Witness for Peace Southeast actually began as an entirely different organization—the Carolina Interfaith Task Force on Central America (CITCA). In April 1982, ten people joined together at the Catholic Center in Raleigh, NC, desperate to do something to combat the violence and horror of the US-backed civil wars raging at that time in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Nicaragua. There, they founded CITCA, and began organizing and rallying other concerned people to their cause. Their work culminated in a trip a year later, where they visited Nicaragua to assess the impact of US funding of the Contra War. During this trip in April 1983, they visited small communities on the Nicaraguan-Honduran border, which were under frequent attach by the Contras. One of the villages was under attack when the U.S. delegation arrived – they could see the Contra command center up in the Honduran hills. “They have stopped attacking because they can see you,” the delegation was told. After this trip, organizers returned to the U.S. They continued to build their base, eventually organizing 28 CITCA chapters all over North and South Carolina, and making connections across the nation. In July 1983, they returned with 150 people from 37 states and traveled to Jalapa, Nicaragua to hold an “Action for Peace” vigil, where they witnessed first-hand the suffering and pain caused by the U.S.-funded Contras.
Out of the profound experiences CITCA members had taken part in during the summer of 1983, a national organization was born: Witness for Peace. Designed to mobilize support for changing American foreign policy in Nicaragua, Witness for Peace almost immediately had a major impact, helping to prevent a full US invasion of Nicaragua by successfully pressuring the Reagan administration. Eventually, WFP helped stop U.S. funding for the Contra war and also encouraged the US government to stop funding repressive governments and armies in Guatemala and El Salvador, as well.
In the three decades since its founding, WFP helped hundreds of people to visit Nicaragua, Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Cuba, Mexico and Colombia. Delegates would return home profoundly moved by what they had seen and begin to speak out against U.S. actions in these countries, whether through working in their communities, speaking with the media, or lobbying their representatives in Congress. Witness for Peace has also advocated for fair trade policies with Mexico and humane, just immigration reform, educating many people about the root causes of migration.
While Witness for Peace was born out of CITCA, CITCA continued to operate independently as the Witness for Peace partner organization in the southeastern United States. CITCA officially changed its name to better express this in 2011, and now operates simply as Witness for Peace Southeast. Witness for Peace Southeast continues to sponsor delegations to Mexico, Colombia, Cuba, Nicaragua, and Honduras, and in addition to working on issues of trade and military aid, we also focus on helping allies push for immigration reform, as well as criticizing the short-sighted and ineffective U.S. drug war in Latin America.