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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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.

We are not deterred: TPP is the next fight

(Photo credit: AP) After two long years of our uphill battle against Fast Track and the TPP, we've finally gotten to the 2016 election season (which, yes, starts mid-2015). After the latest round of TPP negotiations failed in Hawaii a couple weeks ago, fair-trade activists everywhere are beginning to suspect that the TPP is no longer a tenable issue for members of Congress to touch, given that their parties are trying to win the White House in 2016 and the TPP remains wildly unpopular. In the coming weeks, we'll be listening closely for news of new TPP negotiating rounds and the possibility that the text could be finalized before it becomes more of an election issue than it already is. The Hawaii rounds showed us the immense discord between negotiating countries, with Canada already in elections & pushing its dairy restrictions, Japan protecting its rice crops, Mexico wanting more access to the auto industry, and the U.S. demanding strict protections for pharmaceutical corporations (among other corporate interests).....

Celebrating the Unaccompanied Children's Interfaith Ministry

In partnership with Heartland Alliance, the Interfaith Committee for Detained Immigrants (ICDI), and Sisters and Brothers of Immigrants, the CRLN is proud to coordinate the Unaccompanied Children’s Interfaith Ministry.

For almost two years the UCIM has put faith to action, providing pastoral care in children's centers and, in doing so, touching the lives of hundreds of unaccompanied chilren arriving at our border in search of safety and refuge. Celebrate the work accomplished and commit to continue fighting for refugee migrant children. Join volunteers, faith leaders, and staff for an evening of celebration, testimony, ministry, and advocacy!

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Save the date! 2015 Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon, Saturday, September 26, 1:00-4:30!

Come join CRLN, Chicago-Cinquera Sister Cities, Chicago-Guatemala Partnership, Concern America, and La Voz de Los de Abajo and ride in the 28th Annual Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon! All money raised will go to support education, health and community organizing projects run by rural communities without many financial resources in El Salvador, Guatemala, Colombia and Honduras. While they lack funds, our Latin American partners are skilled and capable at knowing their own needs, setting their own goals and priorities, and organizing themselves to accomplish what they set out to do. All organizations participating in this event have long-term, ongoing relationships with these Latin American communities.

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