Activist nun wins human rights award from German city

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MALAYBALAY CITY (MindaNews/07 August) — A Mindanao-based Catholic nun was named last month to the 2015 Weimar Award for Human Rights for her involvement in human rights defense and advocacy for the environment, the Sisters Association in Mindanao (Samin) said in a statement Thursday.

The city council of Weimar in Germany decided on July 8 to confer the award to Sr. Stella Matutina based on the recommendation by Missio, an international aid organization, Samin said.

“The Filipina nun pits herself against serious human rights violations in her homeland that occur in connection with the gold extraction of international companies in the Philippine Island of Mindanao,” the city council said in explaining why it gave the honor to Sr. Stella, who serves as chair of Samin.

Tailings from mining activities flow into a stream in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. Environment groups have called for a stop to mining ventures in Mindanao. MindaNews file photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno
Tailings from mining activities flow into a stream in Sibutad, Zamboanga del Norte. Environment groups have called for a stop to mining ventures in Mindanao. MindaNews file photo by H. Marcos C. Mordeno

“The number of violations against the human rights of indigenous peoples of Mindanao, caused by military and paramilitary units, have [sic] increased dramatically in the past two years with over one hundred killed.

“The Catholic nun engages herself extraordinarily for the rights of the native population, despite being exposed to permanent threats to her safety due to her engagement,” it added.

Sr. Stella, also the secretary-general of Panalipdan! Mindanao, joined the campaign against BHP Billiton’s Pujada nickel mining project and Phil Youbang’s gold mining project in Davao Oriental in 2008.

“Sr. Stella was subjected to harassment and threats and was even tagged as an NPA rebel pretending to be a nun because of her fearless advocacy for the protection of the environment,” Samin said.

“She is one of the 15 leaders of various progressive organizations who are victims of Strategic Lawsuits against Public Participation (SLAPP) suits filed by the government to silence them of their advocacies. The leaders, including Sr. Stella, were accused of kidnapping and serious illegal detention, and human trafficking of Lumad evacuees to Davao City,” the group added.

Sr. Stella will receive the award on Dec. 10, International Human Rights Day.

The Award for Human Rights of the City of Weimar has been awarded since 1995. It gives recognition to people who work for the right to free speech of individuals to free information, participation of human beings in the public affairs of their states, respect and preservation of political, ethnic, cultural and religious rights of minorities, among others. (MindaNews)

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