Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Friends presentations start the conference

On Monday there were 22 presentations, with the Friends featuring significantly. Adriana Cabrera of Bogota Monthly Meeting started us off with some challenging questions, then Bernabé Sánchez of Honduras YM read the paper on the Peace Testimony by Heredio Santos of Cuba YM. (The two Cuban Friends had not been able to get visas to enter the Dominican Republic.) Linnette Garcia of Jamaica YM spoke about prison visiting ministry, and Lon Fendall of Northwest YM read the paper from William Bertrand, Evangelical Friends Church Eastern Region. William is responsible for the Friends churches in Haiti and the Dominican Republic. He felt he should not leave Haiti during the election period. Fortunately there are other Haitian pastors here, from the Church of the Brethren.

Oto Morales of Ambassadors Friends Church in Guatemala talked of engagement in civic and political life. I think that Friends have always been more willing to engage with ‘principalities and powers’ than the other peace churches, which are ambivalent about this. I sense an interest from their members in the quiet ways in which we have been able to influence public policy.

Delia Aspi Mamani of Quaker Bolivia Link said there are now 26 Alternatives to Violence (AVP) facilitators in La Paz, Santa Cruz and Cochamamba. After some challenges they have been able to get into prisons, including the San Pedro Jail for those convicted of drug trafficking. It was good to hear her pay tribute to the work of facilitators whose travel we (FWCC) had been able to fund.

Martin Gárate of Chile, and Jesus Huarachi of Peru spoke next, followed by Daniel Mejia of Honduras YM, the pastor at San Marcos, and Lilian Hall of the Managua Friends Worship Group, an agronomist who has spent many years in rural Nicaragua, and who now runs Pro-Nica.

Jorge Laffitte of AFSC presented research results. The rural image of Latin America, he said, belongs to 1940, not 2010. It is an urban society with rural pockets, and unlike other parts of the world where there are wars between nations, the violence is urban. After South Africa, Latin America is the most violent area of the world. Violence, as measured by the homicide index, is now moving from the big cities to medium-sized towns. Criminalization of youth is noticeable, and there will be no peace in communities without inclusion and relationships.

I want to mention two contributors from other churches that were particularly interesting: Olga Piedrasanta Ortiz, a Guatemalan Mennonite, described the Latin American Anabaptist Women’s Blog, to be found at

We also got a crash lesson in the background of the Dominican Republic and Haiti from a Dominican pastor. A quick gallop through history from the 1400s onwards, and an account of some of the origins of the difficulties in relationships between the two nations that share one island space.

It’s impossible in a blog to do justice to the words that were delivered, and the preparation behind them. I am doing just a brief overview. By contrast, my friend Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford of the Church of the Brethren is picking just a few speakers to cover in depth at