Stand Up, Remember, Resist
Grantee Profile: Risking Peace in Colombia
Take Action for Peace in Colombia
New Grants, June 2002
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Past editions of Muste Notes are here
August 20, 2002
As we look back in sorrow over the year since the September 11th attacks, peace and justice activists everywhere are again reminded of the terrible need for our work--not only to stop war, hatred and violence, but also to defend the right to dissent.
Today, we in the U.S. are being asked to support the continued military assault on Afghanistan; impending war with Iraq; policies that allow the devastation of the Palestinian people-along with any hope for Israeli security; the arbitrary jailing of thousands of immigrants to this country; and the rapid dismantling of our basic constitutional rights.
Yet none of this is really new. Demonstrations on August 6th and 9th marked the anniversary of another unfathomable destruction of human life: the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The situation of home reminds us of both the "internment" of Japanese-Americans during WWII, and the McCarthy era of the 1950s. Past and present have truly collided with the arrival of the first installment of A.J. Muste's FBI files which describe him as a "secret communist"-the kind of absurd "evidence" used to destroy so many lives in witch-hunts throughout history.
It is essential that we remember, and that we resist. September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, a new organization and Institute grantee, is sponsoring a number of vigils in New York City during the week of September 11th and supporting others around the country. As grim histories repeat themselves around us, our own actions and the strengthening of the Muste Institute's presence and programs are more critical now than at any time since our founding in 1974.
Your response to our last fund appeal was sincerely appreciated. Many of you gave more than usual, and many gave again after recent contributions. We understand that you will continue to respond to the growing challenges to nonviolent struggle with additional support whenever possible, and we are very thankful.
Jane Guskin (Program Associate) and Diane Tosh (Acting Executive Director)
Stand Up, Remember, Resist
September 11th must not continue to be used to promote more war and violence. This first anniversary let us initiate an exploration of what it will take to bring healing and wholeness to our world. It is in remembering the universality of our grief that we shape our hope for a future of peaceful tomorrows. --Colleen Kelly, who lost her brother in the World Trade Center on Sept. 11th, 2001.
In September 2002, people around the country will be marking the first anniversary of the devastating terror attacks that killed several thousand people (the exact number may never be known) at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. The War Resisters League has joined with September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows in coordinating "Stand Up New York: 9/11 Remembrance for Global Peace and Justice," a series of commemorative activities in New York City from Sept. 6th to 11th, including a dusk to dawn vigil Sept. 10th to 11th at Washington Square Park. For details contact Peaceful Tomorrows at www.peacefultomorrows.org or War Resisters League at 212-228-0450. For information about other Sept. 11 peace events around the country, check out www.unitedforpeace.org.
Dissent against this war is not terrorism. It is not unpatriotic. Today it is the most humanitarian act that any U.S. resident can undertake. Join us from September 6-11...to remember the victims of September 11 and others around the globe, to call for peace, for global justice, for grassroots democracy, to protest the erosion of democratic freedoms and civil liberties at home, and to reaffirm our humanity.
--Stand Up New York: 9/11 Remembrance for Global Peace and Justice
Risking Peace in Colombia
The Muste Institute recently made a $1,000 grant to Fellowship of Reconciliation Task Force on Latin America and the Caribbean (FOR-TFLAC) for its Colombia Program, described below by coordinator Jutta Meier-Wiedenbach and in our "New Grants" section on page 3. For more information about the project, contact FOR-TFLAC at 2017 Mission St. #305 San Francisco, CA 94110, (415) 495?6334, fax (415) 495?5628, website www.forusa.org.
A Peace Community, tucked into the Colombian jungle close to the border with Panama, is not necessarily the first thing that comes to mind when people in the US think about Colombia. Yet, San José de Apartadó in Northern Colombia is just that. Five years ago, the peasant farmers of this small community publicly declared that they would not participate in the war which for decades has devastated the Colombian countryside, claiming thousands of civilian victims each year. Despite the massive US infusion of military aid to the Colombian government, civilian peace initiatives like this still offer alternatives to the spiraling violence. San José de Apartadó is one of about fifty communities that have pledged to resist war, violence and injustice. And there are many ways peace activists in the US can support them in their nonviolent struggle.
The Peace Community members live with clear principles of active nonviolence: they voluntarily participate in communal work, say no to injustice and impunity, do not directly or indirectly participate in the war, do not carry weapons and do not manipulate or transfer information to any party to the war.
Since its founding in March of 1997, over 100 members or friends of the Peace Community have been killed; the vast majority by paramilitary groups which, according to human rights organizations, have close ties to the Colombian armed forces. How does the community survive in spite of this political violence? During a US speaking tour in June, sponsored by Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR), a community representative told his audiences that "what sustains us as a Peace Community is the spirit of solidarity among the members, the love we feel for each other as brothers and sisters. And we also have international volunteers accompanying us and protecting us through their witness. We are not alone."
FOR is one of the organizations that sends volunteers to share the lives of these peasant farmers striving for a life in peace and dignity. Since February 2002, two Colombia Peace Presence volunteers live in La Unión, which is the agricultural center of the Peace Community. Chris and Lily go out with the work groups harvesting the small sweet banana, San José's main cash crop; they accompany community leaders to meetings outside the community; report their witness to the San Francisco office; learn about other Peace Communities and initiatives in Colombia; and write articles for the US public.
For the volunteers, accompanying the community is also an experience that teaches about the courage and the beauty of a community resisting in the midst of a brutal war. "One of the most surprising things I learned--and it took me a long time to really get it--was the community's clear understanding that their connection to the land, their struggle for the rights of campesinos, and their unity, were worth great risks and sacrifice to them. They realize that the meaning of life itself is not simply the preservation of their individual lives, but instead a struggle for a sustainable lifestyle that maintains those strong connections with the land and between people," says Lily.
In other parts of the country people demand respect for their lives and culture as well. Recently in Bogotá, 20,000 women marched for peace declaring that they would not give any more sons or daughters to the war--20,000 women from all over Colombia who, having their lives touched by terrible violence, know that militarization does not end war. We can start supporting these movements by asking the US government to stop military aid to Colombia, which is the third largest recipient only after Israel and Egypt. "This aid means more helicopters, more weapons and training for more soldiers--training them for what? They are trained to kill--to kill civilians," said the visiting Peace Community representative at a New York speaking event.
Lily just returned home to Tennessee after six months in the Peace Community, and tells that "the residents of La Unión were more than willing to share their stories, and they also taught me how to work and live with them. When the community suffered, I suffered with them, and I was able to see for myself the problems inherent in military solutions. Before, I had to base my anti?war sentiments on the accounts of others, but now I have my own reasons, stories, and experiences to support my work for peace."
Jutta Meier-Wiedenbach, FOR Colombia program coordinator
Since July 15, paramilitaries have launched a new wave of murders, intimidation and economic blockades in an effort to destroy the Peace Community of San José and La Unión in Apartadó. Despite numerous warnings from national and international institutions including the Inter?American Human Rights Court of the Organization of American States, the Colombian government has not taken any serious steps to protect the community. The community is seeking a meeting with vice president Francisco Santos, the human rights adviser to new president Alvaro Uribe. Colombia Support Network and FOR's Colombia Project are asking supporters to fax Santos at (011) 571-621-2184 or e-mail him at [email protected], urging him to meet with the community and take concrete measures to curb paramilitary violence. Send copies of your letters to Dr. Carlos Franco of Colombia's Human Rights Program (email [email protected]) and Apartadó mayor Mario de Jesús Aguedelo (fax 011-574-828-0175). US peace activists can also tell their congresspeople to oppose US military aid to Colombia.
New Grants, June 2002
CITIZENS FOR SAFE WATER AROUND BADGER (CSWAB)
Merrimac, WI: $1,500
CSWAB was founded in 1990 to pursue cleanup of the former site of the Badger Army Ammunition Plant (BAAP), and to press the Army to take responsibility for environmental damages in the area. This grant goes for community outreach as CSWAB continues to build public pressure toward full cleanup of the site, and to ensure a clean and sustainable future use for the land. www.cswab.com
COMMITTEE FOR THE RESCUE AND DEVELOPMENT OF VIEQUES
Vieques, Puerto Rico: $2,000
Through education and civil disobedience, the Committee works to put an end to the US Navy's training exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques, and to pressure for demilitarization and cleanup of the island. This grant goes for educational work related to a new nonviolent resistance campaign, "Ocupando Territorio Ocupado" (Occupying Occupied Territory), which seeks to establish a permanent peace presence on the bombing range of Camp Garcia. www.prorescatevieques.org
FELLOWSHIP OF RECONCILIATION TASK FORCE ON LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN
San Francisco, CA: $1,000
This grant goes for FOR-TFLAC's "Colombia Peace Presence," a volunteer accompaniment project in support of the Peace Community of San José de Apartadó and La Unión in Colombia (see "Grantee Profile," pp.1-2). Residents of Apartadó created the Peace Community as a way to reject all violence--whether committed by rightwing paramilitary groups, leftist rebels or government armed forces. FOR-TFLAC provides witnesses as requested by the community, and educates people in the US about the situation in Colombia. www.forusa.org
INTERNATIONAL WOMEN'S PEACE SERVICE-PALESTINE
Norfolk, UK: $2,000
IWPS-Palestine was formed in January 2002 by Israeli activist Neta Golan, British Plowshares activist Angie Zelter, and US activist Nadya Waziri of Colorado Campaign for Middle East Peace, to respond to injustice in Palestine and support local nonviolence efforts there. The project is currently recruiting women to spend three months a year for three years at an International Women's House in Haris, Salfit, Palestine, where they will work to document and expose human rights violations as well as intervene to stop them.
PEACE ACTION NEW MEXICO
Santa Fe, NM: $1,500
Peace Action New Mexico was founded in July of 1998 as an affiliate of the national Peace Action. This grant goes for educational materials in connection with the local group's annual events marking the anniversaries of the 1945 US atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. This year Peace Action New Mexico organized a rally in Santa Fe on August 6 and a civil disobedience action at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL) on August 9. The accompanying leaflets and factsheets focused on building public opinion against LANL's production and stockpiling of components for nuclear weapons, and against LANL's plans to build a biological weapons research laboratory.
Guayaquil, Ecuador: $10,000 (SFE)
This group works with students and high-risk youth in the urban area of Guayaquil, teaching conflict resolution and active nonviolence toward building a culture of peace in Ecuador. This Sheilah's Fund East donor-advised grant goes for a project to establish youth-led and youth-centered "mediation offices" at high schools, where trained students will provide peer conflict resolution and peace education.
WISCONSIN NETWORK FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
Madison, WI: $1,500
This statewide network was born in 1991 out of the movement against the US war in the Persian/Arab Gulf, and has now grown to include over 90 organizations. Our grant goes toward expanding the educational work of the four-year old Corporate Accountability Task Force, which uses participatory workshops and "quick-read" brochures to teach how multinational corporations are often responsible for environmental, social, economic and political crises, and to encourage nonviolent action for economic justice.
The A.J. Muste Memorial Institute makes small grants to groups doing nonviolent organizing for social change. Our next deadline for proposals is October 18, 2002. To read our grant guidelines, click here.