Experience Latin America with CRLN!
CRLN's Encuentros: Encounters in Latin America program offers opportunties for people from Illinois to travel to Latin America, form relationships with organizations and communities working for social change, listen to their stories, and return home educated and motivated to share in the work for peace, justice and human rights. For many, Encuentros: Encounters in Latin America delegation visits are conversion experiences; transforming the way we see the world and our place and power in it. We find ourselves wrestling with how we are called to respond, collectively and individually, to such realities. These experiences help us to better understand seemingly abstract corporate and government policies and to base that understanding on what we experienced firsthand in Latin America.
Gary Cozette, founder of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America, tells of his experience working as a Presbyterian lay missioner in El Salvador during the violent civil war of the 1980s. Among his most poignant memories of his three years there is a recollection of how the Salvadoran people thanked him for his presence and solidarity in their country, but asked him to appeal to his President in the United States of America to stop sending the bombs that were killing their family members.
The U.S. government has tremendous power in the world and the effects of its policies extend far beyond the U.S. borders. Yet we, as U.S. citizens, are often unaware of this. By traveling to Latin America and meeting with the people whose lives are affected daily by U.S. policies, we are able to learn the truths about our trade, military, drug and aid policies. We return home to share our experiences with our communities and to work with our elected officials to celebrate the positives and to change the negatives of U.S. policy.
If we are serious about advancing justice, peace and human rights in our hemisphere, we must advocate for change with a sense of immediacy, with passion, and with perserverance. But from within the comfort of our daily lives, it can be difficult to feel the urgency, to find the passion, and to create the energy to perservere. Thus we must accept the call from our Latin American brothers and sisters to "come and see;" to experience firsthand the economic, political, social and cultural struggles and triumphs, so that we may understand the importance of a truly just and respectful U.S. foreign policy, and return home energized, inspired, informed and committed to be an active witness for peace.
By spending time in Latin American communities and living the realities- even for a few short days- the stories of Latin America become part of our own story. When we can recall from our own memory the sounds of Afro-Venezuelan drumbeats, the face of of a woman widowed by paramilitary violence, the touch of the calloused hands of a famer forced from his land, the scent of the coconut milk and rice simmering on the stove, and the tiredness in our own legs from a walk up the mountain to a small village, we are no longer separate beings, but one community, united. And as one community, we can do nothing less than fight for the justice and peace that all so rightly deserve.
The Encuentros program has four components:
- Interfaith and ecumenical educational travel to Latin America: CRLN will organize 2-4 opportunities for group travel each year to explore vital social justice issues. Click here to learn about upcoming trips and click here to learn about how you could help make one of these transformative experiences possible for someone else.
- Emergency Solidarity Travel: CRLN roccasionally receives requests from its Latin American partner organizations to be present at critical events, such as to provide an international presence in response to security concerns. Click here to learn more about CRLN's hope to send emergency accompaniment when requested during a human rights crisis in Latin America.
- Denominational, congregational or university support for travel to Latin America: Many student groups, congregations, and denominations already have groups traveling to Latin America. CRLN can provide these groups with exceptional in-country contacts, help group members connect their travel with the call for social justice, and provide opportunities for continued involvement on Latin American justice issues. If you are part of a group traveling to Latin America or would be interested in forming one with members of your community, and would like CRLN to serve as a resource for anything from orientation sessions to logistics, contact Erica at 773-293-2964 or email@example.com.
- Partner oganization travel to Latin America: CRLN recognizes that other organizations offer valuable experiences in Latin America, as well. CRLN works with partner organizations to promote a wide variety of quality travel opportunities. Click here for a calendar of upcoming opportunities.
Who can go on CRLN-organized trips?
CRLN offers a variety of travel opportunities each year. Some Encuentros programs are designed for those with little or no prior experience in Latin America, and others are intended for those with a more advanced understanding of the program topic or host country. The majority of our trips are interfaith in nature and are open to anyone who may be interested, but certain trips may be better suited for those of a particular religious belief or denominational identity. CRLN's trips are designed for those aged 18 and older, but mature high school students may be considered if accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Just let us know your interests and we'll help you find the travel experience that is right for you!
Please, come with us to Latin America! Accept the invitation to encounter truth, encounter hope, live the pain, live the joy, and grow in relationship with your brothers and sisters in Latin America. Go and see...and come back and tell. Click here to learn about upcoming travel opportunities and contact Erica at 773-293-2964 or firstname.lastname@example.org to request more information or an application form.