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Nuns banned from Philippines "rebel mountain"

Government, military, community and Church leaders in the southern Philippines have told nuns to stop serving an indigenous community after the nuns were accused of "irresponsible" dealings with communist rebels.

UCA News reports that Sr Evelia Lunio from Butuan City on the island of Mindanao said that she and other Missionary Sisters of Mary have been banned from the province's mountainous area around Bayugan town for three months. She said her religious community has moved to Butuan City, about 820 kilometers southeast of Manila.

Sr Lunio said Butuan diocese's chancellor and pastors of neighbouring Bayugan and Esperanza parishes met last week with military officials, the mayor, "barrio" (neighbourhood) leaders and Datu Subang, leader of the armed "Lupaca" group of Manobo people. The officials agreed at the meeting to forbid the nuns from returning to their apostolate until October.

Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos of Butuan told UCA News that his priests took part in the meeting to address a complaint by the military that the nuns were involved with the communist New Peoples Army (NPA) in the area.

According to the bishop, the military reported that rebels collected "revolutionary taxes" from politicians in exchange for their safety while campaigning for the 10 May general election. It was also alleged that the NPA rebel movement was being protected in the area where the nuns had agricultural project. The bishop was told communist army members, loaded with money and hiding among Manobo tribals in Bayugan, reportedly could recruit even more members.

Nuns Banned From Rebel Mountain Concerned For Minorities, Ecology (UCA News 22/7/04 - free registration required)

23 Jul 2004