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FALL, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 3

From Friends Peace Teams’ Partners 


Christian Peacemaker Teams

Chiapas: Abejas Begin Return To Their Homes After nearly 100 members of the Mayan pacifist group, Las Abejas (the Bees), had taken their seats at long rows of white tables on one side of the convention hall, the municipal authorities from Chenalhó, a small county in the heart of the Chiapan highlands, entered the lobby to sign in.

Then came a few select observers—religious leaders, human rights lawyers, the Red Cross—and the moderator of the meeting, Chiapas Governor Pablo Salazar. When the hall was full, there sat the Abejas face to face with many of the men who had run them out of their homes at gunpoint four years ago. They were there to sign an agreement which they hoped would allow more than 300 people displaced by paramilitary violence to return home safely. They had negotiated an “Accord of Mutual Respect” in which the government agreed, among other things, to prohibit the possession of firearms in the villages and to ensure the safety of those returning home.

Near the end of the break, CPTers noticed two men standing in the corner talking amiably and shaking hands. One was Abejas leader José Vásquez from X’oyep. The other was Manuel Pérez Arias, pastor of the Presbyterian church in Pechiquil—the home community of many of the paramilitaries who participated in the massacre of forty-five Abejas in December, 1997 in Acteal. These two old friends, who worked together to translate the Bible into their native language of Tzotzil, had not spoken to

Chiapas: Abejas Begin Return To Their Homes After nearly 100 members of the Mayan pacifist group, Las Abejas (the Bees), had taken their seats at long rows of white tables on one side of the convention hall, the municipal authorities from Chenalhó, a small county in the heart of the Chiapan highlands, entered the lobby to sign in.

Then came a few select observers—religious leaders, human rights lawyers, the Red Cross—and the moderator of the meeting, Chiapas Governor Pablo Salazar. When the hall was full, there sat the Abejas face to face with many of the men who had run them out of their homes at gunpoint four years ago. They were there to sign an agreement which they hoped would allow more than 300 people displaced by paramilitary violence to return home safely. They had negotiated an “Accord of Mutual Respect” in which the government agreed, among other things, to prohibit the possession of firearms in the villages and to ensure the safety of those returning home.

Near the end of the break, CPTers noticed two men standing in the corner talking amiably and shaking hands. One was Abejas leader José Vásquez from X’oyep. The other was Manuel Pérez Arias, pastor of the Presbyterian church in Pechiquil—the home community of many of the paramilitaries who participated in the massacre of forty-five Abejas in December, 1997 in Acteal. These two old friends, who worked together to translate the Bible into their native language of Tzotzil, had not spoken to each other for several years following the massacre.

On Saturday, August 25, CPTers Keith Young and Lynn Stoltzfus attended a farewell mass for the three communities who will be returning home August 28 after almost four years of living as refugees in this small hamlet. Although this return is something they have been looking forward to since they left their communities, there were still hints of sadness as they prepared to leave the people they have lived and worked with for the last few years.

In spite of the tears that were shed for leaving friends behind, the smiles on the faces of those returning reflected the excitement of finally being able to go home. CPT will provide accompaniment for the returnees. Friend Shirley Way [see PTN, Fall 2000], whose work last year with CPT was supported by FPT’s Elise Boulding Fund, will be a member of the team. By Kryss Chupp and Lynn Stozfus from CPT Net.

CPT Delegation Schedule:

Middle East Delegation: November 16-28, 2000; Feb 14-26, 2002; May 24-Jun 5, 2002; July 25-Aug 6, 2002.

Mexico Delegation: Chiapas, Mexico: Nov. 19-Dec. 1, 2001; March 20-April 2, 2002.

Puerto Rico Delegation: Vieques, PR: To Be Announced.

Colombia Delegation: To Be Announced.


Peace Brigades International

PBI continues its work in Colombia, East Timor/Indonesia and Mexico. A current newsletter from the Mexico project is available at http://www.peacebrigades.org/mexico/bulletin0107.pdf.

PBI is also looking for Spanish speakers to join its Mexico and Colombia teams. Potential volunteers need to be

  • at least 25 years old;
  • prepared to make a one-year commitment;
  • fluent in Spanish;
  • experienced in NGO/international work.

PBI provides:

  • full and comprehensive training by a team of professionals;
  • costs of training;
  • travel to Colombia and living expenses while serving on a PBI team;
  • $200 US/month stipend;
  • one year of field experience;
  • close contact with local NGOs and communities.

Before being accepted, all candidates

  • must present letters of reference,
  • take part in a telephone interview,
  • participate in a week-long training session.

If enough potential volunteers are found, there will be a training for the Columbia Project in mid-November. Deadline for applications is Sept. 30. Check out http://www.igc.org/pbi/colombia.html.

For more information and application forms, US and Latin American residents contact: Andrew Fandino: e-mail: pbicolombiausa@msn.com; tel: (202) 544-3876.

For general information contact Peace Brigades International/USA, 428 8th St SE, Washington DC 20003, tel: 202-544-3765; fax: 202-544-3765; e-mail: pbiusa@igc.apc.org; or visit PBI’s website: http://www.peacebrigades.org.

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