Monday, November 29, 2010

Conference holds day of reporting from participants’ work for peace

Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic - A full day of reporting was held today by the participants in the Historic Peace Church conference in Latin America, which continues this week through Thursday at a Catholic retreat center outside Santo Domingo.

Starting with a history of the Friends in Latin America and an overview of Quaker foundations for peacemaking, the group spent the rest of the day hearing a series of short 15-minute presentations from a wide variety of peace- and justice-related programs in various countries and churches.

The evening offered a brief history of the island shared by the DR and Haiti, and the colonial roots of violence that has marked the relations between the two countries, given by Mennonite pastor Miqueas Ramirez of Santo Domingo’s Iglesia Evangelica Menonita Luz y Vida. A Mennonite group led evening devotions, and small groups had an opportunity to start reflecting on what they have been hearing from other participants.

The opening presentation of the day by Adriana Cabrera of the Friends meeting in Bogota, Colombia, offered the Quaker image of an inner light of God in each human being as foundational for peacemaking.

Cabrera holds a master of divinity degree from Earlham School of Religion in Richmond, Ind., in the United States, and in Colombia directs a human rights-related program. Her work includes women’s reproductive rights and work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community.

She reminded the group that the concept of an inner light also means that the work of peacemaking starts with ourselves. A story from what she called "the colonialist push" of the Quakers from the US--whose mission workers started many of the Friends meetings in Latin America--brought the point home. In the early mission years, she said, there was a practice of not offering translation into Spanish at business meetings. One woman working with the Quakers in Mexico resigned over this discriminatory practice. Her protest proved to be transformational, Cabrera related, and it wasn’t too long before interpretation was offered, along with translation of foundational Quaker texts.

She called the Historic Peace Churches conference to a similar passion and risk taking for peace and justice. The great Quaker leaders over history have "plunged into the water" of abolition, prison ministry, and penal reform, in just a few examples. "What inspires us," she asked, "and for whom do we work?"

Cabrera offered three challenges, directed both to the Quakers present and to those from other Christian traditions: first, to do peace work as a calling, in order not to turn it into idolatry; second, to do peace work with joy, despite and in the midst of suffering; and third, to let go of "Anglo Quakerism" and to seek what the Latin American experience may have to offer.

"What is our (Latin American) Quaker voice, and what does that voice have to say?" she asked. "How ready are we to let God take us into new territory? How ready are we to be surprised by God?"

Webcasts from the conference are being offered at An online photo album has been started at

-- Cheryl Brumbaugh-Cayford is news director for the Church of the Brethren.

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