Campus community responds to plight of Morong 43

Students sign petitions to free the Morong 43A trip to the Philippines in early October inspired Melanie Newell to tell others about the plight of 43 volunteer public health workers wrongly accused and illegally arrested on Feb. 6, 2010. So, she took the initiative to share their story with the George Fox campus community in early December.

It's been more than 10 months since the Morong 43 – two doctors, one nurse, two midwives and 38 volunteer health care workers – attended a first responders training course and were subsequently raided by the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, who accused them of undergoing bomb-making training. The workers were blindfolded, beaten and denied legal counsel.

Students heard the workers' story in a chapel service, and the opportunity to sign petition letters to Philippine President Benigno S. Aquino and Oregon senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley were extended to the campus community. The most visible demonstration of support, however, were the numerous bright-yellow "Free the 43" T-shirts that students and staff wore throughout the week.

Newell, coordinator for the university's Center for Peace and Justice, met with the imprisoned women of the group and was moved to share their story. "They told me, 'Tell people about us. Our hope lies in those who hear our story, those who know about us," she said.

A story on Newell's efforts to educate the campus about the Morong 43 was featured in the Nov. 26 edition of the Newberg Graphic. Read the story here.