Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Cuernavaca Encuentro

In February of 2007 members of the Illinois Maya Ministry (IMM) traveled to Cuernavaca, Mexico, to participate in a leadership planning retreat with representatives of the Wisconsin Conference of the United Church of Christ (WCUCC), the Minnesota Conference United Church of Christ (MCUCC) and INESIN (El Instituto de Estudios e Investigacion Intercultural) of San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico.

The location of this Encuentro was at the Cuernavaca Center for Intercultural Dialogue. This was a wonderful setting and we received great hospitality.

The first photo is most of the group. We are, from Left to right, Rev. Ernesto Martin Guerro, INESIN, Miguel Moshan, INESIN, Anne Roulet, a Swiss missioner at INESIN, Rev. Faye Buttrick, IMM, Rev. Gail O'Neal, WCUCC, Rev. Becky Johnston, (WCUCC), Rev. Paula Bidle, (MCUCC) and Rev. Michael Swartz, IMM. Participants not pictured are: Rev. John Buttrick, IMM, and Felipe Touissant, INESIN.

On other occasions we have met in Chiapas. The difference here was that we were experiencing the CCIDD program together, under the direction of Sister Kathy Long, OP, and enjoying the good food and comfortable accomodations of the center. We were having a common experience facilitated by a third party.

In the second photo we are together learning about some of the impacts of immigration of Mexican people to the United States.

Also, while we were there together we were able to do some long term planning and dreaming. We collaborated on a timeline of history for INESIN, from its founding under the inniative of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, who was then the Episcopal leader in Chiapas, to the present.

One of the unexpected aspects of our time together was a celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the birth of Bishop Sergio Mendez Arceo at the cathedral in Cuernavaca. It turns out that Bishop Arceo was the Bishop of Cuernavaca from 1952 to 1983. And as a progressive bishop and a colleague of Bishop Samuel Ruiz, Bishop Ruiz came to Cuernavaca for the celebration!

What a wonderful serendipity - or provedential guidance of the Holy Spirit, that Bishop Ruiz was in town at the same time with the leaders of the Institute that he had helped innitiate.

It turns out that Bishop Arceo was instrumental in the founding of CCIDD, so it is a smaller world than we even anticipated. The third photo in this article is of the poster for the special celebration, with a picture of Bishop Arceo.

The forth photo is of the procession into the back of the Cathedral of Cuernavaca, with Bishop Samuel Ruiz in the mitre, backlighted by the door.

The fifth photo in the series is a banquet in the patio area of the CCIDD facility, with Rev. Paula Bidle standing right behind Bishop Ruiz in the garden.

The time spent at the Encuentro was productive in several ways. We were able to plan for the future and communicate in a deeper way because we had more time together. We were able to experience several sorts of activities together - we studied, prayerd, ate, worshipped at the cathedral, enjoyed recreation and the beautiful setting both of Cuernavaca and of the Center. One of the exciting parts of the planning was a plan for developing the facility of INESIN put forward by Martin and the leaders from Chiapas. This includes a fairly ambitious plan to develop a retreat center that would facilitate their work with groups studying at the Institute.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

"The Devil's Highway" by Luis Urrea

One of the great introductions to the immigration crisis is The Devil's Highway by Luis Urrea. It is the story of over twenty men who enter the Arizona desert with not all of them coming out.

If you are interested in having access to the study guides, please e-mail Rev. Mike Mulberry at

To the left of the screen, in "Links to Our Relationships and Work", are copies of study guides prepared for you, your book club, or your congregation in walking through Urrea's text. Please feel free to use them and help us out with any commentary, editing, or additions.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

INESIN 2007 Report

The Institute for Cultural Studies and Research (INESIN) has focused its ecumenical efforts on the need for dialogue and understanding among intercultural groups so they can define and articulate their understanding of God, faith, truth, and other aspects of the divine. In 2007, INESIN held a series of workshops on the topics of spirituality, theology, community reinforcement, and support. Groups from diverse communities were trained with the purpose of their taking what they have learned back to the grassroots of their communities. For many, this is the only way they receive an education.

Workshop titles included: God in the Motherland; Indigenous Theology in Pastoral Care; Human-Spiritual Development for Lay Servants; Systematic Indigenous Theology; Theological Dialogue: Mayans, Mexicans and Yucatans; Preventing Domestic Violence, Women of the Bible and Paul; Women Prophets of the Old Testament; Mission Ministry in the Church; Summer School of Theology; Intercultural Conflicts and Nonviolent Resolutions and Ecumenical Dialogues on Violence and Death. In addition to these educational events, INESIN sponsored and organized several spiritual retreats and intercultural worship events. Groups included indigenous groups from Zinacantán, Margaritas, San Cristóbal , Chiapas Yucatán, Quintana Roo, Ocosingo, Chanmic Huixtán , Oaxaca , and Juchitán. Over 1,000 persons participated in these events.

INESIN works closely with churches, communities and individuals to help develop community leadership at the grassroots level. Moreover, INESIN works with leaders who are responsible for nurturing the education and faith development of their communities. Workshops and community events were held in 2007 on child and youth development, environmental care, and conservation. Work groups helped those still dealing with the effects of Hurricane Stan, and provided Vacation Bible School events and ecological and natural history tours. The work groups helped build water containment sites, helped build homes, and helped start protective measures for marine turtle habitats in Puerto Arista. These events are educational as well as recreational, and help to build cohesiveness and solidarity among the groups that interact. All events were intergenerational.

Other achievements include collaboration with the Baptist Seminary of Mexico-Chiapas Extension, the Intercultural Mayan Seminary, and UNITE of Bolivia with student and leadership exchanges. INESIN personnel were able to participate in various continuing education events, among them at the School for Peace, Center for Ecumenical Studies, and the Agape Ecumenical Center in Italy .

INESIN expresses its gratitude to Global Ministries for the funds that helped support the ministry of education, research and dialogue.
Translated and edited by:
Office of Resource Development
Global Ministries
P.O. Box 1986
Indianapolis , IN 46206
Tel: (317) 713-2555
Fax: (317) 635-4323

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

SiPaz Report-Rev. Griebler's Report from Chiapas

Dear Ones - I'm home safe from Chiapas. There's surely a piece of my heart that lives in Latin America. It was good to be there even for a little while. And it was a short little whirlwind trip. I was there for a board meeting of SiPaz (International Service for Peace) and to meet with Congregational and Disciple of Christ pastors from Northern Mexico who were visiting Chiapas and our mission partners at IMM and Global Ministries invitation.

Lots of meetings, including one with all 14 cabinet ministers from the state of Chiapas. Had to wonder why the governor wanted his entire cabinet to spend the day with SiPaz? Perhaps to portray an image of concern for human rights. Too bad the reality says different. Most of my meetings were with the board of SiPaz, this incredible little international coalition that provides critical presence, reliable information and works to build a culture of peace in Chiapas. Which is still one of those strategic places where you can measure the social temperature of world.

The conflict in Chiapas smolders still. Where the movement for autonomy among the indigenous people is strongest (the Northern Zone – which is where the ancient Mayan site Palenque is located) the military and paramilitaries have increased their presence. The Protestant churches are fanning the flames once again, pastors preaching that Zapistasta supporters and communities are devil-possessed. And that the devil must be driven out. Not that the churches are causing the conflict – it’s rooted in issues around land and power and access to strategic resources. Not surprisingly, expulsions are on the rise and fear grows that the situation is ripe for more Acteal-type massacres. (Back in 1997 paramilitaries killed 47 people who were gathered in a church praying for peace in the town of Acteal. The victims were members of Las Abejas, a group committed to active non-voilence that supports the Zapatistas’s goals, if not always their means. Many of the victims were women - 4 were pregnant - and children. The killing spree took place over 5 hours. A military installation was just a football field's length away, but no one came to intervene and stop the killing. Which leaves one to presume that the military chose not to respond and so is complicit in the crime.) SiPaz is one of the groups that works to lessen tensions and to actively build a culture of peace. I’d say we’ll be in business for a while.

See, there's oil in them there hills. And quite a lot. And uranium, fresh water (think hydro-electric dams), rich bio-diversity of cloud forest, rain forest and jungle(think pharmaceuticals), natural beauty & Mayan cultural sites (think eco-tourism). The Mexican government and the trans-national corporations are interested in clearing out most of the indigenous communities to make way for development. This is what the trade agreements from NAFTA to CAFTA to Plan Pueblo Panama are all about. Phase 1 is an Indian removal project to be sure. Of course, some co-operative indigenous communities will be allowed to remain and make a show of their authentic Mayan culture for the tourists. The Zapatista autonomous communities aren't planning on co-operating with the various free trade agreements. At the very least they will not just roll over. They want to have a say, now and into the future. Their resistance - which has taken the form of active non-violence - is more than admirable - really courageous, creative and inspirational.

If you or your congregation would like to see pictures or hear more about this, just ask and I will be happy to talk with you or even a group that’s interested. I can be reached at St. Michael's United Church of Christ, 630/231-0687.

School of the Americas Vigil

Human Rights Protesters Sentenced to Federal Prison for Nonviolent Civil Disobedience Opposing Controversial U.S. Army Training School

Federal Magistrate Sentences 78-year-old Blind Man

Columbus, Ga - Eleven human rights activists, ranging in age from 25 to 78, appeared before U.S. Magistrate G. Mallon Faircloth in a Columbus, GA federal courthouse today. The eleven were charged with trespass after peacefully walking onto the Fort Benning military base on November 18 in protest of a controversial U.S. Army training school for Latin Americans with a legacy of human rights abuses.

Ed Lewinson, a 78-year old Professor Emeritus of History at Seton Hall University in South Orange, New Jersey, was sentenced to 90 days in prison and a $500 fine. Ed trespassed onto the base in three previous years but the state refused to prosecute due to his blindness.

Lewinson, together with the ten other defendants, were among the tens of thousands who gathered November 16-18 outside the gates of Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia to demand the closure of the controversial U.S. Army’s School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (SOA/WHINSEC). The group peacefully crossed onto Ft. Benning, site of the school, at the culmination of a symbolic funeral procession in memory of those killed by graduates of the institution in Latin America.

"I crossed onto the base because of what graduates of the SOA/WHINSEC have done to the people of their own countries and I wanted to contribute something towards stopping this,” said Lewinson in regards to his act of nonviolent civil disobedience. “Only by pointing out the results of violence can we stop violence,” he added.

The defendants and sentences are:

Joan Anderson, 65, Casper, WY - 30 days and a $500 fine
Ozone Bhaguan, 33, Duluth, MN - 90 days and no fine
Le Anne Clausen, 29, Chicago, IL - 30 days and no fine
Art Landis, 74, Perkasie, PA - 30 days and no fine
Ed Lewinson, 78, Newark NJ - 90 days and a $500 fine
Chris Lieberman, 54, Albuquerque, NM - 60 days and no fine
Diane Lopez Hughes, 58, Springfield, IL - 45 days and a $500 fine
Tiel Rainelli, 25, Canton, OH. – 90 days and a $500 fine
Gus Roddy, 45, Chicago, IL – 30 days and a $500 fine
Stephen Schweitzer, 45, Binghamtom, NY – 60 days and a $500 fine
Michelle Yipé, 45, of Argonia, KS - 30 days and a $500 fine

The SOA/WHINSEC, a military training facility for Latin American security personnel located at Fort Benning, Georgia, made headlines in 1996 when the Pentagon released training manuals used at the school that advocated torture, extortion and execution. In spite of an aggressive international PR campaign and lobbying efforts on behalf of WHINSEC, support for the institute continues to erode. In 2007, Presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Oscar Arias of Costa Rica announced that they would cease to send military and police to the school, becoming the 4th and 5th countries after Argentina, Uruguay and Venezuela to commit to a withdrawal from the U.S. Army training facility.

Since protests against the SOA/WHINSEC began 18 years ago, 226 people have served prisons sentences of up to two years for nonviolent civil disobedience

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

From Guatemalan Cultural Action


The environmental problems that affect the countries of the world are a clear sign that humanity has lost its values as well as [forgotten] the importance of considering ourselves part of the planet, and not owners of it. It has not been assumed that each one of us plays a very important role in preserving and conserving our world, beginning with concrete actions and not waiting for others to do something for us. We forget that we have to do something for ourselves, especially those that have the responsibility of governing. Global warming preoccupies governments right now, but there are no concrete actions that demonstrate that they have the will to diminish the factors that favor its worsening in the short term. The criminalization of social struggles, in the moment that we get on the train of development, is another way of negating the citizen’s right to make demands that lead to harmonious coexistence. The anchorage of the process of development is the consequence of the interest the few rich have of increasing the number of hungry mouths for the expansion of their sources of wealth. The parallel government, or the parallel governments, of our countries [I think he’s referring to corporations, and the power they have over actual governments] have kidnapped the law, tying the hands of state leaders to apply these laws. They have bought the will [translation?] so that it is them that have the greatest ability to act with freedom.

Individual interests are above the collective interest, where those that have benefited by the vote of the people act in such a manner that they besmirch the dignity of the people, proposing laws that benefit them [the rich], ignoring the initiatives that ought to help give life to laws that benefit the majority, like what happened with the initiative to compensate Congressional representatives and what the magistrates of the Supreme Court have done in order to maintain themselves in their posts, consenting to the aims of future authorities of occupying their posts without complying with legal requirements. The increase of violence is bleeding out the already very injured Guatemala.

The most troublesome is that they are blinding the life of young citizens and women. It seems that the effects of the post war are prolonging themselves and Guatemala is becoming in a very bad position in terms of human rights violations. The actions undertaken by the Latin American people to preserve their dignity and their free will have bothered imperialism, led by the World Trade Organization, the IMF, and the World Bank. One very concrete case is the efforts of the countries for the creation of MERCOSUR, ALBA, and the more recent Banco del Sur. Nevertheless, the most interesting is the tireless
struggle of the people to be counted. The vicious circle of power in creating political demagogues has significant effects on the conscience of humanity. The United States’ fear of Iran, Venezuela, Cuba, Russia and other countries is because they are gaining ground in carrying out concrete action to stand up to health problems, education, and trying to create mechanisms to reduce social inequalities. The Latin American School is challenging the School of the Americas, producing professionals disposed to lend their services in the most marginalized communities, as is the case with Cuban doctors in Guatemala; young Guatemalans are also graduating, while the {School of the] Americas continue[s] producing professionals of torture and antiterrorism. Pacification by warlike means has allowed the interests of the powerful to openly control the wealth of other countries with their interventionist politics; such is the case in Iraq, Palestine, and very possibly, Iran. I hope that actions favor peace and development that fills us with hope. When the streams and brook come together they form grand rivers. I hope that our God, creator of all that exists, pours out his blessings upon each one of you.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.