(One of the partners of IMM and of Global Ministries is SiPaz. Denise Griebler represents IMM on the Board of Directors of SiPaz. Travel for this international board is expensive, and thus they meet intensively once each year in San Cristobal de Las Casas. Here is Denise's report of that meeting.)
August 14 – 21 I was in Chiapas, Mexico for the annual SiPaz (International Service for Peace) board meeting. It’s always a privilege to accompany this amazingly faithful organization as they accompany communities and processes working toward establishing a true and lasting peace in Southern Mexico. NAFTA and the various other free-trade agreements combined with organized crime, the war on drugs, impunity and government corruption are enough to overwhelm. But SiPaz just keeps plugging along to defend human rights, educate toward peace, support people’s efforts to organize and have a say over their own lives and communities.
We were blessed to go to the countryside to visit with a Zapatista community – indigenous Mayan folk who are staking their claim to define, organize and govern themselves. It was inspiring to see women who speak only their indigenous language of Tzeltal emerging as leaders of the community. There are about 371,000 people in Chiapas who speak this language. Many speak no Spanish. And it's just one of the Mayan language groups in Chiapas! 80% of the people who live in Chiapas are Mayan, which is to say, Native American, indigenous, 1st Nations. Everyone else is an immigrant!
After the interview with the community leaders, they invited us to have lunch with them – a cup of thick sweet rice water called “atole”. We felt so honored to share a meal and informal conversation with these people who say that what they are working for is a world where all worlds fit. I like that. The big mining companies who want what’s beneath their land do not. I pray the Zapatistas hold their ground.
The rest of the week was solid meetings back in San Cristobal de las Casas. We engaged in analysis of the current situation and strategized about how our little organization has and could make a difference on behalf of human rights
and peace. We committed to goals for this year. SiPaz board members are from France, Costa Rica, Germany, Colombia, Holland, Switzerland and the US.