Bruce & Linda Hanson - Honduras
Last week we were reminded, like a slap in the face reminded that we are living in a third world county. James Vijayakumar, Vijay, the area minister of the Southern Asia office for Global Ministries, explained to me that third world is not really a pejorative term. It was coined not to indicate a country that is somehow less than a first world country, but to refer to those living on the margins, those without power in the world. Yes, Honduras is a third world country.Read more
Barb de Souza - Brazil
I don't usually write a newsletter at this time of year, but as so much is happening here at this moment, I feel that you as mission partners should know about these events. I will quote an article that was in the newspaper and another of a witness. But first, if you remember in my last newsletter, I wrote of the threats of removal of 542 homes in the shanty town due to its proximity to the Pan American Olympics buildings and of our protest marches and legal actions to prevent this. At the end of the newsletter, I said that we had been victorious, at least for the present, with legal papers to prevent this from happening. We thought with the Olympics over, the issue might be dropped or at least delayed, giving us time to breathe and plan.
BUT, not so! I will quote from a released news report:Read more
Scott Nicholson - Colombia
The state of Arauca is located in a very beautiful region of Colombia that is suffering the curse of our addiction to oil. The U'wa people, in the eastern range of the Andes, have been struggling for the past 15 years to prevent oil drilling in their territory.
I traveled to the Gibraltar 3 site in U'wa territory on January 28 with a national and international commission. Ecopetrol had begun transporting equipment to the site two weeks before and the drilling tower was being assembled. I returned to the site on July 7 with a Witness for Peace delegation - the tower was up and exploration had started.Read more
Sisters of St. Joseph
Port au Prince, Haiti
June 30, 2007
Since its founding, the staff at Hospice St. Joseph has been dedicated to walking in solidarity with the poor. Haiti is a land of massive poverty, malnutrition, disease, illiteracy, unemployment, and environmental change. Historically plagued by military coups and police oppression, Haitians are now engaged in a desperate struggle for democracy. A people of enormous endurance and hope, as well as deep practical faith, Haitians count on the prayers and the help of others.Read more
Producing "Results" Scott Nicholson - Colombia "So, you're the father of that ___-__-_-_____ guerrilla," the soldier said to Ubaldino in the Cubara morgue on July 21. Ubaldino's son, Jhon Freddy Montañez, left their house in Saravena at 6 P.M. the night before. When he didn't return home, Ubaldino and Maria began searching for their 18-year-old son. Jhon Freddy had become another "false positive" - a civilian killed by the military and then reported as a guerrilla killed in combat. Since Colombian president Alvaro Uribe took office five years ago, he has been pressuring the military and police to produce results. Here in the state of Arauca those "results" have included the mass arrest of people on false charges of "rebellion" and the killing of unarmed civilians. Jhon Freddy was the 16th "false positive" reported to the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation this year. Ubaldino and Maria came to the Foundation office on July 25 to report the killing of their son. Maria had gone to the police station and the military base in Saravena on July 21 in search of Jhon Freddy. She was told they didn't have any information about her son. Ubaldino then received a call on his cell phone. The caller stated that Jhon Freddy's documents had been found alongside the road from Saravena to Cubará (10 miles away). Ubaldino and Maria then went to the Cubará police station. A policewoman told them that an unidentified guerrilla had been killed in combat with the army and the body was in the morgue. When they arrived at the morgue to identify their son, Ubaldino received the insult from the soldier. Ubaldino and Maria told us that Jhon Freddy's face, neck, and back were bruised - it appears that he was tortured before he was killed. Jhon Freddy took care of his parents by working in construction. He was studying in a program to complete his primary school education and he enjoyed organizing soccer tournaments. "We want the truth to be known," Ubaldino told us. "Our son wasn't a guerrilla and he wasn't killed in combat." Just one week before Jhon Freddy was killed; the police and army arrested 16 people here in Saravena on charges of "rebellion." Wilson Jaimes was one of the people arrested - he occasionally works as a driver for the Joel Sierra Human Rights Foundation and is the brother of the previous president of the Foundation. Leiber Vega was also imprisoned during that mass arrest. Leiber is a Seventh - day Adventist who earns his living building sidewalls for flatbed trucks. "I have seven children," his wife told me. "He didn't have any work for three weeks. He finally got a small contract and now they've taken him away. How am I going to take care of our children?" President Uribe made a brief visit here on July 18 - five days after the arrests. "It's good to arrive in Saravena and learn that 16 people were arrested and accused of belonging to terrorist organizations," he said. "Congratulations to the army, the police, the DAS (security police), and the justice system." "Everyone knows that they're innocent" stated Emiro Goyeneche, news director of Sarare Stereo, during his report about the president's visit. Emiro speaks from experience - he spent three years in prison and house arrest for reporting the truth about the situation here in Arauca. In love and solidarity, Scott Scott Nicholson serves as a Short-term Volunteer with the Social Organizations of Arauca, Colombia. As a part of the process of accompaniment, Scott works as an advisor/consultant in the administration of productive projects in the rural communitiesRead more
National Spiritual Council of Haitian Churches (CONASPEH)
May 27, 2007
Life in Colombia Scott Nicholson - Colombia "We are so tired of this life" Yuri said to me. Yuri is five years old, and she's living here in the Arauca Social Organizations building in Saravena with her mother and two sisters. She walked into the office as I was downloading pictures and started talking to me. "My birthday was on October 31 and we had such a good time. I'm going to be six this year." Yuri told me about the party and then suddenly said, "My father bought me clothes just before he was killed. I was three years old." She then told me that her uncle, "Manuelito," had also been killed. Manuel Roa was the president of the Arauquita city council and was assassinated by FARC guerrillas on April 2 of last year. Yuri finished by telling me about the death of another "uncle" - the father of her oldest sister, Gloria. He was killed on March 27 in Venezuela. Yuri told me that her mother, Sandra, received the call and her other sister, Tania, started to cry. "We told her to stop crying so that Gloria wouldn't find out. I couldn't stand it any longer and I started to cry." "My father and two uncles have been killed. Bro, we are so tired of this life." Yuri then remembered that she was on her way to see a friend, and she ran out of the office. I was surprised and overwhelmed by our conversation, and a few hours later I went to talk with Sandra. "The one that's most affected is Tania" she said. "She can't take very much and she cries easily." Sandra told me that Tania's father, Rito Diaz, was killed by the army during the La Cabuya massacre on November 20, 1998. Tania was four years old. "She (Tania) was the one then that encouraged me to keep going forward" said Sandra. "I was very distraught and cried a lot. She told me ‘I loved my father too, but we can't cry.' I realized that if she was able to overcome the situation, then I could too." Sandra described how difficult it is to be a single mother of three children. "I went into debt so they could stay in school. I work all day but I don't see any way out." There are moments when she feels she can't endure anymore, but then she thinks about her daughters and that gives her the strength to continue. Sandra is a member of the Dawn of Women for Arauca Association and she shared her story with a Witness for Peace delegation that was visiting Saravena on July 8. She began to cry as she started to describe the murder of her compañero, Rito. In the midst of her pain, she found the strength and courage to continue telling us about that night of November 20. "The army killed five people in the community, including a woman who was seven-months pregnant. They took my spouse outside and slit his throat and then shot him in front of the house. We fled from the community the next day." While Yuri and Sandra are hoping for an end to the violence in Colombia, the U.S. congress and arms manufacturers continue to fan the flames of war. Although the House of Representatives recently approved a partial reduction in military aid to Colombia for 2008, the U.S. government will still be contributing $440 million for the war here next year. United Technologies also announced the sale of 15 Black Hawk helicopters to the Colombian military for $225 million. "These experiences motivate me to work for a new society with truth and social justice" said Sandra. "I want the world to be different and I want a better future for my daughters." Photo of Sandra and Yuri: In love and solidarity, Scott Scott Nicholson serves as a Short-term Volunteer with the Social Organizations of Arauca, Colombia. As a part of the process of accompaniment, Scott works as an advisor/consultant in the administration of productive projects in the rural communities.Read more