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Thursday, September 30, 2010

Juarez children: witnesses of violence, future of peace

Democracynow! interviews independent journalist Jean Friedman-Rudovsky, who journeyed to Ciudad Juárez, Mexico to investigate the impact of extreme violence on children. Her reports from the ground were published in Village Voice media: "Juarez children: Drugs, death, and fear."
Jean Friedman-Rudovsky witnessed immense suffering by children and their families who had experienced the violence first hand, but she also felt great hope from the people of Juarez, directed at their children. Locals are focusing peace efforts in bettering the lives of their children through giving them good daycare, education, extracurricular activities and overall emotional support.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Happy Endings

My father always said; “No hay un mal de donde no salga un bien” There is nothing bad that happens from which something good can come. Last week a family that owned a small neighborhood store in one of the colonias and had lived in that colornia for many years, had their daughter kidnapped. The family was well known and loved. The family had to raise thousands of pesos if they wanted their daughter back!! One can only imagine the pain and desperation of this father who began to sell and borrow to have the ransom money. The neighbors gathered in solidarity and began to bring him little by little small savings, the money they had to pay their bills, the money they had saved for an emergency and a small miracle happened that with the help of all the neighbors this father was able to have the ransom money. When word was out that the daughter was to be returned, the neighbors began to pour out into the street, and there was such an outpouring of love and unity that no one could hold back the tears and joy. The street was filled with children, youth, the old all united as good neighbors to end a nightmare with embraces of welcome and so much love.
To hear the enthusiasm and gratefulness of the person who shared this story with me just filled me with gratitude for a happy ending. It also helped me apply my father’s wisdom, to every day happenings to life here in Juraez.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

What are we celebrating?

Violence and drugs affect the city of Juarez in many ways, some bad, some for the better. When Nina and I wake up in the morning you see families walking their kids to school. The kids that are being walked are not just 5 or 6, they're 17 and 18 years old. The community and the family has become very close knit and important. People ask families "Why do you walk your young adults to school?, it wont stop them from taking your daughter or son. they will just kill or take you too", their response is "at least I will know, at least I will know what has happened to my son or daughter". Families eat together at the table, talk, listen, and love each other.
Last friday Nina and I went with members of the Center to church during their choir practice. Everyone was singing and having a great time, when a man walked in who I noticed was carrying a kitchen knife on him, in his belt strap. Nina and I were facing opposit directions and she only saw him but did not see the knife. One of the women we work very closely was sitting next to me and paid no attention to it. After dancing to the music for a minute, he left and went outside.
I told Nina about the knife, and asked that we close the door given that he was directly outside. members of the choir said "esta bien (hes fine)", I trust these women, so I said okay and kept an eye on his where abouts. When I looked outside again he was chasing another member with the knife, I told Nina and the woman who said it was fine, and again they brushed it off. Neighbors began to come outside and calm him down and talk to him even though he had a knife.
At this point, I was thoroughly taken back that no one was alarmed, so I asked them why they were not concerned. They told us that he was a member of the community who has been damaged by drugs and just got released from Jail. They said he used to be calm and cool but since his release has been afraid. The minister of the church we were at said that the man regularly helps him with jobs that he needs done, he just carries a knife because it makes him feel safer. His community, has taken it upon themselves to help support during his struggle with life of drugs, and what it has done to him. The community is so close here, even though many consider it to be divided. Our community, has realized the violence brings everyone together. No one is safer than someone else, so people watch out for each other.
Today marks the Bicentennial of freedom from spain for Mexico. The government in Juarez is not celebrating, but the people and chruches are. The government and many people have asked "What are we celebrating when the people here are feeling so much pain?". The people of Juarez have a right and a need to celebrate more than anyone. They are celebrating the love that has continued to strengthen the people of Mexico and their families. Celebrate to the fact that you reside, and live, and fight for this city even though many have left. Most of all, they are celebrating that they are Mexican, they love being Mexican, and nothing can change that.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Trying to understand and communicate what we see, hear, read, and learn

11 September, 2010
Lansing, MI
For the past several weeks, I have been reading El Diario and the El Paso Times, two local papers that report on happenings in Ciudad Juarez. I am fluent in several languages, including those used by both papers. Yet, I know that even within my own native language of English, my fluency varies as I move from domain to domain.

For example, as a college student in the 1960s, I became proficient in the linguistic domains of demonstrations, as well as academics. My pedagogical domains developed over 20 years in classrooms. Living and working with Mexican and Central American migrant families in the Pacific Northwest, I improved my usage of a domain of Spanish pertinent to raising children under ever-changing conditions. Graduate studies in educational policy prepared me to use both languages at both national and international levels. None of these experiences, however, introduced me to the vocabulary of murder, terror, and despair I have been reading about in Juarez.

At the moment, MPT team members Angie and Nina are on the ground in Juarez, living and working with families there. Megan and I remain here in the States, continuing to raise money for the Peace Team and attempting to provide whatever support we can. We research on the internet; we draft grant applications; we continue to offer fair trade goods for sale. Through media in our home communities and this blog, Megan and I share what we learn from our research and what we learn from Angie & Nina during our weekly Skype conversations. Those connections allow us to strive to maintain and continue to develop as a team.

Last night Nina and Angie told us of the work they are beginning this week, making connections with mothers and children caught up in the violence of Juarez. Their words made me cry and also smile, thinking about how well they are serving the MPT mission of
seeking a just world grounded in nonviolence and respect for the sacred interconnectedness of all life.
I offer these word clouds created and edited from my newspaper readings from the first ten days of this month as my contribution in support of that work.

NOTE: If the images are too small for you to read, hold down Control & press + until you can see them clearly.

Created at http://www.wordle.net/

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

First Impressions

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico
Sept. 8, 2010

When I was missioned in Peru. our town suffered several attacks from Sendero Luminoso, the terrorist group in Peru. I remember thinking and voicing “Shouldn’t we receive some training on how to be better peace makers and being non-violent?” We just took for granted that we were non-violent. I have learned that yes, there is much we can learn and it’s a life- long process!

When I was asked by Mary Ellen Gondeck if I was interested in being part of a peace team for Juarez, Mexico, I didn’t hesitate because I am of Mexican descent and it has always been my dream to minister in Mexico. I also always wanted to learn how to be a better peace-maker.

The training took place and now the reality of Juarez could paralyze you: the drug cartels are fighting for power, using the poor as their victims to do their dirty work. Extortions have forced families to abandon the city leaving: home, friends, and possesions, out of fear for their lives. Many young ladies have disappeared and their bodies then found in the desert. There is no work, and many live by selling goods on the street: brooms, soap, etc. (enough to eat for that day), So many youth cannot afford to study and can’t find work. The list can go on and on, but in the midst of all this pain and suffering, there are people with hope for a better tomorrow.

This past weekend we attended a workshop on the other side of town. Some attendees came from very poor areas. They had been given assignments to reflect on Juarez yesterday, Juarez today and Juarez in the future. The title of the workshop was Juarencitos a Defendernos (People of Juarez, let us defend ourselves). They love their city and know that hope and change will come from grassroots, not from the authorities.

To hear their stories and feel their pain has helped me understand the need for our solidarity with them at this time. One mother shared how her 16 year old daughter disappeared, Paloma was her only daughter. The family searched for about three weeks and, then, her body was found in the desert. She vowed in her pain that she would not stop until there was justice. This woman has started a group and is constantly being asked to accompany other mothers and family members to confront corrupt authority. Perhaps justice will never come, but brave women are not sitting back and allowing such crimes to go unnoticed, the way the authorities would like them to do.

I have met so many dedicated people working for a better tomorrow for their city, Oh how they love their city! They want to see gardens and trees grow and have beauty again surround their homes and city. They want to feel free to walk their streets

They look at Angie Mann - an 18 year old - and Sister Nina Rodriguez - a golden jubilarian (fifty years as a Sister of St. Joseph - and say, "When so many have left, you have chosen to come and live among us. You are a sign of peace and hope that God has not abandoned His people." They look at us in disbelief, but have welcomed us with so much love and gratitude.

Remembering the poem on the Footprints in the Sand, we realize -- Yes, God is carrying Juarez during these painful moments in their history, Their faith, love and pain will someday know the power of their efforts to build a life-giving city again.

Friday, September 3, 2010

In the Beginning

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

Juarez is a city of many different views given by many forms. The media has portrayed it as a city with constant drug warfare, malicious murders and kidnappings, and little love. When Nina and I arrived here in Juarez we were greeted with beautiful skies, wonderful people, and absolutely no danger. Julie took us to the Centro where we met some of the women that we would be working with for the next few months. The Centro is covered in pictures of love, and ideas of hope and a better future for Juarez. The women took us to our house where we will be staying for the next few months. A woman here in Juarez has graciously offered her space for us to use as our home. The houses here are different than in America. Our house is bright orange with a blue gate, like many of the houses here the colors are bright and many times do not match. According to people here, improvements to your home can get you into trouble with the gangs and mafia.
The neighborhoods here are divided into colonias; all of them have different styles, and reputations. The Colonia that we are staying in is safer than other Colonias. Women from the Centro took us walking on Wednesday night where we were surrounded by children playing in the streets, families walking to and from school, and people gathering to chat. Children here introduce themselves, kiss you on the cheek and ask a lot of questions, especially if you are from North America. We walked to a church where we attended a meeting and saw the presentation that Nicole has posted below. Members of the Centro are giving a presentation that represents Juarez yesterday, Juarez today, and what they foresee as the future of Juarez. They are fighting for their city and we as Michigan Peace Team members are being invited to stand with them in their struggle.

Today we are attending a conference at a university that promises to be absolutely amazing. Check out our next blog soon.

-Angie and Nina

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See the E-News this week for tons of Fall Events coming up at MPT -- September - December already on the schedule, Join Us!

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Fall Juarez Team Arrives Safely In-Country

We're pleased to announce that the Fall Peace Team to Juarez, Mexico has arrived safely!  They are getting settled in and meeting with local folks.  This strong team will be in the field long-term, from September 1, 2010 to mid-December, 2010.  A third team member will join the Team in a few weeks to complete the group.

Watch for blog entries posted soon directly from the field-- and leave your comments of support and encouragement for the team on their blogs!

Nicole Rohrkemper
International Peace Team Coordinator

MPT All-Teams Reunion Event, Sept 15, 2010

to a Michigan Peace Team


September 15th, 2010 - 7pm to 9pm
@ Affirmations of Ferndale MI

View this Event on Facebook to share the invite or RSVP Now!  Help us invite your fellow team members, and let them know you'll meet them there.

MPT would like to invite everyone who has ever been on a Domestic or International Peace Team -- plus all those who have supported teams, and anyone interested in going on a future team-- to this very special event.

Who: Current & Former Team Members (all 16 years!)
and their Supporters, Friends, and Family

Plus! Open to those new to MPT or interested in a Future Team; Information will be available.

What: Join us for Dessert, Cocktails, Door Prizes, Networking, and more! 
Tickets are available at the door by donation (on a sliding scale, suggested donation $15); no one will be turned away for inability to pay.  All are welcome. 
When: September 15th, 2010
Open House, come anytime 7pm to 9pm

Community Room
Affirmations Community Center of Ferndale
290 W Nine Mile, Ferndale MI 48220 
(Detroit Area)
For more information, or to reserve tickets, contact Nicoler.MPT@gmail.com.