Unification News for September 2002

Peace Ambassadors in Guatemala Support IIFWP Chapter

by Ulrike Bessell,

The IIFWP has been active in Guatemala. Since Dr. Kwak’s visit in December 2001 with the International Leadership Seminar, we have continued to hold monthly meetings with our Peace Ambassadors. We also hold monthly mini seminars that include a more detailed approach to the subject matter we discuss at the monthly meetings.

Two recent forums featured Ambassadors for Peace as Speakers. The forum in May coincided with the UN Special Session on Children and addressed the theme, ‘A World Fit For Children.’ Rev. Gerhard Bessell (Secretary General, IIFWP Guatemala) presented a talk titled, ‘The Original Family and the Need for its Restoration.’

Dr. Armando de la Torre (Dean of Social Science, University Francisco Marroquin), reminded everyone that we are the problem in the society and that we have the obligation in front of God and our conscience to solve those problems and create a better society.

Licda. Catalina Soberanis (Chapter President and former President of the Congress of Guatemala) explained that we need better education. This does not necessarily mean school education, but education learned through daily life. Family and society are closely connected. Without a relationship to God ethics are relative and like a compass without a ‘north.’

Rev. Josè Antonio Otzoy Sotz (Founder of CIEDEG – Conferencia de Iglesias Evangèlicas de Guatemala), spoke about the responsibility of all denominations to work together to solve the problems of today’s society.

The second forum held in July dealt with the topic of ‘community service.’ Since the Religious Youth Service has been active in Guatemala, most recently last month as part of the RYS three nation Central American Tour, we invited the RYS educational staff to address our Ambassadors for Peace. Ten of them contributed to the RYS program while they were in Guatemala so we asked them to share about their work and contribution to Guatemalan society. Forty Peace Ambassadors gathered to welcome the participants of RYS at the Catholic retreat when they first arrived.

On Saturday, August 3, we held our regular meeting on the subject, ‘Public Service and the Realization of the Peace Agreement,’ (the 36 year armed conflict in Guatemala ended in 1996 as a result of this document). We heard testimonies from those who contributed to the RYS project as well as from other participants. We even welcomed Peace Ambassadors from Honduras and El Salvador, which gave some additional flavor to the meeting.

Licda. Catalina Soberanis, who has just started her work as Minister of Peace (part of the Presidential cabinet), gave some background about the peace process in Central America. She stated that the Peace Agreement in Guatemala asks for a well advanced society which will take time. We have an agreement but reconciliation is far behind and so much work needs to be done.

There are usually 20-30 Peace Ambassadors at these regular meetings. These meetings are also open to new contacts and those wishing to become members of IIFWP. Many of the Peace Ambassadors are starting to bring friends and share this work with their communities. This way the process will expand and spread.

The closest of our Peace Ambassadors come regularly to the Peace Embassy in Guatemala for individual meetings. They are active committed individuals that help us to develop our work in this country. We conduct breakfast meetings where we brief them on the latest IIFWP news and developments. In addition, Peace Ambassadors have invited us to their groups and sessions, which offer us opportunities to visit and expand outside of Guatemala City and get out to the more rural areas. We visit cooperatives and educational facilities where we are invited to make presentations. Many couples in the rural areas have also taken part in the World Peace Blessing Ceremony pledging that their families will work for peace.

On August 12th our Chairwoman Licda. Catalina Soberanis will go to the UN to present a paper on the situation of women in Guatemala. We hope that at that time she will be able to meet with IIFWP representatives in New York and meet with representatives from the Office of UN Relations. In September we are preparing a forum on HIV/AIDS.

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