Sunday, November 01, 2009


CSLA Meeting in River ForestSept. 13, 2009; 4-6 pmCSLA -- "Congregations in Solidarity with Latin America" as a part of theChicago Presbytery of the P

-- Of all the indigenous groups in Colombia, the Awá have beenthe most affected by the conflict this year, accounting for 38 of theknown 77 indigenous peoples killed so far in 2009. In February this year17 Awá indigenous peoples were killed in two massacres believed to becommitted by the "Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia" (FARC). TheFARC is a military terrorist group established by the Colombian CommunistParty in the 1960's. The Awás are largely located in the ColombianPacific coast and lowlands of Nariño which are ideal places for theColombian tourism industry and coffee growing. Through the FARC, theyexpel and kill the Awás to make enormous profits off of their lands.In addition to the National Police, the "Departamento Administrativo deSeguridad" (DAS) is the principal Colombian organization responsible forenforcement of laws relating to national security. This organization hasa national role comparable to that of the Federal Bureau of Investigationin the United States. However, the DAS is infiltrating civilian camps andreporting on contacts with foreigners, outside organizations andreligious-based institutions. The DAS has planted people in oppositionrallies to "create chaos," disguised themselves as journalists, andplanted false information in the press, among other actions intended todisrupt or discredit civil society activities.Just as the Bush Administration did before, the Obama Administrationcertified on September 8th that Colombia meets the human rights conditionsin law. The conditions, which refer to gross violations of human rights byColombia's security forces and collaboration between those forces andparamilitary or other illegal armed groups, are attached to thirty percentof Colombia's military aid. The State Department took this decisiondespite the overwhelming evidence that the Colombian army had killed over1,500 civilians, and dressing their bodies up in guerrilla uniforms so asto count them as enemy dead. Earlier this year, when EcuadorianPresident Rafael Correa decided to not renew the US lease on the militarybase in Manta, Ecuador, the US set its sights on Colombia, a long-time USally and one of the biggest recipients of US military aid in the world. Under the agreement the US eventually developed with Colombia, the USwould have access to seven military bases for ten years, stationing up to1,400 US personnel and private contractors, and will continue currentpolicies between the US and Colombia.Although the "Iglesia Presbiteriana de Colombia" (the Presbyterian Churchin Colombia, or IPC) executive secretary, Milton Mejia, has repeatedlyinsisted that the IPC does nothing illegal, it appears that Colombianauthorities are trying to link the church with Colombia's guerrillamovement. This puts IPC workers at risk and scares off those in need whowould ordinarily turn to it for help. IPC leaders have recently learnedthat the church's synod office in Barranquilla is apparently under videosurveillance. Government interrogators have shown to those arrested videoclips of people entering and leaving the church offices.Presbytery of Chicago Leaders in Colombia -- At the request of the IPC,Mamie Broadhurst and Richard Williams serve in Colombia as pastoralaccompaniers. Prior to her appointment as a mission co-worker, Mamieserved for four years as an associate pastor of First United Church of OakPark, IL. Before that, she spent a year (2004) as an intern in theplanning process for the Council for a Parliament of World Religions inBarcelona, Spain. She claims that the current position in Colombia needs$35,000/yr. for support. (No action has been taken.) From 2006 to 2009,Richard served as the pastor and campus minister at Agape House of theUniversity of Illinois at Chicago. He was recognized with the Rookie ofthe Year Award by the National Campus Ministry Association in 2008. Theyaccompany human rights individuals for escort out of Colombia and stand upfor issues. Currently, the CSLA is seeking to replace Mamie at herrequest.Alice Winters is a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School andworked as a tax law specialist for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service inWashington, D.C. Her involvement in an inner-city Washington church ledto her call to the gospel ministry, and she worked as pastoral assistantat Sixth Presbyterian Church in Washington before her studies atGordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA. In 1983 shejoined the faculty of the Presbyterian Theological Seminary, predecessorto the School of Theology of the Reformed University, and served as itspresident from 1987-1992. She was the first woman to be named presidentof a seminary in Latin America. She is active in the Ecumenical Networkof Churches and Christian Organizations for Human Rights and in the workwith displaced persons in the area of Barranquilla, where she lives. Alice will be in Chicago for three weeks in late Nov. and early Dec. Shewill speak at the Presbyterian Church of Western Springs Sunday afterThanksgiving (Nov. 29, 2009). Her current planned schedule is attached.Colombia Delegation for 2010 -- Up to 15-20 individuals with personalfunds or with church support will travel the last two weeks of July, 2010or early August. Leave Fri. and back 10 days later on Mon. or Tues. Costper delagate will be approx. $2,200. The delegation will be inBarranquilla in coastal northern Colombia, and Urabá, a more ruralmountainous region near Panama in northwest Colombia. Previous CSLAdelegations have claimed to feel safe despite recorded incidences. Thedelegation will visit with two of the three presbyteries of the IPC, aswell as with internally displaced Colombians, who number more than fourmillion - now more than those in Sudan/Darfur in Africa. The group willalso visit Afro-Colombian communities, and the Reformed University inBarranquilla, which has recently formed an academic partnership withChicago's McCormick Theological Seminary. More details of the trip willcome later in the fall, and sign-ups for delegates should start shortlythereafter.Submitted by Richard & Mary Crang
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