30+ Years of Work!
In April 1982, the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America (CITCA) was founded. The founders included: Sr Evelyn Mattern, NCCC, and Rev. Bill Jeffries, Ann Welch, AFSC, Dr. Allen Nealy, Southeastern Baptist Seminary, Rev. Joe Mann, Wesley Foundation, Joe Moran, Church World Service and Gail Phares. Gail Phares also helped found a national organization, Witness for Peace. Since 2011, we began operating under a single organizational name, Witness for Peace Southeast.
A year later, 30 people from 10 different faith traditions visited Nicaragua to assess the impact of US funding of the covert war against Nicaragua. The group included: Dr. John McCloud (Synod of NC), Fr. Henry Atkins (Episcopal Diocese), Kathryn Gramley (Moravian Church), Dr. Gil Joseph (UNC CH), Dr.Jeff Boyer (ASU), Dr. Jim Hunt (Shaw Univ.) Sr. Evelyn Mattern (Unitarian Universalist), Peggy Olney and Mary Hayes Holmes, among others.
We returned home to organize Action for Peace in July 1983 – 150 people from 37 states traveled to Jalapa, Nicaragua to witness firsthand the suffering caused by the US funded contras. Out of this trip would come Witness for Peace, which became the longest known non-violent presence in an active war zone in history.
Hundreds of people would visit Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and Colombia over the next 24 years. We returned, moved by what we had seen and heard. We worked with our churches, spoke to the media, and to our members of Congress. Eventually, we helped to halt funding for the contra war and encouraged the US government to stop funding the wars in Guatemala and El Salvador. Over the years, we have worked for a just trade policy with Mexico. Currently, we are working to stop US funding for the war in Colombia and to support the people in Latin America who struggle to create more just societies.
People who traveled to Latin America with Witness for Peace would return home to initiate other programs in solidarity with the poor: the Jubilee House Community from Statesville have started a Center for Development based in Ciudad Sandino on the edge of Managua. Dr. John Paar founded Project Health for Leon. Lonna and Richard Harkrader started the dynamic program Durham/San Ramon Sister Communities. Rev. Allen Proctor, Presbyterian Campus Minister at NC State has brought hundreds of students to Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Guatemala. Dr. Jeff Boyer at Appalachian State has brought Episcopalians and ASU students to Honduras to work in sustainable development. Linda Mashburn has worked to strengthen Sister Parishes across the US.ave worked for a just trade policy with Mexico. Currently, we are working to stop US funding for the war in Colombia and to support the people in Latin America who struggle to create more just societies.
Latin Americans have had a transforming impact on our lives and our experiences transform both people and policy. Whether your involvement began with CITCA or Witness for Peace, rest assured that your energies and support remain essential and welcome.