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The Last Nail: God and Democracy four years after Katrina

God and democracy failed in New Orleans. While religious communities rushed to respond to Hurricane Katrina with charitable contributions and volunteers, some of the most powerful religious voices in the country used Hurricane Katrina to espouse a grotesque theology. Two days after Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, Columbia Christians for Life, a Religious Right anti-choice organization, put out a statement claiming that the satellite image of Hurricane Katrina looked like a six-week old fetus:

Slavery Now More Than Ever

By Mark Svensson, with Tarik Abdelqader

For over 5,000 years, the practice of slavery has plagued the human species. Today, most people in the United States associate slavery with African-American history, formed by the transatlantic slave trade, and ended by the Emancipation Proclamation. Indeed, a widely accepted notion exists in our nation is that U.S. participation in slavery ended following Lincoln's 1863 Proclamation. Yet this notion could not be any further from the truth.

Again, War Here Is Not the Answer

By William R. Northrup

This is the tenth day of my immersion into the Colombian society as part of the FOR two-week delegation. I’m sure you would find the work of those here for this organization, advocating for peace and justice, impressive. Colombia, while exceptionally impressive in many ways, is a complex, difficult society with a multi-faceted, tragic configuration to its struggles that takes time to understand, to appreciate, and to love. Clearly the staff here and the volunteers have arrived at this valuable place and are effecting modest, peaceful changes. Many people are thankful for the FOR presence and depend on the FOR staff to accompany them when they feel threatened by the military, which continually harasses, threatens, apprehends, and worse in a seemingly willy-nilly fashion.

Truth Commission on Conscience in War

In mid-November [Ed. Note: on August 25th, shortly after the posting of this message, an announcement was made by conference organizers that the date of the Truth Commission was postponed/changed to March 21-22, 2010 — please note that change in all future references] a group of religious and peace organizations will host a "truth commission" on the topic of selective conscientious objection. Like "just war theory," the issue of selective C.O. has long been a controversial one, as some pacifists and most military and political leaders alike believe that one must be opposed to ALL war to receive C.O. status. But spurred by the recent success of the documentary film Soldiers of Conscience, and the fact that increasing numbers of the U.S. armed forces have claimed that they would be willing to serve in certain wars, but are morally opposed to the actions in Iraq and/or Afghanistan, this topic has drawn increasing attention.

A Gentle Land (with apologies to Michael Vickory)

by Ivan Kasimoff

A few members of the August ’09 Delegation came to Colombia before the official arrival date and have seen a wonderful, lush country, from the rich colonial cities of the Caribbean coast such as Cartagena, to the exciting city of Cali, to several historical towns such as Mompoz on the Magdalena River, and to Barichara frozen in its 17th century construction in the Andean highlands. And some of us have walked through the Centro Histórico of Bogotá where the large cathedral stands before the wide Plaza Bolívar named after the great liberator of Latin America from Spanish Imperial control.

FOR Colombia letter cited on "Democracy Now!"

[Ed. Note: This information was to have been posted two days ago; sorry for the delay.] The sign-on letter from 100+ U.S. organizations and national leaders to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was cited on Wednesday morning on "Democracy Now!" with Amy Goodman. The story, which has been gaining increasing attention in the international media, said:

Clinton Defends US-Colombia Base Deal

Clinton spoke after a meeting with Colombian officials on a plan to expand the US military presence inside Colombia. Colombia has agreed to grant US forces the use of three military bases for anti-drug operations while also allowing hundreds of troops and private military contractors inside its borders. On Tuesday, Clinton addressed Latin American opposition to the base plans.

Countering Impunity

By Brandy Bauer

Last night, an aspiring young filmmaker let us preview his forthcoming documentary “Falsos Positivos.” The film examines how in the past several years, marginalized members of Colombian society are lured away from their homes, taken to rural areas, murdered by the military and dressed in guerrillas’ clothing to make it seem like they were shot in the context of the conflict. This grotesque phenomenon is made worse by the denial of the Colombian government that such acts can, and do, occur regularly.

Human rights delegation begins two-week trip through Colombia

For two weeks, eight of us are part of a delegation in Colombia organized by the Bogota office of the Fellowship of Reconciliation: Brandy Bauer, a native of Virginia presently living and working in Denmark; Joe de Raymond and Sarah Snider of Freemansburg, Pennsylvania; Kelly Dowdell of Calgary, Alberta; Ivan Kasimoff of Los Angeles, California; William Northrup of Nashville, Tennessee; Adrian Martinez Valencia of Las Loma, El Salvador; and me, hailing from Dundas, Ontario, and currently serving as the chairperson of FOR's National Council. During our first days we are learning especially about the local context of issues under discussion in North America, such as the Free Trade Agreements signed by Canada and the United States, and the proposals related to locating U.S. military forces to bases in Colombia.

Pacem in Terris 2009 award to Hildegard Goss-Mayr

On September 20, Dr. Hildegard Goss-Mayr of Vienna, Austria, will receive the Pacem in Terris 2009 Peace and Freedom Award in Davenport, Iowa. Goss-Mayr, often nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, is a preeminent teacher of nonviolence. The Honorary President of the International Fellowship of Reconciliation, she has taught the theory and practice of active nonviolence throughout the world. Her books and articles have been widely translated and used by social change movements and communities.