Supporting Nonviolence and Social Justice Since 1974.
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May 25, 2011

Here’s a picture taken just a few weeks ago in the West Bank village of Yanoun. I’m in the middle with my neighbors, Najah and Tamam, on either side.

Dear Friends,

My name is Maria Delgado, and I’m an activist from Uruguay. I’m writing to ask you to join me in supporting the A.J. Muste Memorial Institute’s work promoting active nonviolence.

Over the past three decades I have accompanied nonviolent struggles for justice, freedom and human rights in my country and throughout Latin America. I have endured the harshest period of dictatorships in South America, followed by the illusion of a return to democracy, then disillusionment as global “neoliberal” policies swept away basic rights, marginalized working people and handed over land and natural resources to big multinational corporations.

Now I am fortunate to witness a new period of struggle and resistance, led by indigenous people defending Mother Earth against a predatory model of “development.” All over the world, grassroots social movements made up of indigenous people, women, campesinos, ecologists and others are carrying out a brave nonviolent struggle toward a dignified future for the common good, the people and the planet.

I have seen these inspiring struggles through my work over the past four years as a volunteer advisor to the Muste Institute’s Adalys Vázquez Solidarity Travel Fund. Thanks to contributions from donors like you, this fund has helped more than 200 grassroots groups throughout the Americas join together and coordinate their organizing—in defense of human rights, against violence and militarization, for women’s rights, against mining and other destructive “development,” and in favor of the cultural identity of minorities and excluded groups.

I have also seen these struggles in the southeastern Mexican state of Chiapas, where I lived for several months last year, collaborating with two grassroots women’s groups and working on a climate justice campaign.

This year I had the opportunity to go even farther afield, participating in a three-month international accompaniment program in the West Bank of Palestine.

That experience allowed me to see the harshness and inhumanity of the Israeli military occupation, and all the ways it converts daily life into a nightmare for Palestinians: the Wall that separates people from their land, and from relatives and neighbors; the innumerable checkpoints where teenage soldiers, armed to the teeth, control and humiliate an entire population; the growing appropriation of Palestinian land, water and resources by nearly 200 illegal Israeli settlements; the permanent violence of armed settlers toward communities of shepherds and farmers in Hebron and Nablus; violent evictions in East Jerusalem and the demolition of homes in the Jordan Valley; the repression of totally peaceful demonstrations with tear gas, stun grenades, rubber bullets and live ammunition; the arrest and ill-treatment of children 10-13 years old for the sole crime of throwing stones at military tanks.

I was also able to see, and accompany, what isn’t reported in the news: the many forms of nonviolent resistence with which the Palestinian people, together with Israeli and international activists, confront the occupation. I lived with farming communities who refuse to abandon their land, even though the army repeatedly demolishes their precarious homes, schools and water wells. I saw these communities defend their centuries-old olive trees from Israeli settlers who try to impede them from harvesting the olives, or who uproot or chop down the trees. I also saw Israeli activists face tear gas and risk arrest to join Palestinians in peaceful demonstrations against the Wall and the checkpoints; I saw them work side by side with Palestinian communities to rebuild demolished homes and tents, replant ripped-out olive trees, and open new wells for drinking water.

From Chiapas to Palestine, I’m impressed by what humble people are capable of doing with virtually no resources, creatively multiplying what little they get hold of to carry out a peaceful march, organize a workshop or gathering, put together a building for their community, or print up informational materials. A little money, in the right hands, can produce startling results.

The Muste Institute’s programs are focused on supporting precisely these grassroots, creative, enthusiastic groups and initiatives, that don’t shy away from the magnitude of the challenges they face, and instead put all their bets on making “miracles” with few resources but ample conviction.

For example:

• Grassroots activists from dam-affected areas of Ecuador and Peru have connected with others around the world fighting hydroelectric mega-projects in their communities.

• A group in Croatia is engaging war veterans in the peacebuilding and reconciliation process.

• In Nicaragua, indigenous women leaders are strengthening their capacity to participate in the political system and advocate for indigenous rights and women’s rights.

• A human rights group on the U.S. side of the U.S.-Mexico border is getting the local community involved in documenting and educating people about law enforcement abuses.

These projects and many more are made possible by your contributions to the Muste Institute.

Please donate to the Muste Institute today. Join me in embracing this dedicated and energetic spirit, in believing that nothing is impossible, that it’s worthwhile attempting to transform the world because the struggle itself has value, and because it’s the only dignified way to live.

In solidarity,

Maria Delgado

P.S. Send a check in the enclosed envelope, or donate online. Your contributions to the Muste Institute are tax-deductible to the extent allowed by law.