To learn more about Salvadoran Pastors Ruth and Alex Orantes, and for information about contributing to support their ministries in El Salvador, please visit

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 (, 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.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Greetings from Ruth Orantes at the Global Baptist Peace Conference

Thursday / Rome, Italy

Dear CBC brothers and sisters,

I'm in Rome and it is 11:20pm. I have not had any problems on my journey since I left El Salvador. My days in the Netherlands with the brothers and sisters of the Protestant Church of Ann Zee Egmond were very beautiful. Everyone treated me very well and we further strengthened the relationship with their congregation.

I arrived on Monday in Rome – or rather at the retreat center (outside Rome) where the conference is being held. I found some people I know – Rosemary Richard Kidd of Manchester, England; Rev. Edgar Palacios and his daughter from El Salvador (they live in Washington DC); Rev. Gustavo Parajon from Nicaragua; LeDayne from the Baptist Peace Fellowship whom I met in New Orleans; Ruth Mooney, who was a missionary in El Salvador; and Ken Sehested. I am also getting to know other people and making new connections.

The worship times are very significant. The presentations and the testimonies are very interesting, and the workshops are very productive. There are many subjects that are relevant for our journey in El Salvador.

We have people from about 60 countries – all colors, all languages, from all continents. I was talking one day with Dan Buttry and he said that he is very happy and impressed by the good number of young people here who can continue the work for peace and justice. Their presence brings much joy here. For example, we had a half hour after completing an activity, and here was a group of 25 youth trying to play together, even when they had to translate everything in several languages. But it was obvious that they were enjoying being together.

Last night, the Italians offered us a night of Italian music. It was "bellisimo!" There was a soprano who impressed everyone., and a harpist who played majestically, and also a trio and a quartet of singers.

Tomorrow we are going to visit Rome. We will have three activities. We will participate in a worship service in the Basilica of St. Paul's. At 4:00pm there will be a peaceful demonstration for peace in the Plaza San Lorenzo, and then we will have evening worship in the Waldensian Church, where Ken Sehested will be preaching.

Please share my gratitude with the brothers and sisters of CBC for making my participation in this Conference possible! May God bless you all.

With love,

Ruth Eunice Rodriguez de Orantes
Iglesia Bautisa Shekina

El Salvador Partners to join international observers for elections in El Salvador

We are excited to announce that Andy Smith, John Thayer, Doug Norton, Caroline Cargo, and Bernie Peterson will travel to El Salvador with the SHARE Foundation's 150-person delegation that is part of an international consortium of observers calling for free and fair democratic process in El Salvador's presidential elections on March 15th. Nora Pullen is also participating in the SHARE delegation with a group of American University students.

The work of the election observers delegation members actually begins well before arriving in El Salvador. Already we have received a 30-page election observers training manual to review, and SHARE is providing frequent updates and analysis of the political campaigns. When we arrive in San Salvador on March 10th, we will have a busy schedule, including instruction in specific roles for election observation teams, explanation of our official data keeping and report writing tasks, visits to the Legislative Assembly, accreditation by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and press conferences. After the elections, we are expected to prepare final reports that we will deliver to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and to the U.S. Embassy, as well.

Although the mission of this delegation is clearly focused on supporting the presidential elections process rather than visiting with our sister church communities, we are hoping that we will have an informal opportunity to connect with some of our friends from Shekina and Shalom since SHARE is likely to send a team of observers to the voting sites in Santa Ana. Also, Caroline Cargo will be arriving early in El Salvador in order to spend several days with Ruth and Alex Orantes and other members of Shekina prior to the official start of the SHARE delegation.

We look forward to reporting back about our experience! We have tentative plans for a CBC luncheon in April. Doug Norton is coordinating a presentation to Villanova University's Center for Peace and Justice Education, which provided some financial support for the delegation. And we plan to share written reflections with the Baptist Peace Fellowship and the Alliance of Baptists, both of which organizations have endorsed and promoted this election observers delegation as an official Baptist witness and presence in El Salvador .

El Salvador completes troop withdrawals from Iraq

The last 200 Salvadoran soldiers deployed to Iraq returned home to El Salvador on Saturday, February 7th.

Stationed in Al Kut, on the Tigris River near the Iranian border, the Salvadoran contingent was attached to Polish soldiers and was chiefly tasked with building schools, hospitals, roads and water and electricity infrastructure.

El Salvador was the only Latin American country with troops in Iraq after the Dominican Republic and Honduras pulled their troops out in 2004, following Spain's lead.

More than 2000 Salvadoran troops had been deployed since the first contingent was sent to Iraq in 2003. Ultimately 5 Salvadoran soldiers died and 20 were wounded during their term of service.

Here's a 6 minute excerpt from Guerra Ajena (Foreign War), an hour-long documentary on the Salvadoran troops in Iraq, which aired on Discovery Channel Spanish edition in 2007. Or go to this YouTube link.