Peace Teams News, PO Box 10372, San Antonio TX 78210-0372, Tel: 877 814 6972







SUMMER, 2001: Volume 6, Issue 2

Philadelphia Quaker Walks to Washington DC to
Speak to the IMF
by Marcelle Martin, Dona Garrettson and Jorge Arauz

Moved by the plight of his fellow Ecuadorians, Jorge Arauz made a pilgrimage on foot from Casa Amistad, his home in North Philadelphia, to Washington, DC. After an eight-day journey, he met with an International Monetary Fund official to discuss the effects of IMF policies on the Ecuadorian people, especially on the poor.

During trips to Ecuador in the past several years to train AVP facilitators, Jorge has witnessed how the burden of the nation’s international debt has been dumped on the shoulders of the poor, spreading misery, breeding turmoil, and encouraging the escalating violence in neighboring Colombia to spread into Ecuador.

In late January, during Jorge’s most recent visit, peasants and Indians protested recent price and tax increases in Ecuador. They blocked roads and walked to the capital city of Quito to bring their grievances to the government, which responded by suspending constitutional rights. Four people were killed during these demonstrations.

Meanwhile, Jorge felt deeply troubled that he and his peace work seemed divorced from the struggle for justice of the Ecuadorian people and the peoples around the world. When he returned to Philadelphia he felt he could not lay the issue to rest, and that he was called to walk to the IMF in Washington to give his testimony. Friends met with him and sensed that his leading was genuinely from the Spirit. He received a minute from Chestnut Hill Meeting and from Philadelphia Quarterly Meeting. Many people helped with contacts, planning, items for the journey, and prayer.

A group of Friends gathered to worship at Casa Amistad/Friendship House on the day the walk began. Some were able to begin the journey with Jorge, walking several blocks or miles. Edison Freire, a Philadelphian born in Ecuador, walked for the first two days. The two wore signs reading: “To Peace With Peace”, and “Love Mercy, Do Justly.” Along the way, a woman pointed at this second sign and excitedly said, “Micah 6:8!”

Jorge Arauz and Terry Cannon, Main Street, Newark, Delaware, March 16, 2001. — Photo: Roy Cannon

They stopped to talk at University City New School, where Edison’s children go, and at Lansdowne Friends School, where Jorge’s daughter, Renata, is in sixth grade. Renata had walked to school that morning, a two-mile journey, in a gesture of unity with the pilgrims. Renata’s teacher and fellow students walked several blocks with Jorge and Edison, who spent the first night at the home of Friends in Chester, PA. Edison walked as far as Wilmington, DE before catching a train home, while Jorge continued.

A member of Chestnut Hill meeting served as Jorge’s contact person. She was called each evening to receive news of the day’s journey. She helped coordinate hospitality and sent daily e-mail updates, which others distributed more widely. When Jorge left, only a few places to sleep had been identified. A network developed that organized hospitality and became a community united in loving concern and prayer. Several unknown people offered encouragement and help along the way.

On the third day, his host for the previous night accompanied him several miles into downtown Newark, DE. Later, another Quaker joined him for a stretch of the walk. As the day came to an end and Jorge was unable to finish the approximately 32 miles planned for that day, a Catholic couple invited him into their house. They spotted him on the road on their way to prepare for their congregation’s Saint Patrick’s Day celebration in Rising Sun, MD. On Sunday morning Jorge walked to Falls Creek Meeting in Darlington in time to join Friends for worship. His hosts for the previous night caught up with him past Conowingo Dam on Route 1 to check about his situation, and Friends from the Brandywine Region of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting brought food, band-aids and a soothing ointment for his feet. That evening he stayed at the home of members of Little Falls Friends Meeting in Bel Air, MD. The next day he stopped for lunch at the home of Quakers in Glen Arm, and moved on to stay the night with members of Stony Run Friends Meeting near Baltimore. Their office in downtown Baltimore was available for an afternoon nap the following day, before he continued on his way to Catonsville, MD, where he was hosted by another Quaker family. March 21 was a cold, windy, rainy day, perhaps the hardest of the journey, but he was strengthened by Friends stopping along the way to worship with him or offer encouragement. He reached a Friend’s home in White Oak, MD by nightfall, and continued into Washington, D. C., the following day, March 22nd. There another Friend sat with him for a one-person clearness committee meeting, to help Jorge discern the evolution of his leading. He stayed at the AFSC hostel, Davis House, that night.

Before leaving on his trip, Jorge had contacted John Thornton, the IMF official in charge of the organization’s relationship with Ecuador. Jorge wrote about their conversation: “He seemed surprised when I told him about my desire to meet with him. What organizations or groups do I represent? I told him that I only intended to share my concern as I know it in my heart, in the spirit of Love and Truth. I was surprised too, when he agreed to receive me.”

Jorge described the interview with John Thornton as “difficult.” He was grateful that he could express his concerns to the official and hear his views, having a chance to gain a sense of his condition. That evening, Jorge reported: “I found distrust, even animosity toward those advocating a different approach. This is understandable. The differences are real and need to be worked on. I feel that an opening was made, that not all that was said fell into the void. I felt that, in spite of his apparently unyielding position, this person was somehow listening.”

After his trip Jorge reported feeling relieved from his burden, knowing also that more things are to come. This was for him but a step in a larger walk.


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