Monday, December 14, 2009

2009 Illinois Maya Ministry Annual Report and Appeal

Dear Friends of Illinois Maya Ministry,

Greetings in the name of the One who accompanies us all. 

I’m just back from accompanying Mayan sisters and brothers in Chiapas where people struggle to make their voices heard.  I was there for the annual board meeting of SiPaz, an international observation group dedicated to non-violent peacemaking.  IMM has partnered with SiPaz from the beginning.   While there, we visited a community that had suffered repression at the hands of a death squad known as “The Army of God”.  A young man was killed and five others wounded simply for demonstrating against the building of highway that is to split their communal farmland down the middle and change their lives beyond knowing.   For protesting, for demanding a place at the table where development decisions are made, a bright young person is dead.  And no one has been held accountable.  I was able to accompany this community for one day. SiPaz is there everyday.

Over the years IMM has come to value partnerships like the one we have with SiPaz.  We have some deep and long-lived ones to be thankful for.  And new ones that are emerging. 

This past year we have joined with our partners in Guatemala (Guatemala Cultural Action - ACG) to support their projects to work with youth, sustainable agriculture, healing herbs, a short-wave radios, and building stoves so that open cook fires in the home become a thing of the past.  We continue to support our Global Missions missionary, Gloria Vicente, who works with ACG.

In Chiapas we continue to support INESIN, the Institute for Intercultural Studies and Research, formerly known as the Ecumenical Bible School.  They’re making progress on construction projects, building more classroom and meeting space. They’re programs bring together grassroots people from rural and urban areas to study and develop relationships across lines that all too often divide – ethnic, gender, and faith traditions. Perhaps you’d like to join a group of UCC pastors this summer who will participate in a 2- week study group sponsored by the Wisconsin Conference.  Let us know.

These are our longstanding partnerships.  We remain committed to supporting these ministries and programs.  They continue to serve profound needs among the Mayan peoples of Chiapas and Guatemala. 

                                 And as I said before, there are new partnerships emerging. Two of our members just returned from accompanying the Honduran people in their struggle to defend their democracy after a military coup ousted democratically elected President Zaleya.  Our partner group, Chicago Religious Leadership Network joined with other groups to sponsor this delegation.  We traveled numerous times to Borderlinks and Centro Romero organizations on the Arizona/Mexican  and California/Mexican border respectively.  Both serve new immigrants and stand in solidarity with them, even as they offer immersion experiences to folks like us so we can appreciate the roots and struggles of migration and offer our support and solidarity to new immigrants who travel through Mexico and cross the border at great risk.

In Chicago, we’ve partnered with Borderlinks to develop a Borderlinks North immersion experience.  This new program explores the challenges of life for new immigrants north of the border.  We’ve also joined with the New Sanctuary Movement in accompanying those who are about to be deported, offering prayers and presence at a time when all the world seems to have abandoned them.

We’ve continued to develop our relationship with the faith communities of Postville & Decorah, Iowa. On May 12, 2008, Immigrations and Customs Enforcement conducted one of the largest raids in United States history in Postville, Iowa.  398 workers were arrested.  Most were Guatemalan.  The raid devastated the community. The faith communities in Postville and Decorah, Iowa responded with quick generosity.  Those faith communities now have incredible stories to tell of the work they’re doing to meet needs, re-build their culturally diverse communities, and respond to the immigration crisis in our nation.  IMM offers two and three day delegations as an opportunity to see God's hand at work in the people of Postville and Decorah and ask deep questions about how we might respond to the current immigration crisis locally.  Contact IMM to arrange a delegation for a group from your church, cluster or association.

We’re proud of the work we’ve done this year to advocate for just foreign and trade policies toward Latin America and for comprehensive immigration reform.  IMM members participated in Ecumenical Advocacy Days in Washington, D.C. This week some of our members will travel to Fort Benning, Georgia to join thousands from around the US calling for the closure of the School of the Americas.

Partnerships, some spanning decades, others new and promising.  We can do much together.  Will you join with us to sustain our work?  We depend entirely on gifts from individuals and congregations.  Please give as generously as you are able.

Rev. Denise Griebler
for Illinois Maya Ministry

To make a donation to Illinois Maya Ministries, please send a check payable to the "Illinois Conference UCC" to Illinois Maya Ministry; c/o Rev. Michelle Prentice-Leslie; 410 McHenry Avenue; Crystal Lake, IL  60014-7128.

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