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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An Historic Moment for Guatemala

Events in Guatemala have moved at a fast pace since April, beginning with the extension of the mandate of CICIG, the UN Commission charged with uncovering and prosecuting Guatemala's clandestine criminal networks, and culminating in the resignation, arrest, and jailing of President Otto Perez Molina and much of his administration, Click here for a timeline of events. Since April, almost all sectors of Guatemalan society have been protesting in front of the national palace, demanding these resignations. For once, legal processes and public protests have reinforced each other.

But what's next? A regularly scheduled national election took place last Sunday in spite of calls to postpone it until after there was time to push through reforms. Many felt that because the corruption is widespread and systemic, they merely will be electing new criminals to replace the old ones. However, the months-long protests appear to have awakened a spirit of public vigilance, and new public officials will have to be on their guard.

Fall membership letter

September 4, 2015

Dear members and friends of CRLN,

It’s been a busy spring and summer! We’ve been responding to the many challenges that are being experienced by our brothers and sisters in Latin America and in immigrant families across our own nation. Thanks to those of you who have already renewed your membership. If you have not, we invite you to renew your membership or become a CRLN member for the first time to support the kind of work we do in response to requests for justice and accompaniment. You may donate online here .

Here are just some examples of the work we’ve been engaged in since our last membership letter:

The fight against deportation and detention continues. Although President Obama announced an executive action last November which would shield certain immigrants from deportation, those protections have been challenged in court and have yet to be implemented. Meanwhile, deportations continue. Every day, the government deports 1,100 immigrants and maintains a Congressionally mandated 34,000 immigrants, (children, mothers, and fathers included) in detention. Since December the CRLN has provided support to five individuals and their families, calling on folks like YOU to sign petitions, make calls to ICE, and to rally in defense of members of our community and undocumented mothers and fathers. The valiant struggles of these individuals have illustrated many things to us, among them the deep disconnect between ICE’s priorities for enforcement, their so-called focus on “felons, not families,” and their actual detention and deportation practices out in the field.

An Immigrant Justice Reflection for the High Holidays

One day, an old Rabbi asked his disciples the question: How do you know when there is enough light to see?... (the disciples offered a number of suggestions)...Then his followers looked at the Rabbi and were silent. Finally the old master raised his eyes, and spoke quietly and with deliberation. “There is enough light to see when you can look into the eyes of another person and understand that he or she is your brother or sister”.

From a Supplement for Days of Awe Services, Jewish Reconstructionist Congregation

Reflection by JRC Member, Tina Escobar

Tuesday, the 25 th of August, at the Chicago Sinai Temple, with our fellow volunteers, CRLN friends and guests, we celebrated the Unaccompanied Children’s Interfaith Ministry. It was a wonderful program. We hugged our fellow interfaith volunteers, now through shared struggle, our friends and community; we enjoyed Middle Eastern treats, and received certificates of appreciation for our work with unaccompanied children; we were both enlightened and touched by Maribel’s courage as she shared with us what her experience as an unaccompanied child migrating from Guatemala to the United States last year has looked like; and we were stirred by Reverend Sara, who demonstrated the paper prayer candles the children “light” and float during our visits. She confronted and challenged us, reminding us that no one can be complacent in the current climate of racism and anti-immigrant sentiment...

Lots of Hope & Work to Come: Colombia 2015 Delegation

On Saturday, August 22nd, Witness for Peace began their delegation hosting people from all over the U.S. in Colombia to investigate the effects of the U.S.-Colombia Free Trade Agreement on workers, Afro-Colombians and Indigenous Peoples. From Chicago, CRLN Public Policy Coordinator Celeste Larkin joined three members of Kuumba Lynx --an arts education and youth development program in Chicago dedicated to cultural empowerment and hip-hop pedagogies, & winner of the Chicago's Teen Slam Poetry Championships for 5 of the last 8 years. Along with us Chicago folks, the delegation also included U.S. organizers from black power movements, labor struggles, international solidarity work, academia, artists & students.

The powerful members of our U.S.-based delegation were able to connect with Afro-Colombians, Indigenous peoples, unionists, youth, artists and Colombian communities whose resistance work reflects the struggles of so many communities in the U.S. We visited the port workers, the humanitarian zone and the displacecd Wounaan people while in Buenaventura; the Memory Gallery of Cali; the rural and African-descendent community of La Esperanza on the outskirts of Buenaventura; African-descendant communities displaced by the internal armed conflict; the Nasa community in Cauca; sugar cane cutters outside of Cali; feminist organizers outside of Bogota...

New Administrative Assistant Joining CRLN!

CRLN welcomes a new staff member! Maria Isabel Leon Gomez (Marisa) joined our office as Temporary Administrative Assistant. Born and raised in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Marisa grew up with a strong desire to help and fight for social justice in her country. In addition to that, her interest in languages, cultures and people of all walks of life led her to do an internship in UNICEF-Honduras during high school and later to pursue a B.A in Global Studies with an International Development concentration and a minor in French at Salve Regina University in Newport, Rhode Island. While in college, Marisa studied abroad for one year in Lyon, France, worked at Salve’s Regina Office of International Programs and did a thesis on the effects of drug trafficking on the socioeconomic development of Honduras. During her summer breaks, she traveled back to Honduras and volunteered for Educate2Envision, a non-profit helping low-income Hondurans finish their high school education through the creation of their own businesses.

Subsequently, after college, Marisa interned as Latin American Programs Assistant at the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation (AIPR), a non-profit based in New York City focused on genocide and mass atrocity prevention. She traveled with AIPR to Santiago, Chile to aid in the logistical planning of the Raphael Lemkin Seminar for Genocide Prevention, Latin America Edition. During her stay in Chile, she learned of the acts committed by Pinochet’s government (1973-1990) and increased her passion for human rights in our hemisphere. Additionally, she is interested in topics such as development, education, women’s empowerment and rights, controlling drug abuse and trafficking, violence prevention and decreasing military involvement in civil policing. She is delighted to join and be part of CRLN!

Bridges to Community Youth Encounter September 26!

What: Bridges to Community seeks youth who wish to understand the immigrant experience in Chicago and learn about immigration and other related issues.

When: September 26, 2015, 9 AM to 6 PM

Where: TBD

Costs: $100. Includes 2 meals and in-city transportation. Scholarships available.

Sample Activities: Immigration simulation games, hearing stories from undocumented parents, spiritual reflections and collaborative presentations.

Contact Information: Rev. Sara Wohlleb, swohl-leb@crln.org ; or Lissette Castillo, lcastillo@crln.org , 773-293-3680

See attached flyer for more information, comments of previous participants and sample itinerary.

"Adelante CRLN! A Tribute to Gary Cozette" Celebrates Gary's Human Rights Work

On June 13, over 150 people gathered to celebrate the human rights work of Gary Cozette on the occasion of his retirement from CRLN. For 30 years, Gary has engaged in solidarity with organizations representing those who suffer from poverty, violence and social and political exclusion in Latin America, beginning with his years serving as a lay missioner and human rights accompanier in El Salvador with the Presbyterian Church; continuing with his return to Chicago, work with the Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance (CMSA) and founding of CRLN; the eventual merger of CRLN with CMSA; and his work as program director within an expanded CRLN staff. He won wide admiration for the effectiveness of his advocacy,for his ability to motivate people to work to change U.S. policy toward Latin America, and his responsiveness to the concerns of partner organizations in Latin America. His persistence and integrity are legendary.

Gary will now be free to pursue other interests, although he has indicated that he will always be involved in the movement for justice in Latin America. He spoke at the event of the importance of attending to the issue of climate change, a movement in which he is already involved. We wish him well and can't wait to see what he does next!

Here are some pictures from the event:

Honduran and Guatemalan Social Movements Protest Government Corruption; U.S. Continues Government Aid

For several months, activists, campesinos , students, and trade unionists—this time joined by middle-class and business people--have engaged in hunger strikes, marches with torches, protests in front of government buildings, and calls for the resignation of Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina. Everyone is fed up with official stealing from the public coffers. Hundreds of millions of dollars from the Social Security Institute have been stolen by officials in Honduras crippling the public health system. CICIG, the UN commission charged with uncovering the connections between organized crime and the government, has issued statements that it has hard evidence that the President and Vice President were at the head of a graft scheme that cheated the state out of tax revenue for social programs and funnelled bribes to multiple Guatemalan officials. Political parties have used pilfered public funds and donations from organized crime to fund the majority of their election campaigns.

Making Chicago the most Immigrant-Friendly City in the Country

The CRLN and its Immigrant Welcoming Congregatinos (IWC) are proud to form part of the Chicago Policy Immigration Working Group, spearheaded by progressive aldermen like Carlos Ramirez-Rosa and local service and advocacy organizations. On August 18th, we went public with our Comprehensive Immigration Integration Plan to make the city of the Chicago the most-immigrant friendly city in the country!

Our goals include maintaining the dividing line between local police and Immigrant Customs Enforcement (ICE) clear and firm, assuring access to city services for non-English speakers, providing more low-cost legal services for individuals and families facing deportation, the...

Religious Leaders Welcome Embassy Openings and Continue to Work to End the Embargo of Cuba!

As religious leaders welcome the historic reopening of embassies in the U.S. and Cuba they are continuing to advocate for the end of the embargo and the remaining travel restrictions. Rev. Raul Suarez (pictured at left), director of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Center in Havana, called the opening of embassies in Cuba and the United States a very positive historical step. He noted that religious communities in Cuba and the U.S. have worked hard for a moment like this and continue to work for the end to the blockade. Bishop Oscar Cantú, chairman of the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Committee on International Justice and Peace has lauded progress toward reopening the embassies as a “positive development” in a June 22 letter to members of Congress and urges legislators to support bills in Congress to end the embargo and travel restrictions.


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