Welcome to the homepage of the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN). Mission: The Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America (CRLN) stands in solidarity with those oppressed by poverty, violence and exclusion in this hemisphere working together for the respect of human dignity and empowerment of all peoples.  An interfaith network of individuals and communities, CRLN equips and mobilizes religious leaders, communities and individuals to advance peace, justice and human rights in our hemisphere.

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Solidarity Over Vilification

Presidential debate season is upon us. And it’s ugly. Violent, in fact. In the past several months, unless you’ve been blissfully disconnected from mainstream media and U.S. politics, you’ve probably heard some deeply xenophobic and racist comments coming from some Presidential candidates, then recycled time and time again through mainstream media. Whether or not we take said candidates seriously, we must acknowledge the implications of their public speeches and glean lessons for the ongoing work we’ve dedicated ourselves to.

CRLN stands in solidarity with those refugees, many of whom are Muslim, who are simultaneously fleeing from and blamed for U.S. funded wars in the Middle East. We express our solidarity with those continuing to organize around the important issues of refugee resettlement, who are combatting Islamophobia and White Supremacy by exposing exploitative political lies and spreading truth about communities in need of compassion. The CRLN also stands with Black and immigrant communities and women who have similarly been the victims of divisive and violent rhetoric and state violence. CRLN works on this solidarity by continuing to support folks fleeing U.S.-sponsored, low-grade warfare, legacies of genocide, and economic violence throughout Latin America who are then subjected to xenophobia, racism and sometimes even detention and deportation here in our country.

Second Illegal and Forced Eviction of El Tamarindo Community in Colombia

Peasant farmers of the El Tamarindo community established themselves on 120 hectares of land on the outskirts of Barranquilla, in northern Colombia, in the search for a safe haven from the long-running civil war taking place in the country. The community of 130 families had been violently displaced from their former homes in other parts of Colombia. However, in 2007, the new area in which the El Tamarindo community had settled was declared a duty-free zone, granting tax exemptions on income tax and import and export duties and making the land very attractive to businesses. Ever since then, local businesses have been claiming ownership over the land and harassing the community. The first forced eviction occurred in 2013. In this eviction, a portion of the community’s houses were destroyed by bulldozers and their crops damaged. Additionally, families had to leave their animals behind, losing their livelihood. The community, which continuously becomes smaller with each eviction, was relocated to an area known as El Mirador.

On December 9 th , 2015, the community began to be forcibly evicted again.

Criminalization of free speech and freedom of the press is 2015 Luncheon theme

180 people gathered at the 2015 CRLN Annual Luncheon to hear guest speaker Lorenzo Mateo Francisco, an indigenous Q’anjob’al radio journalist from Santa Eulalia, Huehuetenango, Guatemala. Lorenzo spoke about official suppression of Guatemalan Indigenous communities’ rights to free speech and freedom of the press. He also pointed out how the Guatemalan government criminalizes leaders in the movement to provide community radio stations, which broadcast in Indigenous languages, preserving and deepening cultural ties, providing momentum for community organizing, informing people of their rights and responsibilities as citizens, and covering events that affect their communities.

One year after the executive annoucements, what's really happening with immigration?

Last Friday, November 20 was the one year anniversary of President Obama’s immigration executive action announcements. It was also the one year anniversary of the Priorities Enforcement Program (PEP) encouraging police/ICE collaboration. On that day--just hours after the DOJ finally filed a request with the Supreme Court for reconsideration of the 5th Circuit Court’s recent decision to rule against the executive actions and to continue to withhold relief from millions of undocumented immigrants--Organized Communities Against Deportations (OCAD), a partner organization, led a press conference outside of the Chicago ICE Office. I was there, listening to the testimonies of undocumented immigrants who one year after the announcements were sharing their stories to move the conversation away from the executive actions and back to the ongoing detention and deportation crisis. An undocumented grandmother, who was denied necessary medications while in detention, reminded us of the negligent and miserable conditions that immigrants continue to endure in detention centers; a young father of US citizen children and longtime resident noted that the executive actions don’t go far enough, explaining that if and when implemented they still won’t cover for the majority of the undocumented community and that they will not shield people like him--who have convictions on their records, in his case a DUI from several years ago--from deportation.

Reflection During Thanksgiving Season / Reflexión Durante los Días de Gracias

(Español abajo)

While many in the CRLN community get ready for family gatherings, warm food, and time off of work, it’s important for us to recognize the history of the Thanksgiving holiday and the mythology that has us celebrating gratitude on Indigenous land that (if you’re in Chicago area) was robbed from the Mascouten, Michigamea, Miami, Potawatomi, Wea, Piankeshaw, and other Indigenous Peoples.

CRLN at the #SOA2015

(Español abajo)

This year, CRLN joined thousands of people down at Ft. Benning Georgia to build connections with organizers and activists from all over the world engaged in the struggles against state violence, forced migration, neoliberal economics and imperialism. CRLN worked with Witness for Peace and Colombia’s Congreso de Los Pueblos (The People’s Congress) to make several Colombia-focused panels possible. We were fortunate to have as part of our CRLN delegation Juan David Lopera, a Colombian organizer formerly part of Congreso de Los Pueblos now living in Chicago. Juan met with his Colombian counterpart Lenoardo Luna in Ft. Benning where they gave workshops about the Peace Process in Colombia. They stressed that, while the talks in Havana are crucial, real peace means economic models that serve the people instead of stealing their lands for the benefit an elite economic class. Juan and Leonardo also shared the work of Congreso de Los Pueblos to build autonomous movements of people power from the grassroots in Colombia to continue shifting power towards the grassroots.

191 Nations call for an end to the U.S. embargo against Cuba… so should you!

On October 27th, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution titled Necessity of ending the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States of America . In the weeks before the voting, there had been speculation that this year the United States would abstain from voting. Since the vote in 2014, President Barack Obama and Cuban President Raul Castro, with the mediation of Pope Francis , have made significant changes in U.S. - Cuba policy. However, the United States didn’t abstain from voting. Instead, it demanded that more recognition of the progress made in Cuban-U.S. relations be included in the text of the resolution by Cuba.

CRLN welcomes back Milton Mejía and Adelaida Jiménez from Barranquilla, Colombia

CRLN members will remember that Milton Mejía and Adelaida Jiménez came to Chicago in 2008-2009 for 2 years of study at McCormick Theological Seminary. Since that time, Milton is now the General Secretary of the Latin American Council of Churches ( Consejo Latino Americano de Iglesias , or CLAI) and Adelaida is Director of the Program of Theology at the Reformed University in Barranquilla.

Milton met with North American denominational and ecumenical leaders to suggest that the Christian churches of Latin America and those of North America might engage in a joint project to define a common identity, a common mission—taking into account and recognizing the diversity of the churches, but trying to find where their unity lies. He encouraged them to start thinking in the hemispheric term of “ las Americas, not creating divisions in our very language between north and south.

Adelaida, a feminist and contextual theologian, spoke at 8th Day Center for Justice on Wednesday. Her talk set the Colombian context: a country in a civil conflict for over 50 years that is in the midst of a Peace Process between the government and the FARC, the largest of the guerrilla groups that has opposed the government during the long war; a country in which a globalized neo-liberal economic model has taken root and been intensified in the US-Colombia Free Trade Agreement 2 years ago; a country with a long history of violence against women, which has often been religiously justified or excused by certain theological interpretations of Biblical passages. She then focused on the positive role of the Reformed University in teaching a theology focused on more central notions of social justice and peace, upholding women’s equal humanity and de-legitimizing violence against women.

2015 Pedal for Peace photos!

Thanks to all of you who rode on Saturday, we collectively raised $10,000 in pledges and contributions for health, education and community organizing efforts in Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras! A special joy was having with us Emilio, one of the students who received scholarship support through the Chicago-Guatemala Partnership, tell us about the impact of scholarships on his village in Guatemala.

A special thanks to volunteers Jerry Pendergast and Bob Hearst from Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities, who staffed and brought snacks for the 12- mile mid-point refreshment table; Mary Naftzger and Pat Wilcoxen from Chicago-Guatemala Partnership, who staffed and brought snacks for the south registration and 24-mile mid-point refreshment table; Marisa Leon Gomez and Kayla, from CRLN and North Park University, who helped with set-up and staffed the north registration site; and Vicki Cervantes, Miguel Vazquez, and Leslie Fiedler from La Voz de los de Abajo and Concern America, who helped with set-up and break-down of the site.

Below are photos from the event.

The Healthy IL Campaign for Healthcare and Immigrant Justice!

Nearly 526,000 undocumented individuals live in the state of IL. Every year hundreds of them are denied basic medical coverage simply because they are undocumented. The Healthy IL Campaign will fight to change this. Expanding health insurance coverage to all Illinoisans not only saves lives; it also benefits the entire state by promoting positive health care outcomes, family financial stability, and a more secure IL economy.


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