards abundant life – crying with them, struggling with them, sharing the joys and celebrating the victories with them, to be one with them, to share in the life of the people, makipamuhay[9].
  • to consciously integrate in our programs the development of women, youth and children, addressing their needs as marginalized and discriminated sectors, and involving them in all the processes of development work from conceptualization to implementation.
  • engage in theological reflection and theological education that have at their core the gospel vision of human liberation and life in its fullness, especially for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.
  • continually re-evaluate our institutional life so as to more meaningfully respond to the challenges of the times.
  • engage in relief efforts in times of disaster, to provide support to victims of political repression and social injustice, to promote cooperative ventures among the people, to support self-help projects, and to provide other services and programs, realizing that they can never be an end in themselves, but rather are a means to support the people to organize, indentify their collective concerns, act together to build strength and to ultimately grow in consciousness so as to act with others to challenge those structures in society that stand in the way of God’s justice and promise of abundant life.
  • work with others nationally and internationally, strengthen our worldwide solidarity, building networks and linkages, so as to more effectively advocate and campaign for the people’s issues and agenda
  • be pro-active in seeking peace based on justice
  • that the churches revisit the original meaning of spirituality as exemplified by Jesus Christ who worked for the transformation of human beings toward genuine development as the restoration of the original aim of creation

 

The Continuing Journey

All people are created in the image of God, and the inherent dignity of every person that comes with it. Thus the basic human rights (civil, political, social, economic, and cultural) of every person must be respected. Genuine development can only proceed where the rights of the people are recognized, advanced and defended. These principles underscore our affirmations and calls:

  • We affirm the diverse responses of the churches and call us to challenge each other to understand more deeply how these different responses, also seen as gifts, might contribute to fundamental change in our country to bring about a society based on justice and the promise of abundant life.
  • We call on the NCCP to be active participants in the process of advocating for post 2015 Millennium Development Goals that focus more clearly on the participation of the basic sectors, and the kinds of structural changes that can end the regimes of inequality that ensure that the poor remain poor.
  • We call upon civil society organizations associated with our churches to demonstrate their distinctiveness as organizations immersed in the life of the people, committed to the people’s agenda, and selflessly serving the interests of the most marginalized.
  • We call on the NCCP to continue its international advocacy in the United Nations and other international forums to continue to witness for the basic rights of our people as a fundamental principle of development.
  • We call on the NCCP to continue to support and advocate for our migrant workers and call on all our churches to seek the transformation of our society so that people no longer need to leave the country to seek opportunities but can contribute their skills to the development our nation.
  • We commit to continue to pursue genuine development that seeks to protect our natural environment, to stand against the unfettered plunder of our resources for short term economic gain, and to recognize that the environment is also a central concern of the poor, because the poor are always the most vulnerable to natural disasters.
  • We affirm the traditions and culture of our indigenous communities that present us with a valuable alternative vision of stewardship that views the natural environment as an inheritance not only for the present generation but for the future generations.

 

Amen

[1] Approved the NCCP Executive Committee, April 11, 2015

[2] In 2013 there are still 11.8 million people unemployed or significantly underemployed, there are 56 million of our people surviving on less than 100 pesos/day, there are 12 million Filipinos working abroad because of lack of opportunity in our own country.

[3] “Statement of Concern on Development and the Churches’ Role in the 70’s”  in A Public Faith, A Social Witness: Statements and Resolutions of the National Council of Churches in the Philippines, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Quezon City, 1995. Vol. 1, pp.114-115.

[4] “The Angono Document: The Role of the Churches in Development” in A Public Faith, A Social Witness, Vol. 1, pp.116-119.

[5] “The Tagaytay ’85 Covenant” in A Public Faith, A Social Witness, Vol. 1, pp.122-129.

 

[6] “The Tagaytay ’85 Covenant” in A Public Faith, A Social Witness, Vol. 1, p.127.

[7] “Los Baños Document” in National Consultation on Faith, Witness and Service: Holding on to the Vision … Thy Kingdom Come, National Council of Churches in the Philippines, Quezon City, 1996. Pp.112-117.

[8] Tagalog word for immersed.

[9] Tagalog term for “to live with”