Philippines anti-mining nun wins German human rights award

A nun from the Philippines known for her anti-mining advocacy is to receive a German human rights award.

Sr Stella Matutina is this year’s recipient of the Weimar Award for Human Rights.

The Benedictine nun will receive 2,500 euros [US$2,730], which she said will help support the advocacy of her organisation.

She is secretary-general of the environment protection group Panalipdan, as well as being chairwoman of the Sisters Association of Mindanao in the southern Philippines.

Sr Matutina, 47, told that her award “highlights the situation of Mindanao and the Philippines in general where the poor, the farmers, the indigenous peoples, the human rights activists and defenders of the environment endure harassment and face risks and death”.

Sr Matutina has been a vocal opponent of attempts to convert the farmlands in Mindanao to plantation crops like palm oil, pineapples, and bananas.

She has also led a campaign against the entry of large-scale mining companies in tribal communities in Mindanao.

In 2012, the Philippine military labeled Matutina a “fake nun” and accused her of being a communist New People’s Army guerrilla.

In 2009, soldiers detained Sr Matutina and two other anti-mining activists in Cateel in Mindanao for giving a lecture on environmental awareness to residents of an upland village.

Early this year, authorities charged Sr Matutina, other Church leaders and human rights activists with kidnapping, human trafficking, and illegal detention for taking care of displaced tribal people in the provinces of Davao del Norte and Bukidnon.

“These are proof that helping the oppressed, the poor, the abused comes with great risks,” said Sr Matutina.

The nun, who comes from a poor family in Mindanao, said her heart “will always be for the poor and the victims of abuses”.

“My life will always be dedicated to them,” she said.


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