North Country Peace Builder
Vol. 53, No. 4, December 2002
The Center for International Policy* wishes to express its deep grief at the death of Senator Paul Wellstone on October 25, 2002. We will remember him with great fondness for his brave efforts on behalf of the Colombian people On two visits to our war-torn South American neighbor, Senator Wellstone helped keep alive reformers seeking a way out of their country's horrific violence. In Washington, his principled concern about the direction of U.S. policy made him a leading voice in the search for alternatives.
One afternoon in the fall of 2000, Senator Wellstone called us and several other Washington-based human rights activists to his office (something that few senators would ever think of doing--human rights workers don't have much campaign money to donate). "I'm worried about Colombia and I want to visit" he said. "Where should I go?"
Our response was unanimous, but we thought it was a long shot. If he dared, we said, the senator should go to the oil-refining Port of Barrancabermeja, where several courageous human rights groups, women's groups, and labor leaders were trying to bear up under constant threat from the paramilitary death squads then taking over the city. To our surprise, he went to this most dangerous of Colombian cities, bringing the U.S. am-bassador with him, and made strong and public shows of support for the beleaguered local human rights community. A year later, he came back and did it again.
Today, groups like the Regional Committee in Defense of Human Rights, the Popular Women's Organization, the Association of Relatives of the Disappeared, and the Magdalena Medio Peace and Development Project continue to work under pressure from the paramilitaries. But thanks to Senator Wellstone's efforts, the death squad's leaders know that these individuals' safety is a priority for the U.S. government.
It is hard to convey how rare it is to find a member of Congress willing to go so far to do the right thing. Minnesotans should be proud to have been represented by Paul Wellstone and his dedicated staff. We will miss him terribly.
Submitted by Katy Gray-Brown
Resources for Peacemakers
The Fellowship of Reconciliation <www.forusa.org/> seeks to replace violence, war, racism, and economic injustice with nonviolence, peace, and justice. We are an interfaith organization committed to active nonviolence as a transforming way of life and as a means of radical change. We educate, train, build coalitions, and engage in nonviolent and compassionate actions locally, nationally, and globally.
<www.mnfor.org> | Links | <www.nonviolence.org>
North Country Peace Builder on-line: <www.osb.org/for>.
Of Self and Substance, with Forgiveness
by Don Irish
The year was 1988. The country was Nicaragua. The societal context was the "Contra War."
Our microbus finally could go no further on the increasingly steep, rocky, and muddy road. So, we four Witness for Peace "long-term team members" and the twelve persons in the short-term national delegation put on heavier footwear or high rubber boots. We sloshed for an hour through soggy pastures in which the water-soaked mud often sucked our boots off our feet! We climbed through barbed-wire fences, traversed slippery logs across creeks, and finally mounted a fairly dry trail up the hill to the El Juste cooperative.
This small farm cooperative was composed of seven to eight families, about thirty-five persons, half of them children. They lived in several very humble dwellings, constructed of wood, with black plastic rain shields on at least one side, and dirt floors. Chickens and pigs wandered in and out freely. The cooperative grew rice, corn, beans, yucca, and wheat. From their dairy cows they made a white, soft cheese which could be sold.
This cluster of families was first attacked by the Contras in April 1985. One man was killed, and his body was later found in a well. A second attack came on November 21, 1985, when Francisco's only son and a daughter and granddaughter were killed while walking on a road to secure supplies. Efrain, married to Socorro, was also killed. They had six children, and she was pregnant at the time.
A third attack came on September 3, 1987, with three more persons killed. All the houses of the cooperative were burned. Geraldina's mother and one brother died in the fire. Another brother had his throat slit. Two months later, on November 3, 1987, fifty Contras returned again, killing three and wounding eight. Geraldina ran, carrying her 21-month-old son in front of her. A shot in the back passed through her abdomen and pierced the boy's leg; the leg had to be amputated. Although the child later secured a prothesis, "My little boy still doesn't have a leg," Geraldina sadly reminded us.
On July 26, 1988, less than a month before we visited these families again, the Contras attacked once more. In all, fourteen community members had been killed, five of them children. Terrorizing such small, isolated, and vulnerable communities was a frequent tactic of the Contras. Carmen, aunt of Geraldina and wife of Francisco, plaintively said, "We have no place to go. We have to be here. We work the land to live. The Contras say little. They just give us a rain of lead. All they do is come and kill us. We are very poor."
Geraldina hiked back with us to the bus. Socorro, unnoticed by us, had left the hilltop of El Juste before us, on horseback. She had arrived at her very modest home along the road, picked the sweet corn ears, shucked and boiled them, all before we were able to descend to her place. She came out with the corn wrapped under a cloth in a large steaming bowl. Her eyes glistened with pleasure and her smile was wide, that she was able to be ready for our arrival and to share with us what little she had. This lovely young mother and war widow, living very meagerly, gave sacrificially of her small food supply, the very substance of her community's life.
We were all much touched by her thoughtfulness, special effort, and simple but sacrificial generosity.
We learned from such graciousness of the Nicaraguan campesinos, for many North Americans tend to give only from their surplus, after all their needs and "consumer-wants" have been satisfied. Sacrificial giving is perhaps a rarity in a rich society, afflicted with "affluenza." Even among nations, the United States falls considerably below the Scandinavian and other countries in the proportion of its wealth that is given officially to meet humanitarian needs elsewhere. We think of ourselves as a generous nation, but the budgetary allotments are not sacrificial, not risking our livelihoods, as did Socorro. As we enter the December holiday season, we need to weigh our needs vs. our wants, and the needs of others.
Furthermore, in the El Juste context, these friends were sharing with us, citizens of the country that recruited the Contras, armed and trained them, financed them, and in great part directed them. The bullets from the guns of the Contras were American made. Yet these villagers accepted us with abrazos. While objecting to, and being casualties of, our nation's policies toward Nicaragua, they received us with affection and forgiveness personally. !Que maravillosa!
(One important function of our Witness for Peace long-termers involved careful investigation of such Contra attacks against civilian targets and reporting them to the U.S. media, congressional personnel, and the U.S. administration. Also, our periodic visits to such communities and physical presence made manifest our solidarity with them in their struggle for survival.
Glimpses of the SOA Watch, November 16-17, 2002, Demonstration
Sent by Don Irish
---the exhilaration of being with 50+ wonderful, amiable individuals committed to peace and justice -- the two-way 24-hour bus trip -- hearing our companions' reasons for being on the trip and then returning, hearing their reflections upon the experience -- the popcorn, candy, fruit, and so on passed back through the rows -- "The Good War" (COs in WWII) and other videos shown during travel -- the long singing at the back of the bus in the dark of evening -- the excitement of finding so many young people on the bus and at the Watch -- the impressive "funereal procession" of 10,000+ individuals, walking ten abreast in silence, as the names of Latin American victims of assassinations, "disappearances," massacres were announced -- walking behind the black coffins and black-draped, "blood-spattered" carriers -- the initially bare cyclone metal fence that blocked our entrance into the fort -- but its complete coverage wqith crosses, each with a victim's name printed on it; a Purple Heart medal; a Marine Corps jacket -- the GOD BLESS FORT BENNING sign -- the animated, fervent, but civil discussion with supporters of the SOA who wanted to engage us -- the messages from Pete Seeger, Susan Sarandon, Martin Sheen -- the civility and courtesy manifested by the demonstrators and community police, military personnel, and Columbus citizens toward each other.
Report from the Annual Meeting, November 3, 2002
Thirty people attended the annual meeting, held Sunday Nov. 3 at First Universalist Unitarian Church in Minneapolis. Member Sharon Bishop made arrangements for us. Patricia Clark, new National FOR Coordinator, was our guest speaker. See a summary of Pat's remarks.
Chair Katrina Dolezal gave an overview of the activities of the Minnesota FOR for the year:
- We brought the Peace Under Siege exhibit from Chiapas to the Resource Center of the Americas, where it remained on view for a month.
- We gave scholarships to four young people to attend peacemaker training at Kirkridge in January of this year. Two of them then conducted our own peacemaker training in the summer (see report on page 4).
- We brought Ibrahim Ramey, national FOR director of disarmament/racial and economic justice, to speak at our 2001 annual meeting, and Janet Chisholm, new national FOR director of adult nonviolence education and training, to speak at our spring gathering.
- We sponsored a Martin Luther King day celebration at St. Cloud State University.
- We co-sponsored the appearance of Bishop Thomas J. Gumbleton, one of four Catholic bishops to speak out against a war in Iraq, at the Newman Center in St. Cloud.
- We participated in vigils against the war in Iraq at the Twin Cities Peace (Lake Street) bridge.
- Several of our members attended national's June con-ference on "The Power of Nonviolence--Exploring Alternatives.
- We tabled and gave out information about the FOR at several events around the city, including the Minnesota Alliance of Peacemaker's annual celebration and the Peace Prize Festival.
- We underwrote the visit and sharing of experience at the Resource Center of the Americas of two people who went on an FOR trip to Colombia to observe and be present with rural people being subjected to violence by paramilitaries and rebels.
Leslie Reindl gave the treasurer's report:
Our beginning balance in November 2001 was $5336.
Income for the year was $3790 in contributions, $105 for spring meeting meal, and $530 from PTI participants.
Expenses, including big items of $1107 for printing, $366 for postage, $400 for peacemaker training expenses, $700 for scholarships, and $300 for the exhibit, were $3973.
Our balance as of November 2002 is $5788.
Laura Wilson, one of the two leaders of this year's MPP training, reported on the event. Laura was one of four young adults sponsored by the MN FOR to go to peacemaker training in Kirkridge in January. The September issue of the North Country Peace Builder had a report written by Laura and co-leader Colin Schumacher.
The expenses of this year's MPP were underwritten in part by Students for Peace at Hamline University. This group, which includes representatives from each class and student organization, voted to give $1000 to MMP, because of the work of the Hamline FOR chapter.
Included here is the amazing list of the speakers and subjects Colin and Laura arranged for this one-week event (only young people could stand a week like this!):
- Don Irish: lifelong activism and sustainability
- Betsy Raasch-Gilman: "A Culture of Violence: What Can Be Done?"
- Sharon Jaffe (Jews for a Just Peace): vigiling for justice
- Michael Pokawa: the nonviolent peace force
- Sharon Thompson: corporate globalization
- Michael Dahl: Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless
- Marcy Shapiro/Louisa Hext: undoing racism
- Susie Hartigan: Institute on Race and Poverty
- Cecil Ramnaraine: war economy/peace economy
- Tom Chishold and Wayne Wittman (Vets for Peace): war, patriotism, imperialism and terrorism
- Michael Andregg: The causes of war and effective activism
The group also watched videos such as "This Is What Democracy Looks Like" (a report of the 1999 Seattle demonstration against the WTO) and Michael Moore's "Roger & Me," and "The Good War and Those Who Refused to Fight It"; and had sessions on the history of the FOR and nonviolent social change and on general organizing skills.
Krystin Carlson and Kathy Nygard were participants in this year's MMP. Krystin said (paraphrasing): "MMP helped me put the picture together, corporations and government: I began to see how it all fits together." Kathy reported that she has applied to go to Colombia with Peace Brigades.
New Board Members
Elected at the annual meeting were:
- Don Chistensen, recently returned from serving in Central America, pastor at St. Luke Presbyterian Church in Wayzata
- Jo Clare Hartsig, frequent contributor to Fellowship magazine, recently returned to the Twin Cities
- Rachel Mordecai, U of M graduate student
- Laura Wilson, co-leader of this year's PTI
- Zeb Aelony, long-time Twin Cities peace activist and former board member
Returning Board Members
Katrina Dolezal (chair)
The board will begin the new year with a retreat on Tuesday, January 7, 1 to 4 pm, at Linda Gesling's home, 1799 Lindig, Falcon Heights. Everyone is welcome. Call Linda at 651-646-4763 for directions.
An Attempted Summary of Pat Clark's Remarks
(with apologies to Pat)
Pat's parents were migrant farmers in New Jersey. Pat was able to attend college, and one college summer she went as a volunteer with Habitat for Humanity to Zaire. From then on her course was set. She spent two and a half years in Zaire, ultimately helping to build a women's center there. On returning from Zaire she joined the United Methodist Campus Ministry in Texas; from there she accepted a position in the Crime Watch program of the Southern Poverty Law Center in Atlanta. She was to monitor the doings of the Ku Klux Klan. The death penalty was (is) in force in Georgia. Working against the death penalty became her passion.
Pat views all issues of justice in terms of "Whose child is this?" She has much sympathy for the families of people on death row; they are treated as perpetrators also.
Pat is enthusiastic about the potential of the FOR, particularly because of its interfaith basis. She advises that we maximize this unique aspect of our organization; that we work together with other religious peace fellowships; that we make ourselves much more visible; that we focus on fellowship--the community aspect of activism; and that we get young people involved, people with a willingness to take risks.
The national FOR is cooperating with others in starting campus core groups of antiwar activity. It is sending a national delegation to Iraq with the international FOR. In January it is calling an activist meeting, to discuss how it can leverage around the Pledge of Resistance and help local groups with media and organizing.
There are ninety-five local FOR groups in the United States. Pat suggests that we try to start a movement.
FELLOWSHIP, FELLOWSHIP -- CALLING IN FELLOWSHIP(S)
To have a complete set of Fellowship Magazine from 1948 through 2002, the MN FOR is looking for the following issues:
October 1948; March 1949; September 1950; September 1951; February 1952; May and December 1954; May, 1956; January 1962; September 1964; September 1965; January 1968; October/November 1990.
If anyone has one of these issues and would be willing to donate it to our archive, please contact Katy Gray Brown at (612) 721-3884 or send it to her at 2700 16th Ave. S., Minneapolis, MN 55407.
The North Country Peace Builder is produced four times a year--March, June, September, and December. Deadline for submissions is the 15th of the preceding month. Please e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or mail to Leslie Reindl, 1233 Ingerson Road, St. Paul MN 55112.
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"UNREASONABLE WOMEN" CONDUCT PEACE VIGIL AT WHITE HOUSE
A women-initiated peace vigil and "rolling fast" began in front of the White House on November 17, to ask for nonviolent solutions to the crisis Mr. Bush has escalated with Iraq and to change government policies to better fulfill human and environmental needs. It will continue for four months, building toward gatherings all over the country and a march in the capital on International Women's Day, March 8, 2003.
The vigil grew out of the 2001 Bioneers conference,* where activist Diane Wilson created a concept called Unreasonable Women--women who follow their hearts in doing what they believe is right, even if it runs counter to conventional culture. In March 2002 the group UnReasonable Women for the Earth was formed. And at this year's Bioneers conference came the idea for a hunger strike in front of the White House.
Endorsers and participants in the vigil include Julia Hill Butterfly, environmentalist; Barbara Ehrenreich, author; Jennifer Harbury, human rights attorney; Starhawk, author;and Nina Utne, Utne Magazine.
They urge the following kinds of support:
- Join the vigil for as much time as you can--a day, a week, etc. You can fast or not fast. Men are also welcome. Women's groups are encouraged to take a four-day shift, and help plan / participate in peace activities during those four days.
- Initiate a solidarity vigil/fast in your community.
- Organize to get women to come to the DC Women's Peace March on International Women's Day, March 8 2003.
- Sign the online women's peace petition, "Listen to the women," and help circulate the petition by downloading a copy and distributing it. The goal is to have a million signatures by March 8, 2003.
- Make a financial contribution to sustain the vigil and build the rally.
Send checks to Women's Vigil, c/o Global Exchange, 2017 Mission St. #303, San Francisco CA 94110.
For more information, <email@example.com>, <www.unitedforpeace.org>.
*The annual Bioneers conference brings together environmental visionaries with practical solutions to pressing crises. It is held in the fall, usually in California, <www.bioneers.org>. NCP
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National FOR | MN FOR
Minnesota Peacemaker Project
Peace and Justice Websites (nonviolence.org)
Benedictines' Website | Justice and Peace Links
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North Country Peace Builder
Produced quarterly (September, December, March and June) by the Executive Committee of the Minnesota Fellowship of Reconciliation. Send submissions, letters and comments to Leslie Reindl <firstname.lastname@example.org>, editor, in care of
1233 Ingerson Road
St. Paul, MN 55112
Or use the online form to send comments or contributions.
© 2002 by MN FOR / www.osb.org/for/5304/