36th Annual Banquet of the Interreligious Task Force
On Sunday, November 6th, we went to the 36th Annual Banquet of the Interreligious Task Force on Central America (IRTF) which was held at Beaumont School on North Park Blvd. in Cleveland Heights.It is the mission of the IRTF to call "together people to walk in solidarity with oppressed people of Central America and Columbia in order to achieve peace, justice, human rights, and systemic transformation through nonviolence."
We also enjoy attending IRTF affairs and the first hour and a half of this one was devoted to appetizers, listening to folk Latin American music played by a band named "Chakai Manta", and socializing amongst the approximately 200 attendees. We had good conversations with:
****Sister Ann Leticia of the Ursuline Sisters of Cleveland who really admires Ms. Margaret W. Wong and thus gave us a copy of a book edited by a friend of hers, Sister Cynthia Glavac, also of the Ursuline Sisters, titled "In Love, In Faith, In Solidarity" about Sister Maura Clarke, Ms. Jean Donovan, Sister Ita Ford, Sister Dorothy Kazel who were all murdered in El Salvador in 1980. It also tells of another nun, Sister Carla Piette, who was killed that year in the same country by a flash flood. The common thread there is that they were all committed to social justice and devoted themselves to serving people in need.
****Professor Jose O. Sola, from the Dept. of History at CSU who attends St. Dominic Church in Shaker Heights which Ms. Wong and her family also attend. We told Professor Sola about the CCWA event in September where former Ambassador John F. Maisto discussed Plan Columbia and he talked with us about recent developments in that area.
****Sister Kathleen Gavich, of the Sisters of Notre Dame who has written about 70 books on theology and spirituality.
****Mr. Erik Bogen, a civil engineer who works with "Engineers Without Borders" which has helped communities all over the world on projects concerning such matters as water quality and infrastructure. He recently worked on a project in Honduras.
****Father Dan Begin, the brother of our friend Father Bob Begin, who is the pastor at two churches in the Bedford area. He is also very involved with the Bridge Foundation which works out of St. Colman Church and deals with issues ranging from affordable housing on the west side of Cleveland to assisting the impoverished throughout the world.
We also visited with Mr. Ari Klein and Ms. Laura Stuart-Lilley who both teach at Cleveland Heights High School. Mr. Klein's late grandfather was an immigration attorney so he was familiar with what we do at Margaret W. Wong and Associates and Ms. Stuart-Lilley's students study fair trade issues.
During the interfaith prayer service the speaker was Ms. Marlen Sanchez who is very prominent in the "Asociacion de Trabajadores del Campo" (ATC) and "La Via Campesina." Acting as her translator was Ms. Mardy Townsend. According to our program notes, the ATC "fights for the rights of rural workers and small-scale producers in Nicaragua. Since its founding year in 1978, the ATC has supported union organizing, advocated for agrarian reform and strengthened agricultural cooperatives for small producers throughout the country." La Via Campesina is "an international social movement that defends the rights of peasants, agricultural workers, women farmers, fishermen, and women, pastoralists, indigenous people, and migrants around the world. Today the movement consists of organizations in approximately 80 countries, representing 220 million people."
During the Q and A, we asked Ms. Sanchez what she thought the policy of the United States should be towards people who have immigrated to the United States to escape oppressive conditions in Central America. Through Ms. Townsend, Ms. Sanchez replied that many of these people come to the United States are peasants searching for a better life for themselves and their families. She believed that they were entitled to respect and basic human rights and suggested that if they were given the opportunity to put their farming skills to good use then everyone would benefit. She then asked if it would really be that difficult to enact this kind of policy here in the United States?
We, ourselves, believe that the actual policy would not be that difficult but actually enacting it is, unfortunately, a different story.
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