Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Church of the Brethren faith expedition visits Chiapas, Mexico.

Church of the Brethren members returned in early February from a 10-day Faith Expedition to the region of Chiapas, Mexico, sponsored by the Brethren Witness/Washington Office in partnership with Equal Exchange and Witness for Peace.

The delegation spent several days in the town of San Cristobal exploring the history of Mexico and the effects of the North American Free Trade Agreement on this southern neighbor of the United States. In addition, issues of militarism and immigration were addressed in regards to policy decisions made by both Mexico and the United States.

The group met with organizations representing governmental and nongovernmental structures in regards to development and humanitarian support of the Mexican people. Concerned emphasis was given to the indigenous communities who remain persecuted and impoverished, most often due to governmental suppression. A sobering highlight of the trip was a visit to the nonviolent community of Acteal, that only 11 years earlier had been tragically attacked by paramilitary, leaving 45 dead.

This expedition also provided an opportunity for delegates to visit an indigenous community that produces coffee sold through a regional cooperative. The cooperative markets the coffee as organic, fair-trade coffee to Equal Exchange, as well as other fair-trade companies in the US and Europe. Members of the group were able to see the entire production cycle of the coffee that ends up in their cups each morning. The average producer of this coffee works in difficult conditions to earn less than $3 per day.

The 18 delegates completed their trip with a day of developing strategies that will enable them to clearly articulate their experiences, work toward strengthening free-trade policies, develop fair trade partnerships, and directly advocate on behalf of the people of Mexico.

For more information on this, or other Faith Expeditions, contact the Brethren Witness/Washington Office at or 800-785-3246.

-- Phil Jones is director of the Brethren Witness/Washington Office.

Source: 2/25/2009 Newsline

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