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37th Commemoration of The Martyrs

On Sunday evening, November 5th, we gathered with other supporters of the "InterReligious Task Force on Central America" (IRTF) at the Beaumont School on North Park Blvd. in Cleveland Heights for the 37th Commemoration of the Martyrs in remembrance of the anniversary of the brutal murder four church women (Nuns/Sisters Maura Clark, Ita Ford, Dorothy Kazel and lay person Miss Jean Donovan) in El Salvador in 1980 who were killed because, as stated in the program notes, they decided to "stay in solidarity with oppressed and marginalized peoples, despite political turmoil" in Central America. 

For this occasion, as we have done for the past several years, "Margaret W. Wong and Associates" was proud to purchase an ad in the souvenir booklet. 

This evening's activities consisted of an hour of socializing wherein we listened to music by "Chakai Manta" and had the opportunity to purchase some fair trade items, took part in an interfaith prayer service, and then enjoyed a delicious dinner composed of Central American dishes. Not surprisingly, we encountered several socially concerned people such as Mr. Ron Ober who were also at the "Interfaith Peace-Builders" affair on Saturday evening.

As we have written before, the IRTF mission statement reads that it "calls together people to walk in solidarity with oppressed peoples of Central America in order to achieve peace, justice, human rights, and systemic transformation through nonviolence." 

Accordingly, the IRTF is very supportive of both environmental and human rights, cultural preservation, worker rights, fair trade, cooperatives, consumer advocacy, and solidarity with the LGBT community.

Moreover, as was written in the souvenir booklet, the IRTF "challenges US legislators and government officials to investigate (and pressure foreign governments to investigate) human rights abuses in Mexico, Central America, and Columbia and monitors their responsiveness. IRTF challenges US legislators to decrease military spending and increase spending for alternative economic development and humanitarian assistance in Central America and Columbia and monitors their responsiveness."

The above is very important because it is these abuses of human rights (along with violence committed by gangs) that motivates many people to flee their homelands and attempt to travel to the U.S. in order to obtain safety and security.

During the Interfaith Prayer Service, the guest speaker was Mr. Jose Gaspar Sanchez Acosta who is a very active member of the "Council of Indigenous and Popular Organizations of Honduras" (COPINH) who serves as the Coordinator of Sexual Diversity and Rights Equality marking the first time that any Latin America indigenous organization established a space dealing specifically with LGBT issues. 

With the help of Ms. Mardy Townsend, an accomplished translator, Mr. Sanchez Acosta spoke of the progressive goals that COPINH, despite great adversity, is making strides towards making realities like defending the sovereignty of Honduran territories, allowing women to own land by themselves, protecting the environment, improving health care and education for all, and dispensing information about the LGBT community to those who don't really understand it in order that constructive conversations might be take place so that respect and equality might ultimately be achieved. 

As most of our readers know, Sunday night was a time when several cautions were issued regarding the possibility of tornadoes in the Cleveland Heights area. Therefore, at one point, the interfaith prayer service was suspended for about 12 minutes and those attending it were asked to move to a nearby hallway which offered better protection than the meeting room. Much to her credit, Ms. Christine Stonebraker-Martinez, the Co-Director of IRTF, kept our spirits up by leading in an upbeat song regarding fellowship and spiritual comfort. Of course, the danger passed us by and soon we were back at the prayer service. 

Indeed it was a very successful night for the IRTF because about 300 people were in attendance and a particularly hopeful beacon was that there were as many as 20 small children present in the childcare room signifying that parents are preparing a new generation for leadership roles. 


Michael Patterson

Community Liaison,

Margaret W. Wong & Assoc. Co., LLC

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