“Woe to those who make unjust laws, to those who issue oppressive decrees,to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people...”(Isaiah 10:1-2; NIV)
Reclaiming human dignity and abject poverty drives the 54 Sumilao farmers to pursue a historic “Walk for Sumilao Land, Walk for Justice”. Unlike the Israelites journey in Moses’ time, a ‘promised land flowing with milk and honey’ awaits them as Yahweh guaranteed. For the Sumilao farmers, however, there is nothing sweet or similar that they can look forward to when they reach Manila. Their long and arduous walk is a leap of faith with no assurance of any possible fulfillment of their claims. Unquestionably, the indomitable spirit they showed to the rest of the Filipino people in pursuing their struggle could only come from their strong faith and complete trust to God our Creator.
The Central Committee of the Second National Rural Congress (NRC-II) is one with you in spirit and in prayers in putting forward your pressing issues, in reclaiming the 144-hectare ancestral land that once belong to your people. As shepherds of God’s flock we extend our hands in in spiritual guidance, until your dignity as a people shall be restored and work with you in overcoming privation.
We urge our government officials at Malacanang and the Department of Agrarian Reform to sincerely listen to the Sumilao farmers’ aspirations. We don’t demand for special favor for our Sumilao brothers and sisters. We only pray that the social justice spirit of the law be given utmost regard. Let this be a positive signal to the government’s call of transforming agrarian reform beneficiaries as agribusiness men and women, of putting agrarian reform at the center of rural development.
The Sumilao farmers’ journey for land and justice is an inspiration to many people worth emulating – to the landless tenants in large haciendas and farmworkers in agribusiness plantations asserting their rights under the agrarian law, to our indigenous brothers and sisters claiming their ancestral lands and to agrarian reform advocates supporting the just cause of farmers, farmworkers and indigenous peoples.
Ang among panalangin sa atong Langitnong Amahan maga-uban kaninyo sa tibuok ninyong paglakaw ug ilayo kamo sa sakit o katalagman ug ampingan hangtud sa inyong malampusong pag-abot sa Maynila. Lakip niini ang among pangamuyo nga malamdagan ang atong mga opisyales sa gobyerno ug ipatuman kaninyo ang hustisya human sa lisud ug hatass nga biyahe ug pakigbisug. Kining tanan atong idangup kang Kristo Hesus lamang nga atong bugtong manluluwas uban sa giya sa Espiritu Santo, Amen!
+ ARCHBISHOP ANTONIO J. LEDESMA, S.J., D.D.
Archbishop of Cagayan de Oro
NRC II Executive Committee Chairperson
Second National Rural Congress