On June 10, 2014, long-time CRLN member John Fish died after a full life dedicated to ministry, teaching, mentoring and community organizing. We remember him as someone who organized his own congregation to declare sanctuary and house Guatemalan and Salvadoran fleeing death squads in the 1980's to challenge the US policy of turning them away at the border instead of offering them asylum. He then organized a Southside Chicago network of sanctuary congregations, was one of the founders of the Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance and then of the Midwest regional network of congregations offering sanctuary.
John was someone who thought systemically and globally and acted locally. He combined in-depth analysis of social injustices with an ability to inspire others to get involved in dreaming up positive solutions and working to make them real. The students he mentored often cite him as the reason they made major changes in their lives-deciding to live in the city, or working to change US policy on Latin America.
The following is the obituary written by John's family:
In May, five members of University Church visited the rural K'iché Mayan community of Saq Ja', Guatemala. The congregation has had a 15 year partnership with the community since soon after the end of the 36-year civil war. Initiated by Virgilio Vicente, born in Saq Ja' but relocated in Chicago after receiving death threats during the war years, the partnership has helped the congregation understand better the role of the US government in funding and training the Guatemalan army that targeted and destroyed over 600 Mayan villages and brutally massacred children, women and men in the 1980s.
The congregation has also accompanied the people of Saq Ja,' after they returned to their village and began piecing their lives back together, to learn just how much effort it takes for a community to recover from a war. As a sign of our desire to help rebuild what funds from our government had helped to destroy, we raised funds for various projects named and planned by the community, partially through the Pedal for Peace Bike-a-thon (started by the Chicago Metropolitan Sanctuary Alliance and continued by CRLN after the two organizations merged) held every fall in Chicago.
We have witnessed over the years Saq Ja's efforts to rebuild and improve its infrastructure (houses, church, schools, water system, corn grinding mill, latrines) and have been impressed by their dedication to providing their children with education. This is priority number one in Saq Ja'...and the Guatemalan government does little to facilitate the process. The national government provides free education for children through sixth grade, but teachers are poorly paid and, especially in the rural and Mayan areas, funds often arrive late. Teachers end up teaching without pay until the government finally gets around to disbursing funds. Facilities are often not large enough for the numbers of children enrolled, and there is little funding for school materials.
The movement for immigrant rights is visible everywhere: the pressure on Congress to break the gridlock has not let up, while President Obama is increasingly on the defensive for his record-breaking deportations. The Not One More Deportation Campaign has successfully changed the national dialogue through highlighting families caught in a broken system. Massive civil disobedience actions happen weekly across the country, and congregations are once more providing sanctuary to immigrants.
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Tito Moreno is a valued member of Iglesia Unida UCC in Berwyn, IL. He migrated from El Salvador in 1980 and has been passionately and actively involved in the fight for social and immigrant justice ever since. Below is his reflection on the 2014 May Day march.
Tito Moreno, on the upper left corner, alongside fellow CNSC representatives (left to right) Sidney Hollander, Tina Escobar, Gwen Farry, Carol Cook, and Liz Castillo.
The 2006 immigration walks were one of the most impacting experiences I've ever had. Indeed, so much so that I haven't stopped marching since. Participating in marches gives me great inner pleasure and satisfaction. I especially enjoy the May Day marches because they are an opportunity to commemorate hardworking people everywhere. In the May Day marches, one sees sisters and brothers of many varying races, languages, nationalities, and faiths. Workers and immigrants all are all present--some demanding a living minimum wage, others an end to deportations, but everyone knowing that together "Yes we Can!" Every time that I see such a diverse group of people gather, I'm convinced all our efforts and hopes are not in vain.
I thank God that I have been able to march since 2006. Thanks to God, I've had the energy and health to keep on contributing to the fight for immigrant and social justice. Every march, rally, and gathering is important. Beyond raising group consciousness and unity, they all serve a real purpose in the fight for immigrant justice.
On Wednesday, May 7th, 2014, immigrant mothers and allies were in Washington, DC to deliver postcards urging President Obama to "use the power of the pen" to stop deportations. This action was coordinated by our ally, the National Alliance of Latin American and Caribbean Communities (NALACC). The group called on the President to use his executive authority to keep immigrant families together; and visited Congress to share their personal stories and urge legislators to move the country toward common-sense immigration policies that allow all families to thrive.
The national debate on immigrants and immigration policy is quickly reaching a boiling point. The central demand by immigrant communities is a very clear one: Stop Deportations. Immigrant mothers from across the country are telling true stories of the pain being inflicted on families across the nation every single day. They hope to inspire the President to use "the power of the pen" to do what is morally right, and set the tone for the kind of legislation which would more clearly address the immigration crisis.
Please call your Rep TODAY and ask that they sign on to the McGovern "Dear Colleague" letter in support of key goals of Colombia's peace negotiations. The letter's deadline Thursday, May 8th!
The brief letter supports and congratulates the members at the negotiating table for making the progress they have thus far but, more importantly, also calls for a ceasefire while the negotiations continue in order to stop the bloodshed in the meantime. A statement like this from US officials sends a powerful message to the main actors in the Colombian conflict: The peace accord is crucial, but NOW is the time for peace in Colombia!
1. Call you're the Congressional hotline (202) 224-3121, tell them your member of Congress (click here if you don't know), then ask to be connected. Once connected, ask for the foreign policy staffer and tell them any variation of the following:
Claudia Paz y Paz can be proud of her accomplishments as Attorney General of Guatemala. Appointed in 2010 by former President Alvaro Colom, she started her term in office at a time when 98% of crimes reported went unsolved and unprosecuted. The backlog of human rights violations cases from the civil war years was also immense. After 3 years, working with other reform-minded individuals in the judicial system and with the International Commission on Impunity in Guatemala, she decreased this impunity rate by a whopping 30% and was one of those involved in bringing the genocide case against former President and General Efrain Rios Montt.
Victims of crime, indigenous peoples, and human rights groups in Guatemala and in the international community cheered her on. For the first time in a long time, it seemed like it might be possible to believe in the rule of law in Guatemala, to believe that the legal insitutions in Guatemala would uphold justice equally for everyone.
Then came the signs that the military, political and economic powers, who benefit from impunity, were not going to allow such progress to continue.
IMMEDIATE ACTION NEEDED!
Contact the Foreign Policy Staffer in Washington DC Office of Your U.S. Rep in Congress!
On Monday, April 28, 2014, Rep. Jan Schakowsky began circulating a sign-on "Dear Colleague" letter in the U.S. House of Representatives to Secretary of State John Kerry addressing Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Honduras. (See the letter's complete text below)
The letter states that "egregious violations of human rights continue" almost 5 years after the coup. It raises concerns about militarization of the police, and the failure to investigate or prosecute human rights abuses, including in the Aguan Valley. The letter also raises concerns about freedom of speech and associations, and questions whether the November 2013 election was not free and fair.
The letter asks State Department to:
- Pay close attention to these issues and strictly evaluate U.S. support for Honduran security forces, in accordance with conditions placed on the aid in the 2014 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.
- Fully enforce the Leahy Law, which prohibits U.S. assistance to any individual or unit that has committed gross human rights abuses and is not being brought to justice.
The deadline to sign on is Friday, May 9, 2014 at 5:00 PM eastern time. We need your help in securing the signature of your Member of the U.S. House of Representatives on this letter. Only members of the House can sign the letter.
Carlos Mejia Orellana, journalist and marketing director of Radio Progreso in Honduras, was murdered in his home on April 11, 2014. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights had issued precautionary measures on behalf of Mr. Mejia and over a dozen other Radio Progreso staff members, who all had received death threats over the last five years. However, the Honduran government had failed to implement these measures by providing protection.
Radio Progreso and its research arm, ERIC, work for the promotion of human rights and social justice through information, education reflection, and communication. It played an important role after the coup by educating the public on the actual content of the Honduran constitution and countering false information being broadcast by those who carried out the coup.
Father Ismael Moreno, director of Radio Progreso, believes that Mr. Mejia was murdered for his human rights work. Reporters Without Borders, an international group working for freedom of the press, also counts this as a strong possibility and condemned the killing. They and other international organizations are calling on the government of Honduras to conduct a thorough investigation which does not immediately rule out the possibility that Mr. Mejia was murdered for his human rights work.
To read more about this case and add your voice to the outcry from the international community about this killing, click here for the Amnesty International Urgent Action case description, which includes the names, addresses and fax numbers of Honduran officials to write.