Chris Knestrick - 2010 Encuentro Local Updates Print

2010 Encuentro Local Updates


Christian Peacemaker Teams

What has been the focus of your efforts?

While, I have briefly worked on US militarization in other parts of Latin America, over the last 7 years, my work has strongly focused on the U.S. militarization in Colombia and the SOA.  Specifically, I have worked for the end of Plan Colombia and the policy of fumigations. This work has also included the connection between U.S. Militarization and/or militarization in general and natural resources along with the presence of multinational corporations.  Furthermore, attempting to visualize the obvious connection that the School of Americas role in this diabolical relationship between US militarization/Capitalism/Racism.

For me, this work started in my university with the study of Latin America liberation theology in connection with my first SOAW protest at the gates of Fort Benning.  Since that time, I have worked on these issues with Pax Christi USA, the InterReligious Taskforce on Central America and Colombia, The Catholic Worker Movement, and the Christian Peacemaker Teams.

What has a been the form of your efforts?

For me, the work has taken many different forms of resistance and organizing, such as Lobbying, education, and direct action, and accompaniment.  I would say that I have put most of my energy into education, direct actions, and now accompaniment work. While working at the InterReligious Taskforce on Central America and Colombia, I was in charge of youth organizing.  My role was to educate and encourage the high school students in Cleveland Ohio to participate in issues around Peace and Justice, especially in Latin America. Through this program, we took teen delegation to Nicaragua, a Student Teach-in with more the 300 high school and college participants, bus trips to the SOAW protest, and others. Furthermore, I believe that direct action is a very important part of any social movement; I have organized and participated in public action in Cleveland Ohio. These actions have included symbolic actions in the streets and parks to visualize and remind the folks  what the United States is doing in Colombia. More recently, in my life, I have begun to work with the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Colombia Project, where we do accompaniment work with the social organization and communities in the Magdalena Medio region of Colombia.

What have been the most effective and least effective?

This is a difficult question to answer. Sometimes, I feel like very little we do is effective and the beast is just too damn big.  Other times, I feel like we are very effective. I think that my work with the students in the Cleveland area was really effective. Cleveland has a great base of students that are aware of the issue of US militarization and are working within the movement and are thinking about how to live in solidarity with all peoples.  This to me is a sign of success and being effective in organizing.

How have these efforts impacted US militarization in Latin America?

This is another hard question but honestly, I am not sure I have had much impact.  Before president Obama, I might have said that with the decrease in military spending through Plan Colombia, we have had some success. But now with Obama and the military bases here in Colombia, I am not sure.

How have these efforts changed you?

These efforts have changed me and continue to be changed every day. I have been most changed by building stronger relationships with the movements that are in Latin America. I have come to understand the importance of a globalized social movement. Furthermore, I have come to understand, how classism, racism, sexism, and all oppression are part of US militarization and effect our movement and that we need to continue to work to undo them all every day.