- Lumad evacuees in Mindanao express their wish to return home for Christmas
- They are under threat of violent clashes between government and non-government troops
- Around 7,000 people have been forced out of their homes according to a human rights group
After fleeing their communities following violent clashes involving the military, paramilitary groups, and the New People’s Army (NPA), different lumads evacuated in different areas around Mindanao have one simple wish — to be home for Christmas.
Human rights groups Karapatan told Bulatlat that there have been at least 19 various incidents which have forced 7,000 lumads to flee their homes. There around 3,000 evacuees who have sought refuge at the Tandag Sports Complex in Surigao del Sur while another 1,000 are currently living in the United Church of Christ in the Philippines-Haran in Davao City.
“It would be nice to celebrate Christmas in our homes,” Michelle Campos, daughter of slain lumad leader Dionel Campos, told the Inquirer.
She explained that although indigenous groups do not have Christmas, they celebrate the occasion together with their Christian brethren, who constitute the majority in the Philippines.
Campos, says however, that unless the paramilitary groups that carried out the attacks in their home are disbanded, the suspects behind the deaths in their communities are arrested, and government forces pulled out from their lands, they will not be able to safely go back.
Meanwhile, families from the town of Compostela in Compostela Valley have been forced out of their communities as they feel they are under threat by soldiers who have encamped at the local tribal school there.
In addition, other indigenous groups have fled their homes under threat of paramilitary groups allegedly working to give way for massive mining operations which threaten the lumad ancestral domains, as well as from state troops under the government’s counterinsurgency program.
“We demand the immediate pull out of troops from Lumad communities to stop the exodus of people from the villages and let the bakwit [evacuees] go home for the holidays,” said Karapatan Secretary-General Cristina Palabay.