To learn more about Salvadoran Pastors Ruth and Alex Orantes, and for information about contributing to support their ministries in El Salvador, please visit www.CieloAzulFund.blogspot.com.
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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Dinner and a Movie -- December Special Event



Join the El Salvador Partners Mission Group for a special event on Thursday evening, Dec 17th when we'll be attending the premier of the film RETURN TO EL SALVADOR at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute.

The documentary features Ruth and Alex Orantes. Ron and Betsy Morgan have been instrumental in helping shape the project, and Steve Chandler has worked on the production side. Filmmaker Jamie Moffett (Eastern grad and The Simple Way) came to El Salvador in March with the CBC Delegation for an introduction to El Salvador and to film the elections. The website www.returntoelsalvador.com has a number of preview video clips.

Here are the details to add to your calendar –

6pm Meet for dinner at Gullifty's / 1149 Lancaster Ave. / Rosemont, PA 19010

7:30pm Reception at Bryn Mawr Film Institute / 824 West Lancaster Avenue / Bryn Mawr, PA 19010

8:00pm Premier of Return to El Salvador at the Bryn Mawr Film Institute


Please RSVP to Caroline Cargo if you plan to meet us for dinner so we can make a reservation for the group to sit together. You can check out the menu online at www.gulliftys.com. Sandwiches are about $10 and dinner entrees are about $15.

If you can't come for dinner, you can still catch up with us at the movie theater at 7:30pm. Tickets for the reception and screening are $10/each. You can purchase tickets at the door, or click here to purchase advance tickets on-line.

“CANSADOS PERO FELICES DE SERVIR” - Updates from Shekina


Ruth Orantes sends a report that November has been very busy and full of many blessings for the community in Santa Ana! The “Open Doors” annual community outreach project at Shekina had more than 85 people attending workshops led by the young adults and several of the older women of the church.

During the same time, Shekina received a delegation from Cedar Hills Baptist Church in Oregon, which has partnered with Shekina to sponsor a number of medical clinics in Atiquizaya over the past few years.


This year, the medical clinics were offered in coordination with the mayor's office in Santa Ana and with the help of FMLN youth. Shekina's teenagers and young adults worked very hard to plan logistics and to help with translation. In addition to the Oregon delegation members, there were doctors, nurses, and physical therapists from Santa Ana who provided care. The clinics were offered for four days in San Luis La Planta and three days in El Ranchador. More than 1500 people received medical care during the one week of the clinics!


To see more photos of the medical clinic, click here.


Bernhard Voegeli, who recently visited CBC from Shekina, described the communities where the medical clinics were held:

These are very poor communities. The income there (if there is work) is $1 USD per day. It is very conflictive and dominated by the maras (Salvadoran gangs) 18 and 13. Killing is happening often, for as little as 50 US cents...We were protected by a police patrol and felt very secure as the people appreciated our work.



Ruth also sends a thank you to CBC for welcoming Fabiola:


Y con respecto a Fabiola.... Gracias por que todos la estan atendiendo muy bien! Ella nos escribe todas las semanas y cada ves se siente mas feliz entre ustedes.

Friday, November 13, 2009

El Salvador Jesuit Martyrs 20th Anniversary Nov 16th - events at Villanova


Thanks to Doug Norton for sharing this schedule of events at Villanova University.  For additional information: http://www.villanova.edu/artsci/peaceandjustice/

Remembering The El Salvador Martyrs
November 16, 1989

Renewing Our Commitment To Justice In The World


The Villanova Center for Peace and Justice commemorates the 20th anniversary of the six Jesuit priests, their housekeeper and her daughter who were murdered on the grounds of El Salvador's Central American University.



Schedule of Events for Monday, November 16th, at Villanova University

12:05 p.m. Memorial Mass in Corr Chapel with Fr. Kail Ellis. A memorial will
be in Corr throughout the afternoon. Stop in for quiet reflection.

12:30-4:00 p.m. Fair Trade Crafts from El Salvador in support of Women’s
Cooperative at Tierra Blanca. Please join in a letter writing campaign.

1:00 p.m. “El Salvador Human Rights Violations, 1983-1989,” a video
presentation: Center for Peace and Justice, Sullivan Grd. Floor.

1:30 p.m. “The Seeds of Liberty,” a video presentation: Center for Peace and
Justice.

2:00 p.m. El Salvador Today: reflections from service break trips and other
mission trips. With Professor Joe Betz. Center for Peace and Justice.

3:00 p.m. “A Question of Conscience: The Murder of the Jesuit Priests in El
Salvador” Film Screening. Center for Peace and Justice.

5:20 p.m. Memorial Mass in Corr Chapel with Fr. Joseph Farrell

More emergency efforts in El Salvador


On the weekend of November 7th and 8th, El Salvador was hit with the “tail” of Hurricane Ida. Statistics are still being gathered, but early accounts reported 130 deaths and more than 13,000 people left without homes. This total is sure to rise as emergency relief workers continue to work their way through damaged buildings and areas that have experienced landslides.


Please pray for all of those affected by the flooding and landslides, and for the individuals and organizations working to respond.


The damage was mostly felt in poor communities in the area of San Salvador and the southeastern regions of the country. In addition to causing floods and mudslides that have resulted in the devastating loss of lives and homes, the hurricane arrived right on time to coincide with El Salvador's seasonal bean harvest, so the loss of this crucial food supply will have a lasting impact in the months ahead, as well.


CBC's El Salvador Partners immediately received emails from Ruth Orantes and others at Iglesia Bautista Shekina, seeking our prayers for and our solidarity with people who are struggling in the midst of this crisis. The region around Santa Ana received heavy rains, but no significant damage. See the request for prayers from our brothers and sisters at Shekina in Spanish in the previous post below.




The SHARE Foundation is also sending updates and reports with photos from the affected areas of the country. As is often the case in these sorts of situations, the most immediate problems include access to emergency shelter, access to potable water, and food. SHARE Foundation, in collaboration with its partners in the three zones of San Salvador, La Paz and San Vicente, will be working to provide emergency relief. This will include distribution of plastic sheeting and wood for temporary housing; food and water.


The new American Baptist missionary in El Salvador, Kim Kushner, is also sending reports about the storm and emergency relief efforts as she visits affected communities. Here is her report from Tuesday, November 11th:

Today I made a visit to the community of San Martin, located on the outskirts of San Salvador. San Martin is one of many communities devastated by landslides caused by the intense rain this past Saturday.  
 
In October I spent a week in the community, a glorified shantytown that appeared along the railroad tracks during the civil war. The community was leveled by the earthquake in 2001, and has been battered by gangs, violence, and extreme poverty.  Most families are subsistence farmers, growing corn and beans on the steep hillsides that form the inlets to Lake Ilopango. People were hopeful, farmers were just one month from a successful harvest, the community had managed to rebuild more than 90 homes since the 2001 quake.

Late Saturday night San Martin was transformed. Houses built on the steep hillsides and on the edges of precipices disappeared.  They simply don’t exist anymore. Several households were caught off guard and the families were buried in their homes or washed down the hillside. 100% of corn and bean crops, just one week short of harvest, were washed away. Temporary plastic, tin, and bamboo pole structures are being built to house families on the soccer field.

In spite of the catastrophe, the community is working together to secure drinking water, and is pressuring the government to follow through on its promise to relocate those who are without homes or in precarious locations. A few organizations have come to see the damage; little to no aid has arrived in the community. 
 
San Martin is just one of many communities affected. 13 communities working FEBES, the Baptist Federation of El Salvador, report deaths, damaged or lost homes, or lost crops. Please keep this country, the communities affected, and the Federation team working to respond quickly to the most urgent needs in prayer. Later we’ll begin to coordinate rebuilding efforts and search for long-term food resources.
Kim Kushner, American Baptist Missionary in El Salvador



 TO CONTRIBUTE TO EMERGENCY RELIEF EFFORTS IN EL SALVADOR
  • To contribute to the SHARE Foundation emergency relief in response to Hurricane Ida, make a secure on-line contribution through the SHARE website (www.share-elsalvador.org). You may also contribute via check payable to SHARE (please write “Hurricane Ida Relief” in the memo) and mail your contribution to: SHARE Foundation / P.O. Box 29620 / Washington, DC 20017 .

  • You may also make contributions for American Baptist Churches emergency relief efforts through the CBC offering plate on Sunday mornings. Your check should be made payable to Central Baptist Church with “One Great Hour of Sharing – El Salvador” on the memo line.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Emergency relief efforts following mudslides and floods

We received the message below on Monday from Ruth Orantes about the impact of Hurricane Ida on El Salvador, seeking our prayers for and our solidarity with people who are struggling in the midst of this crisis.

In news since Ruth's message was sent, the numbers have been rising.   Poor communities in the area of San Salvador have been especially affected.  The hurricane's arrival coincides with the fall season bean harvest.  The destruction of this crucial food source will have a lasting impact in the months ahead.

The SHARE Foundation reports:

Over the weekend, the storm destroyed more than 7,000 homes and damaged many more.  The most recent data, reported this morning (Monday) in the Prensa Gráfica, indicates that approximately 130 people have been killed by the storm, and thousands more injured.   This total is sure to rise as emergency relief workers continue to work their way through damaged buildings and areas that have experienced landslides.                             

See photos and reports at http://share-elsalvador.org/headlines/idarelief.html


*******************************************
From Iglesia Bautista Shekina:

QUERIDOS AMIGOS, QUERIDOS HERMANOS Y HERMANAS... HAY LUTO EN EL SALVADOR... EL PASO DEL HURACAN IDA HA DEJADO 124 MUERTOS, 60 DESAPARECIDOS... MILES DE DAMNIFICADOS... PERDIDAS MATERIALES...

EN LOS ULTIMOS DIAS HABIAMOS TENIDO TIEMPO NUBLADO Y LLUVIAS ESPORADICAS PERO BASTARON UNAS POCAS HORAS DE LLUVIA INTENSA DEL DIA DE AYER Y HOY EN LA MADRUGADA PARA QUE LOS RIOS SE INUNDARAN Y LA TIERRA SEDIERA PRODUCIENDO MUCHOS DESLAVES, ESPECIALMENTE EN 4 DEPARTAMENTOS DE NUESTRO PAIS....

QUEREMOS PEDIRLES QUE NOS AYUDEN CON SUS ORACIONES, POR LAS FAMILIAS QUE HAN PERDIDO SERES QUERIDOS, POR LAS FAMILIAS QUE TENDRAN QUE COMENZAR DE LA NADA, POR LA PROVISION DIARIA Y POR LA SOLIDARIDAD QUE NUESTRO PUEBLO NECESITA...

CONFIAMOS EN SU CARIÑO PARA CON NOSOTROS Y NUESTRO PUEBLO

QUE DIOS LES BENDIGA
UN ABRAZO DE PARTE DE SUS HERMANOS Y HERMANAS DE LA IGLESIA BAUTISTA SHEKINA

UNIDOS EN EL DOLOR... UNIDOS EN LA FE.... UNIDOS EN LA ESPERANZA... UNIDOS EN LA SOLIDARIDAD

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Prayer of Hope for El Salvador - Nov 2009

In worship at Central Baptist Church today, we joined in a litany of hope for El Salvador, written for the congregation by Kathleen Bailey. This is our community's prayerful response to reports of increasing violence, especially in reflections recently shared with us by Alex Orantes. (See previous post with Alex's reflections that inspired this prayer.)

In this season, we remember the upcoming anniversaries of the martyrdom of the Jesuits, their housekeeper, and her daughter on Nov 16, 1989, as well as the four U.S. churchwomen on Dec 2, 1980. We pray for all who are still today struggling against violence and for those who work to transform our communities into places where peace is a reality.

The full text of the litany is included below. Watch the video here, or click to watch the youtube video of our prayer.



A Prayer of Hope for El Salvador


Leader 1: The Light shines in the darkness,
Leader 2: And the darkness cannot put out the Light!

People: God of Light and Life, no darkness is too deep for your illumination, no wound so grave as to be beyond your healing. O God, your heart beats within us for the Salvadoran land and for its people. Send your Spirit among them to succor, sustain, and comfort those who are uprooted, injured and dying in the terrible wake of violence.

Leader 2: The Light shines in the darkness,

People: And the darkness cannot put out the Light!

Leader 1: We remember the darkness in 1980 when Archbishop Romero was assassinated, and we remember his words, “Justice cannot be killed.” Lord, in your mercy,

All: Hear our prayer.

Leader 2: We remember the darkness also in 1980 when the four church women, Dorothy Kazel, Jean Donovan, Ita Ford and Maura Clarke were assassinated. The night before she died, Ita Ford quoted Romero, saying, “One who is committed to the poor must risk the same fate as the poor. And in El Salvador we know what the fate of the poor signifies: to disappear, to be tortured, to be captive and found dead.” Lord, in your mercy,

All: Hear our prayer.

Leader 1: We remember the darkness in 1989 when six Jesuit priests from the University of Central America, their housekeeper and her 15 year old daughter were brutally murdered. Lord, in your mercy,

All: Hear our prayer.

Leader 2: Now, in 2009, we know the darkness again as we lift up to You in prayer: two old men slain by machetes; a young husband—trying to support his pregnant wife—shot under a streetlight; a fruit-seller shot without mercy outside the gates of the Baptist School in Santa Ana; the pastor of our partner church and our friend, Ruth Orantes, robbed and grieved; and a country once again knowing the fear of daily violence on their streets and in their neighborhoods, a country with one of the highest rates of homicide in the world.Lord, in your mercy,

All:Hear our prayer.

Leader 1: Guide us as we continue to walk with our Salvadoran sisters and brothers. Guide us as we accompany your faith communities who offer places of refuge to the victims of violence in El Salvador.

Leader 2: You do not leave your people to suffer alone, but we know that You stand close, even in the terrors of the night. You bring the light of hope even in the darkness of oppression.

People: And the darkness cannot put out the Light!

Leader 1: In your mercy and grace, transform hearts and minds so that there might be an end to the violence, an end to the menacing, an end to terror, an end to hatred and, finally, an end to killing so that the peace which so many have died trying to birth might be reality.

All: May God’s Light be with us all.

Litany by Kathleen Bailey, member of Central Baptist Church and El Salvador Partners

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

“Return to El Salvador” preview party and fundraiser!


Join us at Urban Saloon / 2120 Fairmount Ave. / Philadelphia, PA at 8:00pm on Tuesday, November 3rd.

This is the documentary by Philadelphia filmmaker Jamie Moffett that features Alex and Ruth Orantes. Ron and Betsy Morgan have been working on this project with Jamie, and CBC's very own Steve Chandler is involved in the production team, too. The party on Tuesday will feature excerpts from the film and discussion about the current state of affairs in El Salvador and what you can do to help.

Tickets for the preview party are $15 and you'll need one to get in the front door. Your first beer is free with the ticket purchase!

To find out more about the project, visit www.returntoelsalvador.com.

To purchase a ticket for the preview party, click here.

Here's a link to the URBAN SALOON website for directions. www.theurbansaloon.com

Delegation from Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC


A delegation of 11 members of Calvary Baptist Church in Washington DC recently returned from a trip to El Salvador organized by Pastor Edgar Palacios. (Several of the delegation participants are friends of John and Nancy Thayer from Central Baptist Church - the other "CBC")

During the visits in El Salvador, the Calvary delegation met with new friends and participated in missions projects. At one church, they worked on a new project that will benefit the unemployed in the church through a metal-working shop/school. The shop will build kitchens, fences, and balconies for people’s homes and train new artisans to take their skills elsewhere to find work. In the beginning, this will benefit 8 families and it will continue to grow and help the local community get back on their feet! They also met the recipients and applicants of the Shalom Scholarship, a program sponsored by Calvary to enable students in El Salvador to complete their education. The group also had an opportunity to meet with El Salvador's Vice-President, Sanchez Ceren.

Their experiences during the Oct 10 to Oct 17 trip are documented in a great blog with lots of stories and photos. Check it out at http://calvarytoelsalvador.wordpress.com/

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Cielo Azul -- New Solidarity Fund

The new Cielo Azul Fund is launching a fall campaign to insure that the work of peace and justice that Baptist pastors Ruth and Alex Orantes have been carrying on will continue to grow. For five years the Orantes Fund has supported the Orantes family in their pastoral work; now Cielo Azul is committed to an even broader level of support not only for Ruth, Alex and Victor Hugo, but for the programs that have arisen out of their ministries in the communities where they work.

In the weeks and months after the March 2009 election of Mauricio Funes as President of El Salvador (“the first President to support the needs of the poor in 150 years,” as one Salvadoran activist put it), we have had great hope for the future of a people who have struggled so long for a dignified life free from political, economic and criminal violence.

Our choice of a new name (Cielo Azul means“blue sky” in English) is an attempt to symbolize this new reality. And there are signs of a move in that direction in a recent report from Alex:

For next year, students in public schools will receive uniforms and school– supplies, shoes, food and milk from the government. This will reactivate the small tailoring and shoe shops It will benefit small businesses that sell school supplies. It seems to be an excellent sign. People are happy, full of hope by this news which is leading to fresh preparation within each school.

But the latest report from Alex on increasing violence in El Salvador is a reminder that hope can be very fragile. More than ever, our friends in El Salvador need spiritual and material support to continue build communities based on faith, justice and service to all who are in need.

Please consider a gift to the Cielo Azul fund in order to send a message of solidarity to Ruth and Alex and the communities where they work. See the new blog at www.CieloAzulFund.blogspot.com for information on how to contribute.

Stories from El Salvador -- Alex Orantes

Alex and Ruth Orantes will be featured in an upcoming documentary by Philadelphia filmmaker Jamie Moffett. To find out more, visit www.returntoelsalvador.com.

In this video clip, Alex Orantes recounts a time in his youth when he was nearly killed by death squads while enjoying a night out with some friends.


Stories from El Salvador - Ruth Orantes

A pastor and teacher, Ruth Orantes has long hoped the FMLN, the "party of the people", would one day take office. When that came to pass on March 15, 2009, the city of Santa Ana threw the party of a lifetime.

To find out more about the upcoming documentary, visit returntoelsalvador.com

Monday, October 5, 2009

Alex Orantes - Reflections on Violence in El Salvador

Yesterday two old men were buried. The father and the uncle of an FMLN friend. The details are dreadful: They were surprised at home by the killers, who without having a word attacked and beaten them. They were slain by machetes and were found naked but they were not robbed. I was there at night for the visitation and there were a lot of people from the community, almost everyone from the FMLN, from the Catholic Church and Evangelical Church, accompanying this beloved family and the two murdered old men that were dearly appreciated by the community.

In recent days, a clown that used to spent the day juggling and begging at a street light, about 1,500 meters from where we live, was murdered. Later I knew that he had AIDS. It is very sad, he was shot right there. His surviving wife is pregnant and it is possible that she has AIDS as well, I hope her baby doesn't carry it. This young man was related to an FMLN activist.

A lady, who used to sell fruits in the street, was shot without mercy at the gate of the Baptist School, in front of students, parents, and teachers.

These violent acts should not take anyone that has had the misfortune of witnessing more terrible things in the past by surprise. However, they deserve a special analysis. Why this happened in a county administered by the FMLN? Why did these crimes happened in public places and in front on many people? It is true that we have been hearing about the violence in the country and particularly in places that are known as violent, Why in Santa Ana, with a national and local FMLN administration?

I have a feeling that there are obscure interests and financing in all these. It seems like there are groups that are up in arms and show the anger that characterized them in the past, when they feel that their interests are at stake. We are deeply concerned that these increasing violence is a prompt by political-economical reasons.

Our suspicion is not a result of an absurd imagination. Recently, in the context of elections, presidential or by district, the media invaded us with news of mutilated bodies found in different parts of the country, most of them young women, bounded, with marks of violence, and some cases burned, and others with acid in their faces and bodies.

Everything was leaving doubts about concrete actors, in other words, there was no interest to investigate whom was directly involved in these crimes. But something curious about it, was that the ways in which the people were assassinated were very similar to the ones executed in the 70's and 80's by the National Guard and the Police. Then, it is not difficult to think about the possible sources of all this violence in the present as it was in the past.

Many people are thinking the same, Is it possible that there are groups that are willing to do anything to make the FMLN administration look bad by increasing crime, violence and fear, that were the conditions needed to seek support from the right wing?

The truth is that the blood shed by our brothers and sisters is still screaming for justice.

Our God is still nailed to the cross, in the people humiliated by their poverty, their unemployment, fear and uncertainty, and their own violent deaths. In spite of the strength of our hope, it seems like the Golgotha is chasing us, and wants us to get used to life in these conditions, without the right of constructing a society where every person, regardless of their ideology or religious creed, is a life of value before God. God is shot in each brother surprised by this macabre violence that seems to have a hairy hand, a hand that pays coins to betray and that lifts the people on the cross.

We are always awaiting for a new reality. A reality that we have worked so much to have and that many have died dreaming about it. This unexpected reality is being built.

I have learned a lot from working as the administrator of the Santa Isabel's Cemetery. I get to know each case, the hurting families have to indicate some data about the dead, like age, gender, cause of death, etc. I get to know the tendency of violence. When I arrived to the cemetery in July, I found it abandoned and neglected, full of bushes and shrubs, an adequate place for drug dealing and robbery. It needed a good cleaning but it is approx 70 acres of land. We requested the support of inmates in the phase of trust and 40 inmates have been working for a month with us, and we provide them with lunch every day.

They were not incarcerated for giving our flowers and poems but for assassinations, rapes, kidnapping, drugs, gang-related crimes, etc. It is a small group of a population that has been incarcerated for 5, 12, 17 and 25 years. In all that time they have not had any judicial processes or rights. The food they are served is provided by a company whose owner is a deputy of ARENA, the food is trash and a torture. However, there is a lot of money in that business. We hope that the new government would put an end to this mistreatment. This instance, is just to point out that there is population roting in Salvadoran jails and in the census they represent the curse and the devil of society, but they are only victims of their own penalty and of the penalty of others that should be there instead of them, with collars, untouchables that were for a long time protected by the government.

The violence is very concerning but as alarming as it sounds, it is important to identify the causes in order to provide an integral solution and not the accustomed hard way to those who end up being victims of an unjust system that will take a long time to change. The fight continues, despite the fear, our conscience illuminates us to not punish the cat for the scratch and set free the hyena, the vulture and the jackals to destroy.

I love the prayers and I am glad to know that there are a lot of people, here and there, with a heart beating for this Salvadoran land and for its people. Also, I'm convinced that there will be no changes without a creative and just action, nor changes without working hard. Honduras is a greater example of the solidarity of the right wing in the world to defend their projects, violating the democracies by chasing, suppressing and assassinating its people. The actions of the past remain alive in old structures but hope is growing in its organization.

This outburst of letters and words will not bring back life to those who are victims of this cruel violence.

God is with us, I hope.
Alex Orantes
translated from the Spanish by Yatzaira Marcano (member of Central Baptist Church)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Please consider making a gift to the Cielo Azul Fund in order to send a message of solidarity to Alex and Ruth Orantes and the communities where they work. Please see instructions above for how to send your contribution.

Alex Orantes' disturbing analysis of the harsh realities of life in Santa Ana arrives just as the Cielo Azul Fund is launching a fall campaign to insure that the work of peace and justice that Baptist pastors Ruth and Alex Orantes have been carrying on will continue to grow. In the weeks and months after the March 2009 election of Mauricio Funes as President of El Salvador (“the first President to support the needs of the poor in 150 years,” as one Salvadoran activist put it), we have had great hope for the future of a people who have struggled so long for a dignified life free from political, economic and criminal violence. But this latest report from Alex about violence on his very doorstep is a reminder that hope can be very fragile. More than ever, our friends in El Salvador need spiritual and material support to continue build communities based on faith, justice and service to all who are in need.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Salvadoran environmental activists to speak in Philadelphia


The National Mining Table of El Salvador Speaks Out in Philadelphia

Presentation of “The Mysterious Death of Marcelo Rivera” with filmmaker Jamie Moffett

Saturday, October 17th, 4-6pm
Tabernacle United Church / 3700 Chestnut St. / Philadelphia, PA

The Romero Interfaith Center of Philadelphia is proud to invite you to meet members of the National Mining Table of El Salvador, a popular movement of people in El Salvador that has been struggling against the environmental and public health threats posed by mineral mining by foreign corporations. The National Mining Table (or La Mesa Nacional Frente a la Mineria en El Salvador) is being honored in Washington D.C. on October 15 with the Letelier-Moffitt Human Rights Award for their work in making El Salvador the first country in the world to ban gold mining.

Please join us in welcoming Vidalina Morales Gamez, Miguel Angel Rivera Moreno, and William Rondy Castillo Olivoto Philadelphia to share with us the experiences of their communities in Cabañas and Chalatenango, El Salvador, who have declared their opposition to mineral mining development in their communities based on environmental, public health, and human rights concerns.

Additionally, we will be showing the short film entitled "The Mysterious Death of Marcelo Rivera," created by Philadelphia resident and filmmaker, Jamie Moffett. The film shares the story of the disappearance and murder of Marcelo Rivera, a local organizer deeply involved with the struggle against Pacific Rim in Cabañas. Jamie will be present to discuss the film as well as his upcoming feature length film entitled "Return to El Salvador."

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Updates from Alex in Santa Ana

We send greetings to all in CBC and the Simple Way. As always we are fighting here, hoping that we can see new realities as good news for the poor of our country.

For next year, students in public schools receive uniforms and school supplies, shoes, food and milk from the government . This will reactivate the small tailoring shops, clothing makers, and shoemakers. And this will also benefit small businesses that sell school supplies. It seems to be an excellent sign, but we will see how it turns out in practice. People are happy, full of hope by this news which is already pushing preparation processes within each school.

However, the right of the country is trying to overturn this reality as they have always done . They are telling people that this program will start to turn El Salvador into another Cuba, because people will have to stand in line to receive these packages. But for a long time and even now, people have had to line up outside under the hot sun to pay their utility bills for electricity and telephone.

Well, on 02 November, there will be an ecumenical political activity in Santa Ana in memory of all fallen in a time of war. This will be in St. Elizabeth Cemetery, a place where, in 2010, we will build a monument to honor our fallen martyrs in the struggle.

Alex Orantes / Santa Ana / September 30, 2009

Friday, August 21, 2009

"Old Friends and Guerrillas" program at Brandywine Peace Community

Old Friends & Guerrillas: Will El Salvador Turn in a New Direction?

Talk and photo show with Tom Paine Cronin, long-time Labor Leader in Philadelphia and President emeritus of AFSCME DC 47, and John Grant, Veterans for Peace, photojournalist and film maker, who were in El Salvador for the historic elections in June.

Sunday, September 13, 4:30p.m.
Brandywine Peace Community Monthly Potluck Supper*/Program
(*bring main dish, salad, or dessert to share)

Gathering will be held at University Lutheran Church, 3637 Chestnut St., Philadelphia, PA

For more information, visit www.brandywinepeace.com

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Updates from Shekina

We recently received a number of updates from Ruth about a variety of current projects and upcoming plans at Shekina.

Shekina hosted a delegation from FBC Madison (IN)in early August, and there are plans for a medical delegation from Oregon in November. The congregation offered prayers for Tessa and the youth group said their farewells as Tessa prepared to return (reluctantly!) to the US and to Central Baptist following her 3 month school exchange and homestay with the Baides family from Shekina.

Work continues to progress on the land adjacent to the church where the Community Center will be constructed. They have recently rented a bulldozer to prepare the land for construction.




Ruth also sends another thank you to Central Baptist for providing funds to set up the mini clinic to offer first aid at Shekina and to buy the kitchen stove and equipment for preparing meals at the church.

Read below for more of Ruth's report in Spanish:

Espero que todo este bien con ustedes... Nosotros hemos tenido la semana pasada 12 hermanos y hermanas de la Madison First Baptist Church, Indiana. Ha sido una semana muy bonita. Trabajamos 2 dias en el terreno de la Iglesia; realizamos dos paseos y fueron a Atiquizaya todo el dia viernes... ah y el domingo estuvieron en nuestro culto y disfrutaron una tarde con las familias anfitrionas. Ellos eran 4 senoritas, 3 mujeres adultas y 5 hombres adultos.

Ya puede imaginarse lo cansada que estoy pero muy contenta de como va saliendo el trabajo de la Iglesia. Ahora solo nos quedan preparnos para la delegacion medica que viene en Noviembre de Oregon. Tambien para el mes de "Iglesia de Puertas Abiertas" y todas las actividades de la Iglesia de Navidad y Fin de ano.

En cuanto al Centro Comunitario... ya estamos queriendo comenzar a preparar la tierra para el edificio que sonamos.

Hoy fue el ultimo domingo de Tessa y oramos por ella. Pero el jueves tenemos una fiesta con cena en la Iglesia para despedirla. Y tiene invitaciones especiales a cenar toda la semana en casas de hermanos de la Iglesia.

Compramos el canape, el biombo y el botiquin de primeros auxilios + medicina para el espacio de la mini clinica. Tambien compramos la cocina para las actividades culinarias de a Iglesia. Bueno, esta semana la estrenamos con la delegacion de Madison. Asi que mil gracias por hacer esto posible.

Un abrazo en Cristo,
Ruth Rodriguez de Orantes

El Salvador Partners planning meeting

Please join us at 9:30am Thursday Aug 27 at CBC for a mission group meeting. Our agenda will include:

* reflections / reports by Tessa Bailey on her 3 months in El Salvador

* updates from Shekina, news from Ruth and Alex, etc.

* discussion about our hopes, visions, dreams, and opportunities for CBC's El Salvador relationships in the upcoming church year

* budget proposals for CBC's 2010 stewardship campaign, based on priorities we select from our list of hopes, visions, dreams

* planning calendar for the fall

Monday, August 3, 2009

Invitation to learn about immigration and the New Sanctuary Movement in Philadelphia

The New Sanctuary Movement
Congregations and Immigration: An Issue of Faith

A series of four discussions
9:30am to 10:30am on Sundays
Sept 13th, Sept 20th, Sept 27th, Oct 4th

Central Baptist Church / Wayne, PA

As part of a Central Baptist Church focus on immigration and advocacy for immigration reform, we begin our fall Adult Learning Community with a four session series organized by leaders of the Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement. Through presentations, group discussions, videos, and conversations with special guests, we'll be looking at a variety of questions:

  • Why is immigration a faith / moral issue?

  • Who are the people who are immigrating to the U.S.?

  • How do current U.S. immigration laws actually work?

  • What would a better immigration policy look like?

  • What is the potential for reforming immigration policy under the Obama administration?

  • What is the current climate like for immigrants in PA, especially in the Philadelphia area?

  • What local advocacy efforts are forming around immigration issues and policy reform?

  • What is this “New” Sanctuary Movement all about?

Facilitators for this class will include the current co-leaders of the Philadelphia NSM -- Peter Pedemonti, one of the founders of Philadelphia NSM, lives and works at a Philadelphia Catholic Worker House; Jen Rock, who joined Peter in leadership of the Philadelphia NSM in 2009, works for Habitat for Humanity.

We hope to have several special guests share their personal stories, as well. Faheem is Pakistani, and he and his family were accompanied by Phildelphia NSM when he was detained by immigration and sent to the immigration detention center in York, PA. Eva, who is Mexican, has an equally powerful story to tell.

We are also inviting Mishkan Shalom, a progressive Jewish congregation in Philadelphia that was one of the 19 original Sanctuary congregations in Philadelphia in the 1980s, to talk with us about their decision to become the first congregation to officially affiliate with this New Sanctuary Movement.

Central Baptist Church is located in the center of Wayne, one block south of the train station, near the intersection of Route 30 (Lancaster Ave) and Wayne Avenue. Click here for a map and specific directions. We hope to see you in September!

About the Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement

The Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement (NSM) is an interfaith coalition of immigrants, congregations, and passionate individuals dedicated to taking a stand for immigrant rights by responding actively and publicly to the injustices faced by our immigrant brothers and sisters living in Philadelphia.

Philadelphia NSM working groups include outreach to faith communities, accompaniment of immigrant families, Know Your Rights workshops, education, fundraising, and Immigration Reform Campaign. We are affiliated with the national NSM which has groups working in metropolitan areas across the United States.

For more information about the Philadelphia NSM, contact Peter Pedemonti (646-226-0848) and Jen Rock (267-275-7810), or email nsmphiladelphia@gmail.com.

We expect to launch a website / blog for the Philadelphia NSM in the near future. To learn more about the national movement, see www.newsanctuarymovement.org.

We encourage you to learn more about the Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement by attending our monthly coalition meetings. Join us for our gatherings at 7pm on the 2nd Thursday of every month at Visitation BVM Catholic church at 300 E. Lehigh Ave. in Kensington. (Note that the August meeting is one week early, on Aug 6th.) All are welcome!

Upcoming dates and topics for Philadelphia NSM coalition meetings:

  • August 6th at 7pm: Messaging Workshop: Help craft NSM's message and then learn to effectively deliver it! Please note that this is a week earlier than our usual 2nd Thursday schedule.

  • September 10th at 7pm: Media Training: Learn the tools necessary to get media, talk to media, and successfully use media to get our message across.


Recent death of El Salvador activist Marcelo Rivera


Marcelo Rivera was a community leader from San Isidro, in the northern department of Cabañas. He had been an outspoken opponent of the mining industry's enviornmental destruction and human rights violations in El Salvador. He was kidnapped on June 18th, 2009, near the town of Ilobasco, Cabañas. On July 1st, his body was found inside a dry well. DNA tests were conducted and confirmed that the body belonged to Marcelo. His belongings were found in a nearby abandoned house in the middle of a corn field. According to the medical examiner, Marcelo was kept alive several days after his disappearance. His body showed signs of brutal torture typical of a death squad killing.

Here are links to full reports from the SHARE Foundation:
While Jamie Moffett's film crew was in El Salvador in July for the "Return to El Salvador" documentary, they also had an opportunity to investigate this case. This short film takes a close look at the recent death of activist Marcelo Rivera, the current class-action lawsuit against El Salvadors government, and the connections between the two.

To sign a petition and send a personal message to the office of Arlen Specter demanding an investigation into this crime, click this link http://citizenspeak.org/node/1710



http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yvXm52BhSHQ


Sunday, June 14, 2009

Documentary film will feature Ruth and Alex

Jamie Moffett, Philadelphia filmmaker and friend of the El Salvador Partners, is making great progress on "Return to El Salvador," his upcoming documentary. Jamie and his crew, including CBC members Ron and Betsy Morgan, will be traveling to El Salvador for another round of interviews and filming in July. Their plan is to meet up with Alex and Ruth, who will provide personal stories and commentary about the war and post-war context in El Salvador. Jamie's first visit to El Salvador for filming was in March 2009, when he and Julia Shields were part of the SHARE Election Observers with CBC's delegation.



Here's an excerpt from the Return to El Salvador Blog about the documentary project, where you can also find more information.

The atrocities of the Salvadoran civil war inspired many international human rights groups and faith communities to advocate for justice and peace in El Salvador. Two of the many Americans who became involved in the movement for peace are Dr. Betsy Morgan, a university professor who went on to write a documentary about Salvadoran refugees, and her husband, Ron Morgan, who has volunteered in relief efforts and election monitoring. The Morgans, along with many of their students and their church community (Central Baptist Church in Wayne, PA), have become outspoken advocates for peace and justice in El Salvador both during and after the civil war.

Jamie Moffett, this filmʼs director, was one of those students who heard the stories of El Salvador and was compelled to act. Moffett decided to make a film in which he would travel with Betsy and Ron to reconnect with their friends in El Salvador, and hear and document stories of what happened during the war and what life is like now. He and his crew are traveling to a place teeming with past and current struggle, both to share the stories of pain and suffering that have been kept silent for too long, but also to document the stories of hope. They are going with the desire to understand and communicate the aftermath of war.

Moffett believes that everyday Americans are unaware of the profound impact of their tax dollars and decisions of their elected representatives upon the lives of innocent people. He believes this precisely because, until recently, he himself was ignorant of the particulars of American involvement in El Salvador. He says, “There was just so much that I didn’t know until I started to research. Now that I know, I’m disappointed, upset, and I want to make sure that other Americans are given the opportunity to know the facts.”

With this film, Moffett goes beyond simply educating his fellow citizens on the facts of history. This project is a call to action, urging Americans to become involved in not only knowing the past, but in building a more just and peaceful future.

For more about the documentary and to pre-order a copy of the film, visit the website http://www.returntoelsalvador.com/.

Here's a brief trailer introducing the documentary.Return to El Salvador trailer on YouTube

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Celebrations at Shekina - reports and photos

The past month has been a full and busy one for our friends at Shekina in Santa Ana. A special service on May 3rd marking the congregation's 17th anniversary was attended by representatives of many Baptist congregations. On June 7th, Shekina celebrated the completion of the walls and gates for Shekina's Christian Social Center by symbolically presenting a key to the property to one of the children of the congregation.

Bernhard, a member of Shekina, sends these photos and descriptions of the celebrations. For more images and videos, click on the links below.

17th Anniversary photos It was a family festivity: of the congregation, of the Baptist churches of El Salvador sending delegations from all over the country and of the international Shekina family with many messages (and donations!) from Holland, Sweden, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico as well as from different parts in the US.

Shekina's Christian Social Center photos The reason for these photos and videos (with sound!) is the international implication in this (regular) Shekina church service on Sunday at 9:00. We have friends in Sweden, Holland, Costa Rica, Switzerland and different parts of the United States, who dream with us of the Shekina Christian Social Center. June 7th 2009 was the end of the construction of the walls (necessary for security) and the entrance through a sliding door from the church. The youngsters (and their parents) mentioned already, that campments away are no more necessary as all can be done now on church grounds and helps to save costs... Before the turning over the key of the porton (gateway) there were acknowledgments to God indeed and also the different contributers CBC Wayne PA, Madison IND and Portland OR, our main sister churches (with their active contributions).




Tuesday, June 2, 2009

El Salvador Presidential Inauguration

Submitted by Doug Norton

Perhaps it is no coincidence that as red banners were flying in our Central Baptist Church worship commons this past Sunday for Pentecost, winds of change were blowing through the waves of red FMLN banners and shirts as throngs of Salvadorans celebrated the return of their government to the people.

In the first peaceful transfer of power from one party to another since the long civil war ended in 1992, Mauricio Funes of the FMLN was sworn in as president of El Salvador on June 1. Funes visited the grave of Archbishop Oscar Romero on the morning of his inauguration and invoked the memory of Romero as both his teacher and the spiritual guide of the nation in his inaugural address. He struck a note of contrast with the governments of the past decades, promising an administration that recognizes people because of their talents and honesty rather than their connections or their surname, saving special consideration for the poorest, the vulnerable, and the excluded. Funes held up “the strong examples” of U.S. President Barack Obama and Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva “as proof that progressive leaders, instead of being a threat, can be a new, safe alternative for their people.” Funes promised to renew and expand relations with the United States, with which “historically, we are bound by many ties, in particular by the presence of millions of our compatriots who live there, work there and build their dreams there.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton attended the inauguration. Funes praised Clinton in his address as a “woman who honors America” and said in a joint news conference with Clinton after the ceremonies that the FMLN was ready to “turn the page” on its troubled past with the United States.

“We need to reinvent the country. We need to carry out a peaceful, democratic and ethical revolution; the change is starting today,” said Funes. A survey carried out by the University Institute of Public Opinion at the Central American University (UCA) in late May showed support of Funes by 82 percent of the Salvadoran people. This support was reflected in huge celebrations across the country on the days before and after the inauguration. This sense of strong support by the people was felt by the members of CBC who served as
election observers in San Salvador in March.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Invitation to "Postcards from El Salvador" Luncheon

“Postcards from El Salvador”
12:15pm following worship on Sunday, April 19th

Lunch will be provided by
the El Salvador Partners Mission Group

Join us for a slide show and reports from CBC’s delegation

Now that we have recovered from the excitement of our recent experiences in El Salvador, we have started organizing our stories and photos to share in various ways with the CBC community, as well as the Alliance of Baptists and the Baptist Peace Fellowship and others.

We have a lot to tell you about...
  • the diversity of the 150 member SHARE delegation, including a large number of high school students from Oregon, college students from Georgetown and American University, a Jewish hunger advocacy group named MAZON, the National Lawyers Guild, and more
  • the fascinating elections process and historic FMLN victory celebrations in San Salvador
  • advocacy actions before the election and a post-election visit at the US Embassy
  • bowling with Nora Pullen and youth from Shekina one night in San Salvador
  • a beautifully relaxing afternoon and evening with some of the Shekina adults at a lake in the town of Suchitoto
We hope you’ll join us for lunch and a slideshow presentation on Sunday, April 19th!

--Caroline, Doug, Andy, John, and the El Salvador Partners Mission Group

Counting Votes at JRV #00032 in San Salvador



Final count was 158 FMLN / 151 ARENA / 3 invalid ballots

video by C. Cargo

Election Day Crowds in San Salvador



Crowds entering and leaving voting center at La Feria in San Salvador

video by C. Cargo

Commotion inside voting center with FMLN and ARENA on March 15



Crowds of FMLN and ARENA supporters at voting center when ARENA candidate Rodrigo Avila arrives in person with his daughter to cast her vote

video by C. Cargo

Houston to San Salvador - Reflections on the delegation experience

CBC member John Thayer reflects on an intergenerational encounter early on in his first trip to El Salvador for the recent elections delegation:

10 March 2009

My traveling companion, Doug Norton and I boarded Continental 826 in Houston for our first ever journey to El Salvador. The experienced members of the Central Baptist contingent, Caroline Cargo, Bernie Peterson and Andy Smith had their own travel plans, but we would all meet soon in San Salvador. The five of us were registered to have training and participate as “International Observers” during the Presidential elections on March 15, 2009.

Doug’s seat assignment was near the front of the aircraft and I proceeded to the middle to 18C, an aisle seat. That seat was occupied! I rechecked my ticket, then asked the small, Spanish-speaking woman about her seat assignment. She seemed annoyed, and moved to the window seat. My sense was that if I had at least some facility with Spanish I might have handled that better. Oh, well.

Soon enough the third passenger in our row of three showed up. He was a young man who looked to be about 16 or maybe 17 years old. I saw him look at his boarding pass over and over and then he asked to get past me to the middle seat. I asked whether his boarding pass was for the window seat and he replied that it was, but that he was okay with the middle seat and would stay there. Once settled, I asked this fellow about his trip. He gladly related that he and about 30 of his classmates from a high school in Seattle would receive training from SHARE to be International Observers in the upcoming election in El Salvador. We were going for the same purpose! Secretly I wondered whether such young people would be up to the tasks that might even challenge Cargo, Norton, Smith or certainly, Thayer. Was he even old enough to vote? Likely not. As we conversed more my suspicions were eased some.

The flight to San Salvador was to take less time than from Philadelphia to Houston, so it wasn’t long before the steward brought the immigration forms to fill out and submit to officials in the airport at San Salvador. The woman in the window seat looked puzzled as she perused the form so the steward asked whether the man in the middle would be willing to help her out. The high school student said, “Oh, sure.” My pre-judging the role as observer was gathering data feedback and my view was adjusting. Soon the student and the woman, perhaps approaching middle age were conversing in Spanish about the items on the form. Okay. I get it. This guy was more mature and skilled than your average high school junior.

As we approached our destination I asked the skilled gentleman whether he was in a total immersion program and he replied, “No, but I have had classes since I can remember. And I am getting a little tired of it.” That’s when he related some of the history of his school, Northwest School of Seattle. That’s a story worth looking into. Then we landed. It was a very smooth landing. So how did the high school folks do with the observing tasks assigned to them? Sorry. This article doesn’t cover the final answer.

John Thayer
Central Baptist Church

To learn more about the Northwest School in Seattle, click here. The Northwest School has a formal partnership with the SHARE Foundation. Through SHARE, the school conducts annual trips with students to El Salvador. A large group of the school's students took part in SHARE's 150-member elections observers delegation in March 2009.

Reflections on El Salvador delegation

Andy Smith was one of four delegates from Central Baptist who participated in the March 2009 SHARE Foundation election observers delegation. Following is Andy's personal report about the elections and about some of his time visiting with a Salvadoran friend prior to the start of the official delegation.

I returned recently from El Salvador where I had the privilege to accompany the Salvadoran people as one of 4000 international observers for the Presidential elections on March 15. I went as part of a delegation from Central Baptist Church in Wayne, Pennsylvania, that was also endorsed by the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America and the Alliance of Baptists. First I want to celebrate with the Salvadoran people. The victory of the FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front), the party formed after the 1992 Peace Accords from former guerillas in the civil war, is a victory for the people. Having a President who for the first time will be on the side of the majority of the Salvadoran people who are poor will be a striking change. At the same time, replacing the system of global capitalism and domination by foreign powers that has kept the people in poverty for so long is a task that is much larger than this election, but the election does mark an important and hopeful step in the process of building a different kind of society, one based on justice, equality and sharing of resources.

I started the election day at the stadium in San Salvador where the Salvadorans living in the United States were to vote. The turnout there was low, only 175 for the entire day, out of some 39,000 who had received the necessary document of identification. For the afternoon our group decided to move to another location where there would be more voters.

The whole process that I witnessed took place in a peaceful way. As an election official at my own local polling place in the United States, I was struck by the similarities of the Salvadoran process. At the same time I noticed many differences, most strikingly the many vehicles with large groups of people and flags from the two parties, riding through the streets all day and chanting for their party. In front of the building where I was for the afternoon, there was a continuing demonstration with hundreds of people waving banners and chanting but the atmosphere remained more that of a festival than a political demonstration. In the middle of the afternoon as Rodrigo Avila, the candidate of the ARENA party (the party in power) came to the hall, a large group of FMLN supporters marched through the hall waving banners and shouting their party slogans. They continued to do so from the balcony as Avila, surrounded by a large group of ARENA supporters also with flags and chanting, entered, went to one of the polling stations, and then left. While such overt demonstrations are not permitted by the Salvadoran electoral law within the polling place, they were not stopped. The police were ready but always on the sidelines as the demonstrations continued in a peaceful way.

There was a real celebratory mood among the people at the place where I ended the day. As the election results were announced at each of the 60 polling booths in the large hall, chanting broke out. When all had reported a large group of FMLN supporters began to dance in the middle of the hall.

During the day I had opportunities to listen to Salvadorans. One man, Armando, wanted to tell me about how his people were without work and suffering. He wanted to know what it was like in the United States and if Obama could make a difference. While I understood much of what he said and could respond in my limited ability to speak Spanish, the experience made me resolve to recover my ability to speak and understand Spanish more fluently. It also made me more aware of how I, a person from the United States, carry the imperialism of my country by not being able to converse in the language of the people where I am.

In gathering the reports from all of the 150 observers in the SHARE Foundation group of which I was a part, we heard few incidents of problems, most of them minor. Overall the election process went very smoothly. In spite of the overwhelming spending of ARENA compared with the FMLN (about $24 million to $4million), many threats of job loss for not voting for ARENA, suppression of poll results that showed the FMLN with large leads, strong bias in the press for ARENA, well-publicized positions of Republicans in the United States of security threats to the United States if the FMLN won, and threats that an FMLN victory would mean the cessation of Salvadorans in the United States sending money back to Salvador (about 18% of the Salvadoran economy), the people spoke in an organized and deliberate process and hopeful change will occur. As observers we received many thanks from the Salvadoran people for being there. We learned on the day after the elections that the presence of so many international observers had been the reason that ARENA had conceded the election peacefully and did not challenge the results.

Several days prior to prior to observing the elections I had the opportunity to visit several places I had not been before and see some of the natural beauty of this small country which is slightly smaller than Massachusetts. The contrast between the dire poverty (about fifty percent of the population) with the wealth of the elite and the beauty of the land is stark. On the trip into San Salvador from the airport I observed many roadside stands selling coconuts and other fruits and vegetables. These stands line many of the roads and streets in the cities and represent the alternative economy for those who can find no other work. Items for sale range from food, including entire roadside restaurants, to musical instruments to clothes to handcrafted furniture. Others who have nothing to sell but their own labor often stand at intersections and wash windshields.

The road from the airport to San Salvador climbs as it passes through the hills, many of them deforested as is much of the Salvadoran land. Groups of houses built from whatever could be found like corrugated metal stand on the hillsides. There is no electricity or running water. A major daily job of many rural Salvadoran women is to fetch water for their family. Often a long walk of several hours is necessary with the water being carried in a large urn on top of the head.

Along the way we also passed a group of maquiladoras. These foreign owned companies are assembly plants for items like clothing. Workers are paid little to put together materials shipped in which will be shipped out as finished products. The Free Trade Agreement required that new, interstate-like highways be built so that the tractor trailors could transport the materials to and from the maquiladoras. These new highways cut through towns and mountains without viable ways to cross for the people on foot and bicycles and were built with money diverted from education and healthcare.

As we approached the city I was warned to put my window up because we could be approached by someone with a gun who could demand something from us. At one intersection we passed through several times a 14 year old girl was washing car windshields. My host remarked that this could be her own daughter. She always stopped and gave her some money, noting the need to change the kind of a system that could put girls of this age in the streets because they had no other way to survive. When asked late one evening how long she would be there, the young girl remarked, “Until I get enough money.”

On Saturday we went to a beautiful volcanic beach where the coves and cliffs with the black sand reminded me of Hawaii. The surf is good here with several resorts devoted to serving foreigners. Some Salvadoran boys with their surfboards were enjoying the waves at a public beach next to the club where we were. The impact of the world financial crisis was clear at this club. Of the 30-40 shelters with picnic tables and hammocks, only three or four were occupied on a beautiful, warm Saturday afternoon.

Our trip along the Route of the Flowers took us through five small towns and majestic scenery of the many volcanoes in the Western part of the country. This was once prime coffee country. Now many of the coffee plantations have been converted into hotels and restaurants since the coffee business is not viable for the owners with the market price of coffee as low as it is. Each of the towns had its own unique ambience with a church and town square, an open air market, and many small stores with various arts and crafts. The markets were bustling since Sunday is the prime market day where one finds food of all kinds, clothing, shoes, and some arts and crafts.

Suchitoto is a treasure in the hills about one hour North of San Salvador. It’s the cleanest town I’ve seen in El Salvador with many houses having a sign painted on the wall beside the door indicating that they recycle solid waste and the slogan reduce, reuse, recycle. Other houses have a sign indicating that no violence against women is practiced in that home. A relatively new institution in town is housed in an old school that was abandoned during the civil war since Suchitoto was the scene of much intense fighting. The Center for Peace and the Arts is the vision of Sister Peggy Smith, a sister of Charity of New Jersey, who has made this her home for many years. The center includes a facility for housing delegations. Its mission is to provide training for people in the arts including theater, photography, music and many others.

Lake Suchitlan lies below Suchitoto. Created many years ago as a reservoir for the production of electricity, today it is a spot for fishermen and tourists. We spent a wonderful Saturday afternoon there with a group from Shekina, our partner congregation in Santa Ana. Following lunch at a restaurant beside the lake we boarded two small boats for a sunset cruise around several of the islands. Bird Island has a large population of nesting cormorants and some Great and Snowy Egrets, Great Blue Herons and Little Blue Herons. Other bird life seemed abundant with vultures, Crested Caracaras, and swallows. The magnificent sunset over the mountains provided a fitting close to a beautiful day.

I have been to El Salvador six times since 1986 through relationships that my congregation has with congregations there. Each time I have had many feelings and new insights about the destruction of people’s lives and the earth through the systemic effects of the global economic system. Yet each time I have renewed personal relationships and started new relationships. Each time my resolve to fight this system and help create a new one is strengthened. The strength, creativity, and joyfulness of the Salvadoran people in the face of what appear to be overwhelming odds continue to be an inspiration to me.

El Salvador is a land of many contrasts, yet in spite of the poverty its people remain a people of hope. The electoral victory of the FMLN provides a monumental shift in the political scene that adds to this hope. My various times in El Salvador have always nourished my soul and stimulated my thinking. They provide an experience that I find necessary to continue my own life journey without becoming numb to the world-wide impacts of the society in which I live in the USA. I recognize anew each time I go the interconnectedness of our world. Deep and lasting relationships with Salvadorans will continue to be an important part of my life as I seek to work with others in building a world of justice and integrity.

Andy Smith
Devon, Pennsylvania USA

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Thank you from Ruth Orantes and first impressions from Global Baptist Peace Conference

Ruth's thank you to CBC and an initial report from Rome

A few of us gathered on Sunday, February 22, to have a phone conference with Ruth Orantes about her recent experience at the Global Baptist Peace Conference in Rome. She has (mostly) recovered from the 28 hour, complicated travel from Rome to Zurich to Paris to Chicago to Los Angeles, where she is spending a few days with family and members of Shekina who have immigrated to California. She will return to El Salvador this weekend. Ruth plans to send us photos and maybe even a power point presentation about her experience at the conference, but she shared some initial stories about the gathering during our 45 minute phone call from the west coast.

Baptist leaders from 60 nations took part in the events -- “people of all colors, all languages, from all continents.” Ruth was deeply moved by the testimonies of peacemakers from diverse settings in Angola, Morocco, the Republic of Georgia, Bangladesh, Italy, the US, and more. She made many new connections, but also discovered a number of familiar faces in the crowd -- Ruth Mooney (former ABC missionary in El Salvador), Edgar Palacios (a Salvadoran pastor who now lives in Washington DC and is on staff at Calvary Baptist), Gustavo Parajon (Nicaragua), LeDayne McLeese Polaski (BPFNA), and Ken Sehested.

Ruth took part in a variety of training seminars, including a session on Peacemaking Heros (led by Dan Buttry), training in Restorative Justice (led by Marinetta Cannito Hjort, the Baptist Chaplain at American University), and an interesting discussion of bridge-building work between Christians and indigenous religious leaders in Mexico. She was pleasantly surprised to meet a Philadelphian in the crowd – Daniel Hunter, who has led conflict transformation trainings on five continents for various social justice movements.

One of the most meaningful interactions for Ruth came out of a workshop on Rev. Martin Luther King's legacy and his significance for on-going struggles in Latin America. The seminar was led by a Brazilian pastor who had studied in the US. Ruth expects to continue a dialogue with this pastor and they are hoping to find ways to connect their congregations.

Ruth's first and last words in the conversation were an expression of deep gratitude to CBC for enabling her to attend the conference. She sends a big “thank you” to CBC for helping her have access to this kind of experience for personal development and to enrich her ministry.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Conversations with Ruth Orantes at 5:30pm on Sunday, Feb 22nd

Plans are coming together for a phone conference with Ruth Orantes to talk with her about the Global Baptist Peace Conference she attended in Rome. All are welcome to join us for the conversations at 5:30pm at CBC on Sunday, Feb 22nd.

Ruth sent 3 email reports to us during her time at the conference, including this note about the closing worship held in the Waldensian church:

There were prayers in various languages, many songs, profound liturgical actions, and the prophetic preaching of Ken Sehested. We also celebrated communion. It was a deep moment -- people of different colors, with different languages, from different countries and experiences -- with everyone gathered together at the Lord's Table.

Advocacy Training re: Immigration Reform and New Sanctuary Movement

Plan to attend the Advocacy Training Event at Central Baptist Church this Saturday, Feb 21st, from 8:30am to 12:30pm. Breakfast is included.

One of the topics to be addressed in small groups will be Immigration Reform, which we have identified as a focus issue for education and advocacy.

The CBC Board of Outreach has lined up 2 people to present information on immigration issues -- Antony Dugdale, who works with the Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union in Philadelphia, and Peter Pedemonti, who is co-director of the Philadelphia New Sanctuary Movement.

The advocacy training general session will be lead by Rev. Lisa Harris from ABC-USA National Ministries. She will address a number of issues including:
  • How can we most effectively engage in the advocacy work that our faith calls us to?
  • How do we know what legislation is out there? What resources are there to evaluate it?
  • Where can we find out who our congressional representatives and who their staff are?
  • Is there a new paradigm for citizen participation in the Obama presidency?

The training will also include small group breakout sessions when you will choose from one of several focus areas:
  • Healthcare Reform – Dr. Stephen Gambescia, Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions
  • Gun Violence Prevention – Pastor Dolores McCabe, Eastern University and Millcreek Baptist Church
  • Immigration Reform – Antony Dugdale, Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union, and Peter Pedimonte, New Sanctuary Movement

Friday, February 13, 2009

Seeds of Hope Benefit Dinner for El Salvador farmers


"Seeds of Hope"
Benefit Dinner and Silent Auction

1:00pm to 4:00pm
Sunday, March 15, 2009
Whitsun Hall at Camphill Soltane
224 Nantmeal Rd. / Glenmoore, PA

Minimum suggested donations: $15.00 for a meal and a handcrafted pottery bowl, $8.00 for the meal only. Reserve your bowl now! Advance tickets and more information are available from Kathleen Bailey, who teaches at Soltane.

Proceeds of the fundraising event will support the SHARE Foundation's microlending project for farmers in El Salvador. See below for details about the food crisis in El Salvador and SHARE's new agricultural program.

At Camphill Soltane (www.camphillsoltane.org), the prevocational students have spent this school year preparing for a Benefit Dinner to support the Seeds of Hope Initiative as a way of adding a practical component to their experience of this year’s academic theme which is World Cultures. The garden class has grown, harvested and preserved herbs and vegetables for the dinner. The cooking class has chosen soup recipes and begun making and freezing soup. The library skills class created tickets and publicity flyers; the pottery class has a goal of creating 200 bowls, and the bicycle maintenance shop is donating a bicycle to the silent auction table.

On March 15, four members of our CBC congregation will be in El Salvador monitoring the presidential elections. We invite you to attend the Soltane Seeds of Hope Benefit Dinner on that day in an act of solidarity with them.

Seeds of Hope
There is an ongoing world food crisis happening before our eyes. Last year, in El Salvador the price of beans jumped from 45 cents per pound to $1.25, nearly twice the price of beans in the United States. The prices of corn and rice have also doubled or nearly doubled. In El Salvador, the combination of international trade policies, the succession of natural disasters such as droughts and flooding, competition for food and bio-fuel and the ARENA government’s dismantling of the agricultural sector for 19 years has profoundly compounded the crisis.

Yet in the face of this unfolding tragedy, a persistent group of small farmers across the Salvadoran countryside are finding local solutions to this crisis so that their families do not go hungry. These farmers are determined to stay on the land and feed themselves and their communities, as they have been asked to do for generations, despite the global pressures that are collapsing local food economies. Now they have turned to the SHARE Foundation for support. In response, SHARE has launched the “Semillas de Esperanza” (Seeds of Hope) Initiative in order to provide farmers with the supplies they need to sow seeds of hope, and to support this burgeoning movement towards food security and food sovereignty.

Salvadorans have been growing corn and beans since before the time of the conquest, so it would be easy to assume that there would be no shortage of these staples, and that Salvadoran farmers could produce enough for everyone on Salvadoran land, at prices consumers could afford. However, generations of land concentration and the more recent onset of economic policies that undercut local producers in favor of international trade (e.g. subsidized corn from Iowa) have made easy access to wholesome food a thing of the past.

El Salvador is literally going hungry – people are unable to feed themselves with what they earn -- and as a nation, more and more foods are being imported because local production is shutting down. Hunger and the resulting migration is proof that the current economic policies have failed to provide sufficient and realistic economic opportunities for poor Salvadorans.

However, the food crisis presents an opportunity. Salvadoran farmers have requested seeds of corn, beans and squash. If we can get seeds into their hands so that they can grow a crop that has increased in demand, we will be supporting both farmers, for whom basic grain production had ceased to be profitable, and consumers, for whom prices of basic grains have more than doubled in the past year. It is exciting to consider the possibility of famers regaining control of local food production so that they and their customers are not at the mercy of the global market.

The Seeds of Hope Initiative provides packages which include native seeds, organic fertilizers, and educational workshops about how to farm organically as a way to become more independent from high priced hybrid seeds and chemical inputs. A package costs $350 and will be offered as a micro-loan, the repayment of which will be used as a revolving fund for planting in the future.

For more information or to make an on-line donation, visit Seeds of Hope on the SHARE Foundation website.