Erin Cox - 2010 Encuentro Local Updates Print

2010 Encuentro Local Updates

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS, USA

By ERIN COX
8th Day Center


My efforts towards resisting US militarization around issues in Central and South America has been strongly focused on education and raising awareness after organizing and participation in several delegations to Colombia, Honduras, and El Salvador.  For the past 4 years I have helped to coordinate delegations to Colombia with Witness for Peace in partnership with SOAW and 8th Day Center for Justice.   These delegations focused on a variety of issues in Colombia ranging from Human rights abuse, military repression, corporate abuse, and internally displaced persons.  We have traveled to regions including Uraba, Cauca and will be traveling to the Magdalena region to focus on private corporations Chiquita and Dole, who have hired paramilitary groups to gain access to the land and internally displace local farmers.  Representatives from both the United States and Canada return to their respective countries to share their witness with their local communities as well as use the information gained to influence US and Canadian policy towards Latin America.

These delegations are extremely affective for people to Witness firsthand the impacts of U.S. policies and Corporate influence in Colombia.  We hope to include within our delegation this year a visit to one of the seven US bases in Colombia in order to highlight this issue on our return reports as well as speak with military representatives.  It is important to have a presence at these bases in order to show our concerns as well as make this issue more visable to the public.

Days of Prayer and Action in Colombia

In addition to Delegations to Colombia, 8th Day Center for Justice and members of Illinois SOAW have been active participants in Days of Prayer and Action for Colombia. This is a nationwide event to act, promote and pray in solidarity with Colombia. The day of prayer for Colombia is where hundreds of congregations pray for peace in Colombia-focused worship services. In my own faith community I coordinated a worship service where partipants joined in sharing stories of their witness in Colombia as well as prayed in solidarity for peace in Colombia. The Day of Action is dedicated to witness and call on U.S. policy to promote peace and justice in Colombia.

This year Universities, faith communities, and organizations assembled thousands of printed faces of Colombia's displaced people that were later displayed in public spaces around the country.  In Chicago, we displayed the faces around the Federal Plaza, where people could walk by and see the images of displaced Colombians. Each face was framed with a message to President Obama. All the faces were sent to Washington, D.C. for a final, massive display and were then presented in person to representatives of the Obama Administration.

Thanks to Witness for Peace for collecting the results of DOPA.   Over 43,000 people participated in 134 events in 70 cities across the U.S. and Colombia.  This number increased by almost 50% over last year's total participation.  This increase was due to 1,500 people who participated in 47 poster-making gatherings, Over 36,000 people who participated in 32 poster displays (four times as many displays as last year) Over 17,000 people of faith who held 55 Colombia-focused worship services (43,000 total participants is less than the sum of these three numbers because I eliminated overlap for joint events) Advocacy: Alerts from 15 organizations generated over 4,000 calls and emails to Congress, while participants met in person with over 40 Congressional offices   DOPA was covered in 25 significant media hits, including 15 radio interviews, 7 articles, and 3 TV news spots.

The most effective part about DOPA is to have an activity that engages all types of people and ages together and simultaneously raises awareness about the situation in Central America. Using images gets people's attention in addition to government offices (rather than just sending a letter./

Delegation to Honduras and National Honduras Solidarity Movement:

In November 2009 I participated in a delegation to Honduras with the Quixote Center to focus on responding to the violence and human rights abuse occurring after the illegal military coup in Honduras on June 28th 2009.

The goal of the delegation was to accompany the national resistance movement formed in the aftermath of the coup to coordinate non-violent resistance efforts.   When I returned from the delegation I participated in awareness raising efforts on radio as well as wrote an article for a newsletter regarding what I witnessed in Honduras.

Since the Coup, 8th Day Center for Justice has joined as a member organization to the National Honduras Solidarity Network. This Network is decentralized and made up of local and national organizations committed to providing solidarity support for the people of Honduras. Part of 8th Day's commitment to this network is to join in efforts to support nonviolent resistance to the coup and current regime in Honduras as well as continue to raise awareness to our constituents of the ongoing oppression in the country.

8th Day works on a local level with the Chicago Honduran Solidarity Network to promote actions and awareness on a local level.  We have helped to promote and host speakers from Honduras in Chicago.  In addition, members of the coalition have met with Representative Shakowsky and others to pressure them to act on behalf of the Honduran people.  The National network printed a full page ad in El Tiempo on February 25th 2009 to both denounce the illegal coup and ongoing oppression of the Honduran people, as well as express international solidarity and support to the resistance.

The most effective aspect of the National network is the ability to collaborate on public statements and solidarity efforts to raise awareness of the situation through speakers from Honduras coming to the US as well as delegations.   The bimonthly conference calls have room to improve in order to become more productive.  However, provide a space to hear from representatives from the Resistance in Honduras on how to become most effective regarding solidarity efforts in the United States.