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Home About Us Prisoners of Conscience Articles Why I Crossed the Line
Why I Crossed the Line PDF Print E-mail
[Note: To ?disappear? someone in Latin America means to kidnap and murder the victim. Often the victims? families never find out what happened to their loved ones.]

If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. If you have come here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then stay and we can work together.
-- Lila Watson, Aboriginal Educator, Activist

I am a 42 year old Quaker (Religious Society of Friends).

In August, 1997 I traveled to Chiapas, Mexico with four other Quaker women to volunteer at Hospital San Carlos in Altamirano. In December of that year, 45 mostly women and children were massacred in Acteal, Chiapas, Mexico.

In 2000, I participated in a Christian Peacemaker Team delegation to Chiapas and over the following two years, I lived in Guatemala for nineteen months.

In Guatemala, I heard stories and saw photographs of the massacres committed under the ?scorched earth? campaign of then president General Efrain Rios Montt and his top army general, both graduates of the School of the Americas. The numbers are staggering: 200,000 dead, 50,000 disappeared, 40,000 displaced.

In Guatemala, in the 1980?s, nearly the entire young intellectual population was assassinated. Today government informants secretly observe university classrooms listening for voices of dissent.

In Guatemala, I met women whose families had been ?disappeared.? Twenty years hence, they continue to ask of the whereabouts of their children, but only privately, still with fear.

Seven years after the signing of the peace accords, the oppression continues. The assassinations of human rights workers continue.

With the signing of Mexican President Vicente Fox?s Plan Puebla Panama (a NAFTA-like trade agreement) by all Central American governments and the groundwork of oppression laid, the land, the people are ripe for exploitation by multinational corporations.

And so I am led to cross the line, to take a stand, to bear witness, to say ?Not in my name. Not with my tax dollars.?

One day last February on my cross country skis it came to me that this will be the year I will cross and that it will be alright. My heart knew but my head was not convinced. So I wrote to Lisa Hughes (SOAPOC) who was then at Greenville Federal Prison Camp and Joyce Ellwanger (SOAPOC) who was then at Danbury and my leading found a way forward. I learned that it will not be easy for me nor for the people who love me, but that it is doable. And for me, the price is very small indeed in comparison with the costs my fellow human beings have had to and continue to bear at the hands of graduates of the School of the Americas/Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation.

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